Dennis Richardson speaks during a debate with Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber in Portland in October 2014. After a failed bid for the governorship, he was elected as Secretary of State in 2016. AP Photo

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson diagnosed with brain cancer

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a Republican from Central Point, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Doctors found a small, cancerous tumor on his brain during a May physical, but he believes the cancer was caught early, Richardson said in an address streamed via Facebook Live Wednesday.

The 68-year-old Richardson said he anticipates being active for the foreseeable future.

“First of all, I’m on the job, and I’m going to continue,” Richardson said. “I absolutely will fulfill my responsibilities.”

The normally articulate Richardson struggled as he described his present health and unspecified treatment options ahead of him.

“I’ve worked out today, and I’ve been able to join in the efforts of helping my grandkids and the opportunity that we’re going to have for a thorough evaluation of our treatment options, and so that’s going to be a challenge that we’re going to face in the future,” Richardson said.

Richardson didn’t answer questions posted to Facebook after the video for more details about his diagnosis or prognosis.

About 3 1/2 hours later, Richardson acknowledged in a Facebook post that his message hadn’t gone as smoothly as planned. He’d hoped to portray himself as strong and positive, he said, but “definitely didn’t stick that landing.”

“If I seemed a bit off, well, I was,” Richardson said. “Sitting down around the kitchen table last night to tell my children by video-conference that I have cancer was one of the most difficult moments in my life. Sitting down in front of a camera to share this information with the entire state of Oregon in a very public way was equally as difficult, but for different reasons. ...

“I hope people give me the grace to process as I learn more about my own health; this is all just so new to me,” Richardson posted. “And, of course, when I have more information to share, I will do so.”

Debra Royal, Richardson’s chief of staff, said the secretary of state was diagnosed two weeks ago, and she described his activity in the office as otherwise unchanged. A State Land Board meeting set for June 12 will continue as scheduled.

“We are moving forward, nothing here at the office has changed,” Royal said, adding that Richardson is still replying to his emails and giving support staff guidance as needed.

Royal said Richardson is beginning to consider “a number of different treatment options,” but said she isn’t privy to details about his diagnosis. She described him as seeming to be in good health.

“Nothing has changed except that he has got this new challenge to face,” she said.

Richardson, who served six terms in the Oregon House, including as co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, first announced his diagnosis in an email newsletter he sent Wednesday morning titled, “What Shall We Give In Return For Receiving So Much?”

The article highlighted accomplishments since he took office as the state’s first Republican secretary of state in more than three decades. But Richardson didn’t mention his diagnosis until near the end.

“I have a treatment plan in place, and I have an exceptional support system here at work and at home,” he said in the newsletter. “I am taking on this challenge the same way I’ve taken on every challenge since my days flying ‘Night Hawk’ as a combat helicopter pilot — I’ve considered my options, set my goal, developed my plan, and failure is not an option.

“No one is promised tomorrow, so please use my situation as a reminder to be kinder, more patient and more loving to each other,” he said. “And, if by God’s grace we all live long, thriving lives, let’s live them with purpose. That’s my plan.”

Richardson and his wife, Cathy, have been married for more than 40 years and have parented nine children.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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