Meeting via Zoom, the Oregon House Democratic caucus today chose state Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) to be the likely next speaker of the House.
“I’m deeply honored that my caucus has entrusted me with this nomination,” Rayfield said in a statement. “The Omicron variant is contributing to workforce shortages and challenges for our students, educators and families. But I know there is a brighter future ahead and I am committed to working with both parties and both chambers to lead the entire state forward.”
Rayfield, 42, emerged from a closely contested competition with three-term incumbent Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley), who had hoped to become the first Black speaker in Oregon history.
Rayfield, a plaintiff’s lawyer, currently serves as co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, which writes the state’s budget. He first won election to his seat in 2014. He will now face a floor vote to confirm his position, but given that Democrats hold a 37-23 supermajority over Republicans, that vote is a formality.
Rayfield will replace House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), who has held the speakership since 2013, the longest tenure atop the House in Oregon history. Kotek is resigning to focus on her campaign for governor.
Bynum announced her hope to be speaker in 2020 but deferred to Kotek then and agreed not to press her candidacy.
After Sunday’s election, Bynum tells WW in an interview she was disappointed not to replace Kotek but is more determined than ever to hold a top leadership position—perhaps replacing Rayfield, to whom she offered congratulations, as the co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee.
“I belong in the Legislature,” Bynum says. “I felt that the day I walked in. I’ve always been very prepared in terms of knowledge. The street smarts of the Capitol, that’s the part you are constantly learning.”
Bynum adds that she felt Kotek, as Oregon Public Broadcasting has reported, had promised to support her bid for speaker (Kotek disagrees).
“The process felt much healthier this time,” Bynum says. “It was not without its flaws because there was an unkept promise. I knew that would make the difference.”
And although she fell short of her goal, Bynum says today’s election is nonetheless significant.
“I just want my kids to recognize the moment,” she says. “All their basketball and soccer games I miss, it’s for moments like this when we expose where democracy is weak. I wish I could be home more and at more of their games, but I’m fighting for them to be able to walk into any room and feel comfortable—and lead.”
State Rep. Julie Fahey (D-Eugene) is replacing Rep. Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland) as majority leader. Smith Warner did not stand for reelection to that post. Rep. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie) was elected assistant majority leader; Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland) was elected majority whip; and Rep. Andrea Valderrama (D-Portland) was elected deputy majority whip.
The even-year legislative session begins Feb. 1.