Oregon politics: New poll, Legislative Days and COVID-19
A new governor's race poll, a packed schedule of legislative meetings, a top leader in Salem on the mend from COVID-19, plus military news with state ramifications were part of Tuesday's mix of Oregon political and government news.
New poll shows Drazan edge
An early poll of the race for governor shows a tight race among the trio of major candidates, with less than a quarter of those polled having no preference yet.
The poll by Nelson Research, a firm owned by prominent Salem lobbyist J.L. Wilson, has Republican Christine Drazan in the lead with 29%, Democrat Tina Kotek with 27%, and non-affiliated candidate Betsy Johnson at 20%.
The poll overrepresented Republican voters and underrepresented Portland area and unaffiliated voters.
Wednesday, June 1, was the start of 40 informational hearings during Legislative Days, held between sessions of the House and Senate. On Friday, the Senate will vote on 121 nominations to state boards, offices, and commissions submitted by Gov. Kate Brown. Masks are optional, not required, a change from previous Senate rules over the past two years.
The majority of hearings this week are political briefings for lawmakers on the implementation of past legislation and recommendations for possible action in the future. No legislation can be submitted or considered between the end of the 2022 session in March and the opening of the 2023 session next January. At that point, there will be a significant turnover of lawmakers, all of whom represent new constituents under redistricting that went into effect this year.
The legislature's Emergency Board, a committee of top leaders, will meet this week to make budgetary tweaks allowed under state law. If passed, any changes would be signed or vetoed by the first new governor since 2015. Gov. Kate Brown will leave office in early January, replaced by a new state chief executive chosen by voters in November.
Senate's top officer recovering from COVID-19
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, 78, was hospitalized at one point late last month after testing positive for COVID-19, his office confirmed Tuesday morning.
"Senator Courtney has had COVID-19 and is doing better now," said Senate spokesman Johnmartin Sherman-Lewis in a Twitter message Tuesday morning. "He is double boosted and has every intention to preside over the Senate later this week."
The longest-serving state lawmaker in Oregon history is not running for re-election and will retire when the Legislature elected in November takes office in January.
Both of Oregon's U.S. Senators — Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley — had contracted COVID-19 earlier. U.S Rep. Peter DeFazio, 74, and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, 73, reported in April that they had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Oregon National Guard near Ukraine conflict
The Oregon National Guard has about 115 citizen-soldiers in Poland as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an 8-year-old effort to buttress NATO nations that began after Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine.
Charlie Troop of the 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment, of the Oregon National Guard is on a nine-month rotation set to end in the autumn, according to Lt. Col. Stephen Bomar, spokesman for the Oregon Military Department, which includes National Guard units in the state.
Alpha Company of the same squadron returned in January from a nine-month mission in Poland.
The Oregon National Guard also sent the 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment to Special Operations Command Europe, based in Germany. The 10 Oregon National Guard members are also on a nine-month rotation, set to end in mid-summer, Bomar said.
Pentagon budget shift wouldn't keep new jet from Oregon
A revised U.S. Department of Defense budget calls for significant cuts in plans to purchase the FX-15X Eagle II tactical fighter jet. The Pentagon budget has shifted to buying more of the new generation F-35 Lightning II air superiority fighter.
The move would impact the Oregon Air National Guard. Even with cutbacks, the F-15EX squadrons in Klamath Falls and Portland are still on schedule to be flying some of the first of the supersonic jets.
"Right now, the current plan is for 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, which is also the only F-15 training facility in the U.S., to be the first to receive them, potentially in 2024," Bomar said.
The cutbacks could affect how many pilots from Air Force and Air National Guard squadrons would come to Klamath Falls for training on the F-15EX in future years.
The 142nd Wing in Portland is also scheduled to transition to the F-15EX in 2026.
Both units currently fly the F-15C Eagle, a single-seat, all-weather variant built between 1979 and 1985. The original F-15A was first flown in 1972 and entered service with the Air Force in 1976. The Oregon Air National Guard jets have received subsequent upgrades on electronics.
The twin-engine F-15EX Eagle II is built by Boeing at a factory in St. Louis, Missouri. The single-engine F-35 Lightning II is built by Lockheed Martin in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.
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