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Wyden, Merkley Step Aside From Convention Roles In Favor Of Black Leaders

Dr. Rosa Colquitt and Travis Nelson
Dr. Rosa Colquitt and Travis Nelson

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley led the Oregon delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 2016. This year they are stepping aside in favor of two black party leaders from the Portland area.

Oregon’s top elected Democrats typically lead the state’s delegation to the presidential convention. But Merkley and Wyden said in a statement that the police protests and the pandemic show that we “must listen more to those who are among the most impacted by racism and long-standing health disparities — we must listen more to Black Americans.”

The senators asked leaders of the Democratic Party of Oregon to instead choose Rosa Colquitt and Travis Nelson to co-chair the delegation.

Colquitt chairs the state party’s Black Caucus and is a former chairwoman of the Washington County Democratic Party. She was previously an official at Oregon Health & Science University. Nelson is a member of the Democratic National Committee and is a registered nurse who now works for the Oregon Nurses Association.

The delegates to the convention are expected to act this weekend to formally put Colquitt and Nelson in charge of the delegation.

Molly Woon, the deputy director of the state party, said national Democratic party leaders have not decided yet how much of the mid-August convention in Milwaukee will be conducted virtually instead of in person because of the pandemic.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.