There were rumblings among the Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives late in the legislative session about the prospects of Senator Ryan Deckert (D-Beaverton). Elected for a fourth term to the legislature in 2004, two of which were to the Senate and two to the House, Deckert would have had to face re-election in 2008 should he want to retain his seat. And, judging from past election returns, this would have been a relatively easy feat: he narrowly ousted Eileen Qutub in 2000 and four years later easily held back Republican challenger Jay Omdahl. Many expected the young senator to run for state Treasurer, as the office’s current occupant, Randall Edwards, is barred from another term.
At the close of the session, though, Capitol insiders heard rumors of a different path for Deckert, which was confirmed August 1, when he announced his resignation from the legislature to serve as the head of the Oregon Business Association.
The obvious next question: Who takes Deckert’s seat?
The answer lies in a complicated equation of territory and past incumbency. Senate District 14 encompasses the southern parts of Aloha and Beaverton, reaching past Raleigh Hills into the Sylvan Highlands. Like all other Oregon Senate seats, it is divided into two seats in the House of Representatives, House Districts 27 (to the east) and 28 (to the west), which are occupied by Rep. Tobias Read and Rep. Jeff Barker, respectively. But perhaps most interestingly, it is the Senate District where Read’s predecessor, Mark Hass (D-Raleigh Hills), resides.
Hass served in the Oregon House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006 and prior to that worked as the legislative correspondent for KATU Channel 2. During his second term he made a bid to replace outgoing Minority Leader Deborah Kafoury, but ultimately lost to Rep. Jeff Merkley, who served as Speaker during the 2007 Session and is now off challenging Sen. Gordon Smith. After the 2005 session, Hass ruled out a fourth term in the House so that he could spend more time with his family.
But suppose for a minute Hass left because he didn’t like where Merkley was taking the caucus at the time? With Merkley giving up his seat for a run at the U.S. Senate, and a vacancy for a seat in an entirely different chamber, it’s entirely likely that Hass will become interested in the legislature again. One clue is the upcoming Washington County Democrats‘ meeting agenda, which features DNC Committeeman Wayne Kinney explaining the process for appointing a new legislator in a vacancy.
Assuming Hass is in, who are the other possibilities? There is, of course, Tobias Read, but then again Read owes part of his extremely-narrow primary victory over Mike Bohan to Mark Hass, who endorsed Read in the primary. So a campaign by Read against Hass is unlikely. Furthermore, Barker seems comfortable in the House and is probably close to finishing his legislative career. Another four years may be longer that the commitment he’s willing to make.
Since 95% of the Democrats of SD 14 reside in Washington County, with the remainder in Multnomah, the slate of 3 to 5 nominees submitted to the two Boards of Commissioners will likely be full of Democrats from the Washington County side.
But will Mark Hass be on that slate? And if so, will the Washington County Commissioners give him another chance to serve their interests in Salem?
Perhaps we will find out at the next Washington County Dems meeting.
UPDATE: Michelle Cole at the Oregonian has posted an article to the ‘Politics Blog’ with comments from Hass about his announcement.