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Oregon Senate will have new leader for first time in about 20 years

Rob-Wagner-OPB.jpeg
Arya Surowidjojo
/
OPB
Sen. Rob Wagner (D–OR) chairing the Oregon Senate Committee on Education during the first public hearing for Senate Bill 664 on Feb. 20, 2019. Wagner has been nominated to be the next president of the Oregon Senate.

On Friday night, Oregon state senators nominated Rob Wagner, of Lake Oswego, to serve as their next Senate president. The full Senate will vote on the nomination in January. Wagner was first appointed to the state Senate in 2018 and has recently served as caucus leader.

For the first time in about two decades, Oregon will have a new Senate president.

“During the 2023 Session, the Oregon Senate will be a force for positive change into every corner of the state,” Wagner said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to build on our culture of inclusion and openness — across the aisle and across the state — to make sure that Oregonians across the state feel represented and supported by the work we do.”

Sen. James Manning, of Eugene, was nominated to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore and Sen. Kate Lieber, of Beaverton, was elected to serve majority leader of the Democratic caucus.

Peter Courtney, of Salem, is the state’s longest-serving state lawmaker and longest-ever presiding officer in state history. He announced earlier this year his intent to retire.

Courtney’s leadership has defined the state Senate for the past 20 years. He’s long been one of the most powerful lawmakers in Salem and placed value on what he calls the “institution” of the state Capitol. He’s considered a skilled orator, a savvy negotiator and someone who values bipartisanship.

Both legislative chambers have seen major leadership changes recently. Longtime House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, stepped down after nearly a decade to launch her successful bid for governor. She was replaced by Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, who was recently nominated by his caucus for his second two-year term. The full House will vote on his nomination in January.

On the Republican side, Tim Knopp, from Central Oregon, will continue to lead his caucus as Senate Republican Leader. Knopp was first elected to lead the caucus in 2021, and although staunchly conservative, he’s known for his ability to work with Democrats.

This election cycle, Republicans managed to erode the Democrats’ hold on both chambers and ended their supermajority status. Democrats retained their majority but will need to know how to work with the GOP if they want to raise taxes.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Lauren Dake is a political reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. Before OPB, Lauren spent nearly a decade working as a print reporter. She’s covered politics and rural issues in Oregon and Washington.