As widely expected by just about any observer of the Oregon House of Representatives over the past 8 months, Oregon House Republicans today elected Representative Bruce Hanna of Roseburg as the Minority Leader.
Hanna’s team, who were also elected by the 29 GOP members in a closed caucus, includes some newer faces to GOP leadership: Representative Andy Olson of Albany as the Deputy GOP leader, Representative Gene Whisnant of Sunriver as the Minority Whip, and Representative Linda Flores of Clackamas as Deputy Minority Whip. Representative Dennis Richardson of Central Point moves from the Whip role to chair the House Republican Policy Committee.
Invariably, however, this leadership shuffle is nothing more than a reflection of the old adage: a rearranging of deck chairs on a slowly sinking ship. What indicators are there for a tanking House GOP? Well, 7 members of the caucus aren’t coming back, many of whom have held leadership roles (Scott, Minnis) or were slated for selection into leadership soon (Boquist).
Of the new selections, only Hanna, owner of a bottling company, and Olson, a retired state trooper, look particularly promising, as Flores and Whisnant are completely bogged down with their involvement in the right-wing prosecution of a cultural purity war. Hanna’s statement today did seem to tone down GOP extremism, however:
“This election signals a new beginning for the caucus, but a renewed commitment to leading Oregon toward a stronger economy, safer communities and a more efficient state government.”
Hanna, however, doesn’t seem to remember that there are 29 Republican members (or maybe the new whips haven’t learned to count yet):
“Over the coming months, I will count on all 28 members to work as hard as they can to make 2008 a successful year for House Republicans.” (emphasis added)
Or maybe one member gets to work only ‘sort-of’ hard in 2008. With the number of retiring representatives, that wouldn’t surprise me. The conventional wisdom right now is that the House GOP can only hope to mitigate their losses in November 2008.
Let it begin.