The first days of the first week of the 2022 election year have been filled with a flurry of announcements of leaders leaving and candidates campaigning for office.

Legislative moves

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, told lawmakers via text message on Wednesday afternoon that he would not run for re-election in 2022.

 “I will serve out the remainder of my term," Courtney said in the text, first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting. "It has been an honor and a privilege to have been allowed to serve locally on the Salem City Council and for all these years in the Oregon State Legislature. I hope I’ve helped.”

Courtney, the longest serving Senate president in Oregon history, joins House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, the chamber's longest-serving presiding officer, in announcing their plans to exit the Legislature after the 2022 election.

Courtney is retiring, while Kotek is running for governor. Win or lose, she will have to relinquish her seat to a newcomer who wins her House seat in November.

Kotek is hoping to succeed Gov Kate Brown, who is barred from running again because of term limits.

Courtney has been Senate president since 2003, while Kotek has been speaker since 2013. Courtney is Oregon's longest serving legislator, having a combined 38 years in the House and Senate.

Courtney's announcement Wednesday ensures that the trio at the top of the state's political order will change for the first time since early 2014.

Brown became governor in February that year when as secretary of state, she assumed office after the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber amid influence-peddling accusations.

More change at the top may be coming. OPB also reported that House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, will step down from her leadership position if re-elected in 2022.

Barring an electoral upheaval in November, Democrats will choose new presiding officers from their ranks. The party holds a 37-23 majority in the House and 18-12 majority in the Senate.

New election brings new candidates

While Courtney's departure scrambled the Legislature's top, filings to run for the House and Senate officially opened on Monday.

The Secretary of State's website showed that as of Wednesday afternoon, 24 candidates had filed to run for Legislature — 19 in the House and five in the Senate. Among current lawmakers, Rep. Raquel Moore-Green, R-Salem, filed to run for a seat in the Senate.

COVID-19 disrupted the 2020 U.S. Census, having the domino effect of delaying redistricting until September 2021. The Oregon Supreme Court rejected Republican challenges to the new maps drawn by the Democratic majority for 60 House seats and 30 Senate seats.

The court set Jan. 1 as the first day that candidates could formally file to run for the Legislature. But many candidates jump-started the races by registering campaign finance committees earlier in the year, which were unaffected by the delays.

The Secretary of State's web pages for election finances on Wednesday shows 53 finance committees for House seats and 18 for Senate seats are already soliciting contributions and spending money to tout candidates.

The relative trickle will turn into a steady stream between now and March 8, the last day to file for office. All 60 House seats, which have a two-year term, will be on the ballot, along with more than half of the Senate seats, which have staggered four-year terms. 

GOP legislative leader makes governor run official

Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, announced Tuesday that she was running for governor. A rally in Aurora confirmed Drazan's plans outlined late last year when she stepped down as House minority leader, but said she would retain her seat through the election. 

“Prices are rising, taxes are high, streets are lawless, schools are a mess, and too many of our fellow citizens are sleeping in the cold,” Drazan said at the rally. “Oregonians are desperate for change. We don’t need more of the same,”

Drazan enters a crowded field for governor, with 29 candidates from all parties filing to run so far. One of Drazan's opponents in the May 17 Republican primary, 2016 GOP governor nominee Bud Pierce of Salem, will formally announce his own entry at a rally Thursday night in Salem. Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten and Portland political consultant Bridget Barton are among Republicans already in the race.

If Drazan and Kotek both won their primaries, the general election would be a face-off between two top lawmakers who clashed frequently in 2021. DTheir political clashes include a bitter feud last September over redistricting. Kotek says she will retain her House seat and her position as the chamber's top officer through the November election.

The winner of the two party primaries will likely find themselves with three major candidates on the November ballot. Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, resigned from the Senate last month to prepare her bid to run for governor without any party affiliation.

Republicans have not won the governor's office since Gov. Vic Atiyeh was re-elected in 1982.

Booze news

Supporters of sales of hard liquor in markets are moving forward with a single initiative they hope to qualify for the Nov. 8 ballot. With a few exceptions, hard alcohol sales are currently limited to state-licensed liquor stores. 

Lauren G.D. Redman of Bend and Bill Caldwell of North Bend were the chief petitioners on all the proposals, which mainly differed on the range of hard liquor that could be sold. Supporters planned to survey which version had the best chance of winning public support.

A change in state statutes requires 120,020 valid signatures submitted to the Secretary of State to get on the ballot. Two signature drives in prior elections have fallen short of qualifying.

The final 2022 proposal, submitted as the Customer Choice & Convenience Act of 2022 #1 , allows for a broad range of sales. Redman, CEO of Newport Avenue Market in Bend, said last fall that she believed voters were ready to back an initiative after seeing well-regulated market sales in other states.

Appointment to Senate down to three Democrats

Melissa Busch, Rachel Armitage and Nadia Gardner have been nominated to the open Senate District 16 seat relinquished by Johnson to concentrate on her campaign for governor.

Under law, the new senator has to be from the same party as the prior incumbent. Democratic leaders met in Seaside on Monday to choose three finalists from eight candidates. Former State Rep. Deborah Boone of Clatsop County was among the five people who did not make the short list.

The final selection will be made Jan. 14 by commissioners from counties in the district: Clatsop, Columbia, Multnomah, Tillamook, Washington, and Yamhill. The appointee would finish the remainder of Johnson's term, but would need to run for re-election this year to remain in office.

Busch is a traveling home nurse from Warren in Columbia County who had already announced plans to run for the seat. She's been endorsed by the Oregon Nurses Association and has the backing of Rep. Rachel Prusak, D-West Linn, chair of the House Health Care Committee. Armitage also lives in Warren, is a former legislative assistant in Salem. Gardner is the chair of the Clatsop County Planning Commission and lives in an unincorporated part of the county.  

Corner battleground 

The Senate District 16 appointee can run as an incumbent, but redistricting has reshaped the boundaries for the 2022 election, giving the district a slight Republican voter tilt.

Each Senate district "nests" two House districts within its borders. Senate District 16 includes House Districts 31 and 32. Rep. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, has already announced she will run for the Senate seat. Weber flipped House District 31 to Republicans in 2020 after Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell, D-Astoria, did not run for re-election.

Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, narrowly won re-election to House District 31 in 2020. Redistricting added more Republicans to his district, prompting Witt to announce he'll not seek another term this year. Altogether, the moves guarantee that the Senate and two House seats will have freshman lawmakers when the Legislature convenes in 2023.

Weber's 2020 victory is part of a shifting political alignment in northwest Oregon. Columbia and Tillamook counties are relatively unique in the nation. The two counties are among a few dozen of the country's more than 3,000 counties that voted for Democrat Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012, then supported Republican Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Levy back for second run

Bend attorney Emerson Levy formally filed for another bid to win House District 53. Levy, a Democrat, lost the 2020 race to incumbent Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond.

Redistricting created a district where Democrats make up more than 50% of voters. Population growth in Central Oregon led to more and smaller legislative districts. House District 53 was effectively sliced in half, with the southern portion, including Sunriver and La Pine, moving into House District 55. The remainder is centered around northern Bend and Redmond, is more favorable to Democrats. Zika announced he would not seek another term.

Republican Ben Schimmoller, who lost to Zika in the 2018 GOP primary by a history-setting two-vote margin, now lives in Redmond. He said in an email earlier this week that he did not plan to run for the seat in 2022.


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