Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and his second in command, Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), have served a combined 60 years in the Legislature, so it's not entirely surprising that they triumphed today in caucus elections.
As WW reported earlier this week, there was talk among some of the Senate Democrats' more liberal members about potential challenges to the longtime leaders. But there never appeared to be an obvious path to getting 10 senators to vote against either Courtney or Burdick.
"I'm proud to welcome our new members to our caucus and I'm excited to work with this extraordinary group of legislators to solve the problems faced by Oregonians across the state in the 2019 Session," Burdick said in a statement. "The Oregon Senate Democrats will continue to advance policy that Oregonians care about, such as transforming our educational system and taking a leading role on battling climate change."
Dissident senators had also hoped to change informal caucus rules to clear the way for bills to come to the floor with fewer than the 16 votes needed for passage (there are 30 senators in total); and, to come to the floor without necessarily having at least one Republican vote.
The motivation for the proposed changes is two-fold: to bring more transparency to the process, and to stop members from taking different positions on bills in public than they do in caucus meetings, which are confidential and closed to the press.
Second, progressive interest groups and more liberal members have complained that bills that pass the House often die in the Senate for lack of a Republican supporter. Courtney has placed a high value on bi-partisanship, although he has also been willing to send some bills to floor without a GOP supporter.
Senate Democratic spokesman Rick Osborn said he could not shed any light on the internal caucus discussion of rules at today's retreat in Gleneden Beach.
"I don't have any information on that," Osborn said.
Here's the slate the Democrats elected:
Senate President Designate: Peter Courtney, (D-Salem);
Senate President Pro Tempore Designate: Laurie Monnes Anderson, (D-Gresham);
Senate Majority Leader: Ginny Burdick, (D-Portland);
Senate Deputy Majority Leader: Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, (D-Beaverton);
Senate Majority Whip: Mark Hass, (D-Beaverton);
Senate Majority Whip: Rob Wagner, (D-Lake Oswego);
Senate Assistant Majority Leader: Michael Dembrow, (D-Portland);
Senate Assistant Majority Leader: Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro.