Devlin appointment sets off a scramble for state Senate seat
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday that she will appoint State Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, to the Pacific Northwest Electric Power and Conservation Planning Council, a decision that immediately touched off a scramble to fill the powerful lawmaker's seat in Salem.
Within hours of Devlin's appointment, Lake Oswego School Board member Rob Wagner said that he would throw his hat into the appointment ring, and several other potential candidates told The Review that they were interested, too.
"The biggest challenge facing Oregon today is ensuring that our young people come to school ready to learn; that we have small classrooms and inclusive learning environments; and that our schools, teachers, and school employees have the strong and stable funding they need to prepare students for a global economy," Wagner said in a statement Tuesday morning. "I'm seeking an appointment to the state Senate because I know that I can step up and lead on these issues starting on day one."
Devlin was one of more than 70 nominees appointed by Brown to various state boards and commissions. Among them: state Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, who will join Devlin on the conservation panel. The agency is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and helps develop strategies to balance power production and wildlife conservation in the Columbia River basin.
Ferrioli, the longest serving senator in the Legislature — along with Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick — was elected in 1996 and has held several leadership positions during his two decades in the Senate. Devlin joined the Oregon House in 1996 before winning election to the Senate in 2002. He served as majority leader from 2007 to 2010.
As co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Devlin's "budgetary brilliance" in crafting the state's budget will leave a void at the Legislature, said Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton. Ferrioli will be missed for his oratory skills, Hass said.?
It's unclear how the vacuum from the two senators' combined knowledge, experience and skills will affect the Legislature's operations next year.
"I don't think we know what is going to happen," said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. "You depend on people, and you don't realize how dependent you are until they're gone.
"We will move forward," Courtney said, "and I am sure the Republicans will choose someone to be their leader, and we will find the right person to be the co-chair of Ways and Means."
The Oregon Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to review Brown's appointments on Nov. 13, and a spokesman for her office said a full Senate vote will likely be held later that week. If Devlin's appointment is approved, the Democratic Party of Oregon will then be tasked with nominating a slate of 3-5 possible replacement candidates to serve out the remainder of his current term in Senate District 19, which runs through Jan. 8, 2019.
The final appointee will be chosen from the party's list by the district's County Commissioners. SD19 includes parts of Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties, so members of all three boards of county commissioners will get to weigh in.
"This process will involve three different county parties and three different county commissions," Democratic Party of Oregon spokesperson Molly Woon told The Review this week.
The Democratic Party's nominees will be chosen at a party convention, which must be held within 20 days after Devlin's official departure. The party's Precinct Committee Persons from each precinct within SD19 will vote for their preferred applicants, with their votes weighted based on the number of Democrats in each county's portion of the district.
A similar process was recently conducted to select a replacement for former state Rep. Ann Lininger, who was appointed over the summer to serve as a judge on the Clackamas County Circuit Court. Political consultant Andrea Salinas was ultimately selected to represent House District 38, which includes all of Lake Oswego and a portion of Southwest Portland.
SD19 includes all of HD38, plus the cities of Tualatin and West Linn and the unincorporated Stafford region located between them. The Willamette River forms the district's southern edge.
Woon said it will be up to Devlin to decide when to vacate his Senate seat. If confirmed, his term on the council will begin Jan. 16, but he could choose to depart the Senate before that date. The replacement process can't officially start until he resigns, but that didn't stop Wagner from tossing his hat into the ring Tuesday and others from expressing serious interest.
Wagner, the associate vice-president for advancement at Portland Community College, was elected to the Lake Oswego School Board in May. The Lake Oswego High School graduate formerly served as a director of political and legislative affairs for the American Federation of Teachers (Oregon). At PCC, he oversees community outreach and the college's nonprofit foundation.
Wagner, 44, has served on the City Club of Portland's Civics Education and Advocacy Committee; the Lake Oswego Citizens Advisory Committee; and Oregon Volunteers. He received a bachelor's degree from Portland State University in political science and a master's degree in public policy at The George Washington University.
If appointed to the Senate, he said Tuesday, he intends to keep his position on the School Board. He also said that if appointed, he will seek a full four-year term in the SD19 seat by facing off against Democratic challengers in the May 2018 primary election.
"I grew up in this community and now I'm raising my four kids here. I know that Sen. Devlin's shoes are big ones to fill," Wagner said. "We need a leader that sees the whole picture for our students — from Pre-K to K-12 to community college to our university system. We've got work to do, and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves."
If for some reason the Senate does not approve Devlin's appointment, Wagner said he would withdraw his interest in the race. Devlin had previously announced that he would run for re-election to the SD19 seat, and he has already filed paperwork to do so.
"I am in no way challenging Sen. Devlin," Wagner said.
Meanwhile, other potential candidates said this week that they are considering joining Wagner in the appointment race. Among them: former state Rep. Greg Macpherson, who served in the Legislature from 2003-2009; and Lake Oswego City Councilor Joe Buck, who sought Lininger's HD38 seat earlier this year but eventually lost to Salinas.
"I am having serious conversations with my family, employees, and community members to decide whether or not I am the best candidate to make the case to the district voters and help find the best person to emulate the leadership and vision Sen. Devlin brought to the senate," Buck said in a statement on Tuesday.
Political consultant Moses Ross, who lives in Southwest Portland and was also an HD38 appointment applicant, said he, too, is interested in the Senate race but intends to take more time to consider whether to make a run.
Tualatin City Councilor Joelle Davis said she knows of some fellow Democrats interested in the vacancy, but she said she would like to see someone emerge from the Tualatin area as a candidate. So far, that hasn't happened, she said.
Davis was noncommittal when asked if she would be interested in being appointed herself. Right now, she said, she is focusing on her family and tackling local issues.
"I've got four years here," said Davis, who was re-elected last year to what will be her final term on the Tualatin City Council. "And there's a lot of different possibilities for after that."
"It depends on who steps up and how busy the competition is," Davis said.