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Nine representatives, two senators to leave metro area seats; Senate turnover may be minimal.



Even before the first ballots are mailed this year, the Oregon House — and particularly metro area lawmakers — will look different when the new session opens in January 2017.

Departing are a dozen representatives, 10 of them Democrats and two Republicans — and a total of nine come from districts covering Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties. The other 25 Democrats and 23 Republicans are seeking new terms.

The change will be far less dramatic in the Oregon Senate, where only two of the 15 senators up this cycle are not seeking re-election. Both are metro-area Democrats who will be succeeded by Democrats; no Republican filed for either seat.

Although some of the 12 departing representatives made their intentions known early — five are running for other offices — four of them announced in the few days between the close of the 2016 session and the filing deadline Tuesday, March 8.

Among them were two-term Democrats Shemia Fagan of Clackamas and Joe Gallegos of Hillsboro, who issued statements on filing day they were leaving the House.

Fagan said in her statement that she unseated Republican Patrick Sheehan in District 51 in 2012 two months after she had her first child.

“While I fully expect that I will spend a great portion of my life in service to Oregon, I am stepping aside for now to place my family and my legal career at the center of my time and attention,” Fagan said.

Gallegos, a retired educator who unseated Republican Shawn Lindsay in District 30 in 2012, said family considerations also played a role in his decision.

“After carefully considering my options and speaking with my family, due to issues related to my wife’s health I have decided the decision not to run for re-election was the right one for me and my family at this time,” he said.

Republicans already had targeted Fagan’s and Gallegos’s seats among several they hope to wrest from Democrats and reduce or even eliminate the current 35-25 Democratic majority. The GOP will need a net gain of six.

The GOP has Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Happy Valley for District 51 and Dan Mason of Hillsboro, its 2014 nominee against Gallegos, for District 30. Democrats have countered with Janelle Bynum of Happy Valley, although she faces two others in the District 51 primary, and Janeen Sollman of Hillsboro in District 30.

A renewed battle

Despite the departures of 10 incumbents, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, expects to maintain a Democratic majority — and make possible a third term as speaker, matched in state history only by Democrat Vera Katz from 1985 to 1991.

“I think we have a good record to run on,” Kotek told the Portland Tribune/Pamplin Media Group before the start of the 2016 session.

“We’ve had a lot of success for the average Oregonian — and years when there is a presidential race helps turn out voters, who tend to be Democratic-leaning whether they are Democrats or not. But we’re not going to take anything for granted.”

But after frustrations as the minority party in the current two-year cycle, House Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte vows that the 2016 election will be different.

“With such a diverse group of highly-qualified candidates, Oregonians can expect to have an opportunity to vote for Republican candidates this November that will challenge the status quo and bring new leadership to Salem,” McLane said in a statement.

The two Republicans departing from the House are John Davis of Wilsonville, two terms. and Jim Weidner of Yamhill, five terms.

Davis mentioned family and career considerations for his departing politics — for now.

"In addition to devoting my attention to practicing law and raising a young family, I remain committed to raising up and equipping the next generation of Oregon civic leaders," he said in his statement. "I will help others get elected to the House and statewide office. I will be preparing for my own future service in other positions."

Both have endorsed successors.

John Boylston of King City, a lawyer, is seeking the District 26 seat held by Davis. But he faces a contested primary with A. Richard Vial of Hillsboro, also a lawyer, and Matt Wingard of Wilsonville, Davis’ predecessor for two terms in the House. Wingard, a self-employed public relations consultant, dropped a 2012 re-election bid after questions were raised about his sexual relationship with a woman who worked in his office.

Ron Moore, a former McMinnville police chief, is seeking the District 24 seat held by Weidner.

Democrats also have filed in those contests; in District 26, two candidates seek the party nomination.

Other departures

Other metro-area representatives not seeking re-election are Brent Barton of Oregon City, three terms, one of them from another district; Lew Frederick of Portland, three terms; Tobias Read of Beaverton, five terms; Kathleen Taylor of Milwaukie, one term, and Jessica Vega Pederson of Portland, two terms.

Barton’s District 40 seat also is a political battleground for both parties. Barton also cited family reasons for his departure.

Frederick and Taylor are running for the open Senate seats vacated by Chip Shields of Portland in District 22 and Diane Rosenbaum of Portland in District 21. Read is running for state treasurer; Vega Pederson for Multnomah County commissioner.

Democrats broke a historic 30-30 tie with Republicans in the House by winning four seats in 2012 — Districts 29 and 30, and Districts 49 and 51, all of them in the suburbs. They added one seat in 2014.

The Senate now has a Democratic majority of 18-12, up from 16-14 after the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Democrats are likely to maintain control, even with two departing Democrats, because no Republicans filed for those seats — and three other Democratic incumbents went unopposed. They were Majority Leader Ginny Burdick of Portland, Michael Dembrow of Portland and Mark Hass of Raleigh Hills.

Republicans have eight incumbents up for re-election, mostly in Republican-leaning Southern and Eastern Oregon and rural areas of the Willamette Valley. They are going after one Democrat, three-term incumbent Laurie Monnes Anderson of Gresham.

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