Brad Avakian

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Brad Avakian
Brad Avakian 2008 Color.jpg
Labor Commissioner of Oregon
Assumed office
April 8, 2008
GovernorTed Kulongoski
John Kitzhaber
Kate Brown
Preceded byDan Gardner
Succeeded byVal Hoyle (Elect)
Member of the Oregon Senate
from the 17th district
In office
January 2, 2007 – April 8, 2008
Preceded byCharlie Ringo
Succeeded bySuzanne Bonamici
Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 34th district
In office
January 2, 2003 – January 2, 2007
Preceded byCharlie Ringo
Succeeded bySuzanne Bonamici
Personal details
Born (1961-02-04) February 4, 1961 (age 57)
Fresno, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Deborah Avakian
EducationOregon State University, Corvallis (BA)
Lewis and Clark College (JD)
WebsiteOfficial website

Bradley Paul Avakian (born February 4, 1961) is the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. He was appointed by Governor Ted Kulongoski on April 8, 2008 and subsequently elected statewide on November 4, 2008.[1] He was re-elected in 2012 and 2014. While the Commissioner of Labor and Industries has been a nonpartisan position since 1995,[1] Avakian is known to be a Democrat; he served in both houses of the Oregon Legislative Assembly as a member of that party, and ran in a Democratic primary election for the United States House of Representatives.

He was the Democratic nominee for Oregon Secretary of State in the 2016 election, in which he was defeated by former state representative Dennis Richardson.

Early life[edit]

Born in Fresno, California, he is the son of Larry and Catherine Avakian, who now reside in Thousand Oaks, California. He is of Armenian descent. His grandfather was Avak Avakian, who came to America from Muş in 1898. His grandmother, Sirpoohi Antoyan, came from Bitlis in 1900.[2]

Avakian was raised in Washington County, Oregon.[3] He was educated in Oregon's public schools and graduated as a Juris doctor from Lewis & Clark Law School in 1990.[3] He helped create the YMCA's Juvenile Restitution Program while in law school.[3]

Avakian then worked as a civil rights attorney.[3] He co-founded the Oregon League of Conservation Voters' (OLCV) Washington County chapter,[3] and he was appointed by Governor Barbara Roberts to lead the State Board of Psychologist Examiners.[3] He serves as Honorary Chair of the Oregon Business Leadership Network, a coalition of employers committed to hiring the disabled.[3] Avakian lives in the Portland metropolitan area in the city of Beaverton.

Political career[edit]

Avakian ran for the Oregon State Senate in 1998,[4] losing to incumbent Republican Tom Hartung.[5]

Avakian at opening of 2009 legislature

Avakian was elected to represent District 34, on Portland's west side, in the Oregon House of Representatives in 2002.[6] He defeated Portland police officer John Scruggs,[7] the only Republican to lose in Washington County that year,[6] with 53 percent of the vote.[8]

Avakian was elected to the Oregon State Senate, representing District 17, in 2006.

While in the legislature, Avakian was honored by both the Oregon AFL-CIO and the SEIU Local 503 for his work on behalf of working families.[3] In the state Senate he chaired the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and in 2007 the OLCV named him the "Consensus Builder of the Year," recognizing him for passing an extension of the Oregon Bottle Bill and a renewable energy act.[3] In 2008 he led a coalition to approve water supply development for rural communities.[3]

In July 2007, Avakian announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Oregon Secretary of State.[9] He later withdrew from the race when he was appointed by governor Ted Kulongoski to be Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in early 2008 after Dan Gardner announced his resignation.[1] Gardner was the first Commissioner of Labor and Industries to leave mid-term for a new job.[1]

Avakian with supporters of his congressional bid

In April 2011, Avakian announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination for Oregon's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives.[10] The seat was held by fellow Democrat David Wu, who resigned from Congress before the end of his term due to allegations of sexual misconduct.[11] Avakian lost in the Democratic primary to Suzanne Bonamici, who succeeded him in both the Oregon House and Senate.

