Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, has been speaker since 2022. He's now running for attorney general. (Photo by Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

After almost two years at the helm of the state House, Speaker Dan Rayfield is running for attorney general.

The Corvallis Democrat announced his candidacy in a news release on Wednesday, following weeks of rumors of a planned run. 

“As Oregon’s speaker of the House, a legislator and an attorney, I have always worked for a safer, healthier and more just future for Oregonians,” Rayfield said in the statement. “I’m running to be Oregon’s next attorney general to focus on keeping our families and communities safe – and making sure every Oregonian has the opportunity to succeed and thrive.”

Rayfield, a trial attorney involved in consumer protection cases, said his priorities include public safety, holding polluters accountable, enforcing ethics laws, holding public officials to high standards, protecting consumers from predatory lenders, protecting reproductive rights and curbing gun violence.

He did not respond to the Capital Chronicle’s request for more details.

Oregon is one of 22 states that doesn’t require its attorney general to be licensed to practice law, though candidates are typically lawyers. The attorney general leads the Oregon Department of Justice, is the state’s top prosecutor and represents the state government in civil cases. 

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has filed many suits against government entities and corporations during her tenure. Just last month, she announced a suit against Fox Corporation over false election claims. And in May, she sued DuPont, 3M and other companies over firefighting foam that contains PFAS, or forever chemicals, which are associated with a host of health problems. She was also a lead backer of the recently passed ban on ghost guns, which can’t be traced. 

The Department of Justice also advocates for vulnerable Oregonians, including running the state’s child support program, overseeing crime victim compensation and managing the bias response hotline. 

Rayfield is the first Democrat to announce his candidacy. A few other prominent Democrats, including state Sen. Kate Lieber of Beaverton, have said they’re not in the race. Two Republicans have announced their candidacies, however: Newberg attorney Will Lathrop has raised more than $250,000 for his run, and Robert Neuman, who ran for state labor commissioner in 2022, has filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

The office has bounced between Republicans and Democrats over the years, though Democrats have held the office since Ted Kulongoski first served as attorney general in 1993.

Rosenblum, a Democrat, announced last month she will not seek a fourth term. At 72, she said the office could use fresh ideas. 

Rayfield is 44 and has represented the Corvallis area in the House since 2015. He served as co-chair on the powerful Joint Committee on Ways and Means, the state’s budget writing committee, from 2019-2022 and claims credit for helping to stabilize Oregon’s finances. The state has enjoyed unexpected surpluses the past two years.

In 2022, Rayfield was elected speaker, and in that position held sway over budget priorities and controlled the fate of bills by assigning them to committees or letting them linger. He established an amicable working relationship with House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, and while Republican senators boycotted the floor over a bill shoring up abortion rights for minors, House Republicans turned up for work every day.

The long session finished in June with some landmark legislation: Lawmakers approved $500 million for the semiconductor industry, $1.2 billion for housing and homelessness, about $150 million for literacy. Democratic legislators agreed to water down the abortion bill to bring back striking Republicans, but still passed a ghost gun ban against undetectable firearms. And they agreed to recriminalize possession of fentanyl, which continues to kill young people.

Rayfield said in a news release he will finish his term. 

Breese-Iverson has stepped down from her leadership position. Rayfield lives in Corvallis with his wife and son, who Rayfield has brought to work to see how the Legislature runs.

Rayfield informed other Democrats of his run prior to announcing his candidacy publicly, and minutes after his public announcement, two Democrats announced runs for House District 16:  Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, a Corvallis School Board member, teacher, and engineer; and Andrew Struthers, a former Corvallis City Councilor.

Deputy editor Julia Shumway contributed to this story.

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.