ashland.news
June 13, 2024

Ashland Sen. Jeff Golden announces he will not run for state treasurer, will remain in Senate

Sen. Jeff Golden answers a question at a town hall meeting in Ashland in January 2024. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
March 4, 2024

Decides he’d rather continue working for stable wildfire funding, campaign finance reform and programs helping struggling Oregonians

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news, and Alex Baumhardt, Oregon Capital Chronicle

A little more than a week after announcing he would run for the Democratic nomination for state treasurer, Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, has reversed course. 

Golden told Ashland.news he lost sleep prior to coming to his decision not to run for state treasurer, but he’s feeling a “renewed commitment” to instead continuing to do his best work in the Senate. 

As of Monday, Golden had about a week to file for the post, with the election coming up on May 24, but told Ashland.news he believes he made a “solid” decision to opt out. Voters are scheduled to receive ballots in early May, which will include the race for State Treasurer.

During the Oregon Legislative short session in February and shortly after, Golden reflected on the decision for some time.

“I couldn’t understand for a while why I wasn’t feeling centered and excited about it,” Golden told Ashland.news Monday evening. “It kept me up a few nights.”

It became clear for Golden in the last few days, Golden said, that it wasn’t the right move for him.

“What really focused my attention was that … I needed to raise quite a bit of money fast, which meant calling a lot of people and asking them to invest in the campaign,” Golden said.

“I was so uneasy about beginning to ask people for money and their time for the campaign,” he added. “Coming in this late would take just a …   huge spike of energy and help to make it work and I just wasn’t feeling right about it.

“What I came to was, it’s not a job I really want,” he added. “It’s not fair to ask people for time and money … if you don’t really seriously want the job.”

In an email Monday, Golden said he will not seek the nomination and instead will remain in the Senate. 

“A few dozen conversations, patient counseling from friends and long hours of reflection have brought me to a clear conclusion: More than serving as treasurer, I want to continue working in the state Senate for stable wildfire funding, campaign finance reform and programs that grow opportunities for struggling Oregonians,” he said. 

This leaves just two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination: state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner of Portland and Jeff Gudman, a former city councilman from Lake Oswego who previously ran as a Republican. Steiner, a family physician and instructor at Oregon Health & Science University, has served as co-chair of the powerful budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee for the last five years and is considered a frontrunner. No Republicans are registered to run yet.

The treasurer oversees state investments, including the $94 billion Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, or PERS, and manages public banking and saving programs including the Oregon College Savings Plan and OregonSaves, a retirement plan for self-employed workers and those whose employers do not offer a workplace retirement plan.

Golden emphasized that since deciding not to file for state treasurer, he is feeling good about his work in the Senate.

“There’s a lot of important work left in the Senate and I want to give it my best,” Golden said.

Golden said his decision not to run for treasurer “woke him up” to the serious and continued challenges the state faces and a sense of urgency to continue his work.

“Feels like a renewed commitment to do the very best I can for the rest of my time in the Senate,” he added.

Golden, a former Jackson County commissioner and broadcast journalist, has served in the Senate since 2018 and is chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire. He said he initially decided to run not because he dreamed of being state treasurer, but out of a desire to get state money out of investments he said are harmful to Oregonians. In the end, he said, he did not want the job badly enough.

“My urge to run wasn’t about becoming state treasurer as much as shining a spotlight on one message: It’s time for the Treasury to stop investing money in activities that clearly hurt Oregonians,” he said. 

As examples, he said investments in fossil fuel companies contribute to climate change and investments in private equity firms drive housing and rental prices higher. 

Golden is co-sponsor of House Bill 4083, also known as the COAL Act, which is awaiting a final vote in the Senate.  If passed it would direct the Treasury to divest PERS of holdings in publicly traded companies that derive 20% or more of their revenue from coal production. It would also put limits on new investment in such companies.

“I hope our next treasurer strives to reduce investments harmful to Oregon in ways that fulfill his or her fiduciary obligation. I will actively support that effort as a state senator and concerned citizen,” Golden said. 

Oregon’s current state treasurer, Tobias Read, is running for secretary of state after serving for nearly eight years in the job.

Reach Ashland.news staff reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news. Alex Baumhardt is a reporter for the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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