In July 2015, Avakian ordered Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, to pay a lesbian couple $135,000 in damages for unlawful discrimination in public accommodations after the bakery refusing to make a cake for the couple's wedding. The owners cited their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage.[12][13] The Kleins' appealed in the Oregon Court of Appeals, but the ruling was upheld.[14]

On November 8, 2016, Avakian lost his bid for Oregon Secretary of State to Republican Dennis Richardson, the first time a Republican was elected to statewide office in Oregon since 2002.[15]

Avakian announced in July 2017 he would not seek reelection to a third full term.[16]

Electoral history[edit]

Oregon House of Representatives 34th District Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Brad Avakian (inc.) 17,835 96.56
Write-ins Write-ins 635 3.44
Oregon State Senate 17th District Democratic Primary Election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Brad Avakian 7,180 63.12
Democratic Sam Chase 4,171 36.67
Democratic Write-ins 24 0.21
Oregon State Senate 17th District Election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Brad Avakian 31,612 67.24
Republican Piotr Kuklinski 13,497 28.71
Libertarian Richard Whitehead 1,445 3.07
Constitution John Pivarnik 371 0.79
Write-ins Write-ins 89 0.19
Oregon Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Brad Avakian (inc.) 690,000 67.21
Nonpartisan Pavel Goberman 184,919 18.01
Nonpartisan Mark Welyczko 135,666 13.21
Nonpartisan Write-ins 16,056 1.56
Oregon 1st Congressional District Special Democratic Primary Election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Suzanne Bonamici 49,721 65.18
Democratic Brad Avakian 16,963 22.24
Democratic Brad Witt 6,003 7.87
Democratic Dan Strite 1,212 1.59
Democratic Dominic Hammon 923 1.21
Democratic Todd Lee Ritter 651 0.85
Democratic Write-ins 469 0.61
Democratic Saba Ahmed 250 0.33
Democratic Robert Lettin 91 0.12
Oregon Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Brad Avakian (inc.) 681,987 52.53
Nonpartisan Bruce Starr 606,735 46.73
Nonpartisan Write-ins 9,616 0.74
Oregon Secretary of State Democratic Primary Election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Brad Avakian 204,135 38.88
Democratic Val Hoyle 178,829 34.06
Democratic Richard Devlin 137,612 26.21
Democratic Write-ins 4,462 0.85
Oregon Secretary of State Election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Dennis Richardson 725,548 47.88
Democratic Brad Avakian 658,732 43.47
Independent Paul Damian Wells 50,070 3.30
Libertarian Sharon Durbin 34,972 2.31
Pacific Green Alan Zundel 34,623 2.28


  1. ^ a b c d "New labor leader hopes to boost job training in Oregon". Statesman Journal. April 9, 2008.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Brad Avakian for Oregon Archived July 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.: Meet Brad, from Retrieved 2008-04-17.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j About Oregon's Labor Commissioner Archived September 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.: Meet Commissioner Brad Avakian, from Retrieved 2008-04-09.
  4. ^ Don Hamilton (October 19, 1998). "Avakian, Hartung war chests fuel fierce senate seat race". The Oregonian.
  5. ^ Courtenay Thompson (November 7, 1998). "GOP gains, loses in the legislature". The Oregonian.
  6. ^ a b Laura Gunderson and David R. Anderson (November 7, 2002). "Vote trends show stronger division from east to west". The Oregonian.
  7. ^ Richard Colby (November 6, 2002). "Washington County legislative races tight". The Oregonian.
  8. ^ "How Oregon voted: ballots counted -- 95%". The Oregonian. November 7, 2002.
  9. ^ Avakian jumps into secretary of state race, The Oregonian. July 31, 2007
  10. ^ Mapes, Jeff (April 18, 2011). "Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian will run in Democratic primary against Rep. David Wu". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 18, 2011.
  11. ^ "Rep. David Wu announces he will resign after accusations of sexual misconduct". The Oregonian. July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  12. ^ Rede, George (July 2, 2015). "Sweet Cakes: State orders Oregon bakery owners to pay $135,000 for denying service to same-sex couple". The Oregonian.
  13. ^ Casey Parks (August 24, 2016). "Oregon lawyers: Sweet Cakes by Melissa $135,000 damage award was justified". The Oregonian.
  14. ^ Friedman, Gordon R. (December 28, 2017). "Appeals Court Upholds Fine Against Christian Bakers Who Refused to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cake". OregonLive. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  15. ^ Mike Rogoway, Dennis Richardson tops Brad Avakian for Oregon secretary of state, breaking Democrats' hold on statewide office, The Oregonian/OregonLive (November 8, 2016).
  16. ^ Friedman, Gordon R. (July 11, 2017). "Brad Avakian, Oregon labor bureau chief, will not seek re-election". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 12, 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Dan Gardner
Labor Commissioner of Oregon
Succeeded by
Val Hoyle