The Oregon Senate Republicans today announced that State Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem) will succeed state Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) as caucus leader.

Ferrioli is leaving the Senate at year's end to join the Northwest Power and Conservation Planning Council.

Winters, 80, first won election to the House in 1998 and moved up to the Senate in 2002. She is currently the state's longest-serving black senator.

Her competition for the top spot was Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend), who has been a leading advocate for addressing the unfunded liability in the Public Employees Retirement System.

Winters, who is the co-vice-chair of the budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee, has focused on human services and public safety. She enjoys a strong relationship with her fellow Marion County lawmaker, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem).

That relationship counts for a lot in a chamber where Democrats outnumber Republicans 17 to 13.

"I am honored to have been selected by my fellow Senators to serve as Senate Republican Leader," Winters said in a statement. "I thank Senator Ferrioli for his years of service and wish him well in his new position. I look forward to leading our caucus into a new united era and continuing to serve our constituents and the state of Oregon."