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McPherson to Seek Reelection to State Post

November 17, 2005|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson on Wednesday announced he will run for reelection, and vowed to press for more detailed disclosure of campaign contributions.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed McPherson, 61, as the state's chief elections officer in February, after Kevin Shelley resigned amid scandal. Shelley was being investigated in connection with questionable campaign contributions and allegations that he mishandled federal money intended to improve voting systems.

McPherson, 61, has urged that the secretary of state be made nonpartisan. His two announced Democratic challengers in the 2006 race are state Sens. Debra Bowen of Marina del Rey and Deborah Ortiz of Sacramento.

McPherson announced his candidacy at a Sacramento hotel, as his wife, Mary, sat beside him. He said he would encourage greater voter participation, continue efforts to modernize voting systems and broaden disclosure requirements for campaign contributions. He also said he planned to confer with the legislative analyst and attorney general's office to review the initiative process, though he had no specific suggestions for overhauling it.

"I don't want to take it away," McPherson said. "But I think it is time to review the process."

The secretary of state oversees elections and voting rights, and helps oversee campaign finance and lobbying reports. Additionally, businesses must file their incorporation papers with the secretary of state.

McPherson has appointed a commission to study ways to make campaign donations more transparent and to bring uniformity to disclosure deadlines. As it is, candidates, campaign managers and donors can use holes in regulations to delay and sometimes avoid disclosure.

For example, some donations given between Oct. 23 and Dec. 31 need not be revealed until Jan. 31, 2006. "I would like to see those blind spots disappear," McPherson said.

McPherson said public financing of campaigns is "open to discussion." He stopped short of endorsing so-called "clean money" legislation by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley). Hancock's bill, AB 583, would provide public funds for candidates who agree to collect large numbers of small campaign donations.

In an interview, Ortiz embraced Hancock's measure, saying she hoped to become a coauthor. Bowen, who has carried many bills related to elections and the secretary of state's office, also endorsed public financing.

McPherson has not reported raising money for his 2006 campaign. Reports filed with the state show Bowen had raised $81,900 for her candidacy and had $39,000 in the bank as of the end of June, the last time she was required to file a campaign finance report. She had $175,000 in a separate campaign account.

Ortiz, who initially planned to run for California insurance commissioner, had amassed $413,200 for that campaign.

McPherson's family owned the Santa Cruz Sentinel for more than 100 years; he had been the newspaper's editor before entering politics. He served four years in the Assembly and eight years in the state Senate before running unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002. Four years ago today, the McPhersons' 27-year-old son, Hunter, was shot and killed in a robbery as he walked to his home in San Francisco.

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