November 11th, 2010 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

House Democrats: Hunt Holds on to Power, How Much is Unclear


The Oregon House Democrats had their usual post-election meeting last night in Salem to vote for leadership positions.

Speculation in the past week centered on whether House Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone) would retain his power after Democrats' 36 to 24 super-majority melted away into a 30-30 tie with Republicans. And Democrats took the unusual step of having an outside mediator come in to oversee the members' airing of views and conduct a lengthy discussion on the rules for caucus elections.

The caucus meeting was closed to the public and reporters; however, people familiar with last night's events say Hunt and House Majority Leader Mary Nolan (D-Portland) competed for caucus leadership. After a verbal clash between Hunt and Nolan, Hunt prevailed. But the question of whether Hunt would be the Democrat who will serve as co-leader of the House in 2011 remains unanswered.

Rep. Tina Kotek (D-Portland), who had been widely rumored to be planning to challenge Nolan for the number two position in the event Democrats maintained a majority, won election as the party Whip. That means Kotek effectively replaces Nolan in the caucus hierarchy, at least for now.

The House Republicans caucused last week, according to House Republican spokesman Nick Smith, and kept their leadership team the same. That means House minority leader Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg) and his team will soon begin talking to House Democrats about how to divide control. Committees from both caucuses will now negotiate a power sharing agreement in conversations that Smith says will begin "very soon."

It is unclear what shape that agreement might take, and whether Hunt or a less polarizing Democrat such as Rep. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) or Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) will emerge as the Democrats' designated leader.

Here's a statement Democratic leadership released last night:
House Democrats chose Speaker Dave Hunt, along with State Representatives Tina Kotek, Tobias Read, Jules Bailey, Phil Barnhart, Val Hoyle and Jefferson Smith as their leadership team as they embark on an historic power-sharing session with Republicans in an evenly divided Oregon House.

House Democrats did not choose Speaker or Speaker Pro-Tem designees -- preferring to wait until a governance model with House Republicans is worked out.

The Leadership Team includes the following positions:

Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County) – Democratic Leader
State Rep. Tina Kotek (D-N/NE Portland) – Democratic Whip
State Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) – Deputy Democratic Whip
State Reps. Jules Bailey (D- SE Portland) and Phil Barnhart (D-Central Lane and Linn counties) – Assistant Democratic Leaders -- Policy
State Reps. Jefferson Smith (D- E. Portland) and Val Hoyle (D-Junction City/W. Eugene) – Assistant Democratic Leaders -- Political
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