At least four seek appointment to upcoming Senate vacancy
Days after Chuck Riley announced he will leave his western Washington County-based seat in the Oregon State Senate early, multiple people have announced they hope to be appointed to replace him.
In a post on Facebook Friday, Oct. 1, Rep. Janeen Sollman — who currently represents House District 30, a district that covers North Plains, most of Hillsboro and unincorporated areas — said she is seeking appointment to the seat.
Ryan Van Domelen, a recent Pacific University graduate who studied political science and currently works as a grocery store cashier, confirmed to Pamplin Media Group he will seek appointment. Over the summer, Van Domelen said he planned to run for the seat in the 2022 election.
Also seeking appointment is Nathan Sosa, a Hillsboro attorney who serves as president of the Hillsboro Schools Foundation.
On Saturday, Oct. 2, after this story was published, Hillsboro City Councilor Anthony Martin announced on Twitter that he would also seek appointment to the seat.
Riley said last month that he will step down from his seat at the end of the year.
His district, Senate District 15, currently occupies the most populated areas of western Washington County, including most of Hillsboro as well as Cornelius, Forest Grove, North Plains and unincorporated areas.
The boundaries of the district will change for the 2022 election, however, months after an appointment to the seat is made.
On Sept. 27, Gov. Kate Brown signed new legislative maps into law.
The redrawn SD 15 maintains most of Hillsboro, as well as the cities of Cornelius and Forest Grove. It cuts out North Plains and unincorporated areas north and west of the city. The new district also adds unincorporated areas south of Cornelius, including the community of Fern Hill, extending all the way to the Yamhill County line.
Riley's seat will be filled by appointment following a vote by the five-member Washington County Board of Commissioners.
Democrats within his district will nominate three to five candidates commissioners can vote on. Roughly 250 elected or appointed individuals within the district, called "precinct committee people," make the nominations.
Normally, precinct committee people would nominate people at an in-person nominating convention, but due to the pandemic, the Democratic Party of Oregon may choose to have the precinct committee people vote by mail instead.
Eddie Kurtz, communications director for the party, said party officials will set the process for voting on nominations closer to the date of the vacancy according to public health guidance.
The following are short profiles of people who have confirmed to Pamplin Media Group they are seeking appointment to the SD 15 vacancy.
Sollman was first elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2016, winning re-election in 2018 and 2020, when she ran unopposed.
Before that, she served on the Hillsboro School District board of directors for eight years from 2009 to 2017.
Sollman works for a Washington County-based education technology company.
"I listen to the ideas and concerns of my constituents with my full heart and mind. I learn about solutions that serve their needs and my actions speak louder than those words," she said in her Facebook post announcing she would seek appointment to SD 15.
In an interview Friday, Sollman said she would continue to let the voices of her constituents drive her priorities at the legislature if she were appointed to the seat, adding that she would be excited to represent new areas of Washington County, including Forest Grove, where she has roots.
Sollman posted a photo of her as the Viking mascot of Forest Grove High School in 1987, when she graduated.
"The work that we do is all about relationships," she said. "I will continue to work on that. It's relationships within the building, building relationships in the Senate, continuing that with the House, but also I (would) have a new district of folks to meet."
She said more than 80 community conversations since she became a legislator have shown her that people want to see the legislature address climate change and continue to support behavioral health initiatives and public safety.
Sollman said she is proud of her work in the House to pass the Student Success Act, the Recycling Modernization Act, and legislation preventing people convicted of domestic violence to own firearms.
As an attorney since 2009, Sosa said he has devoted his career to "helping people stand up to insurance companies."
He currently works for the Portland-area law firm Vames & Wang, which specializes in personal injury cases.
A longtime mentor of underprivileged kids and advocate for education funding, Sosa became a member of the Hillsboro Schools Foundation board in 2015 and now serves as its president.
He said he decided to seek appointment to the SD 15 seat because he believes his upbringing gives him a perspective that's needed in Salem.
Raised by his single mother in Las Vegas, Sosa went to work bagging groceries at Safeway as a 16-year-old to support his family.
He worked as a legal assistant at a law firm to put himself through college studying history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He later graduated from the university's law school.
He moved to Oregon with his wife, whom he met at UNLV, eight years ago.
"As somebody who grew up in poverty, I've experienced the struggles that so many working families are going through right now," Sosa said. "I want to do everything I can to help them and to ensure that they have a voice in the Capitol. That's why I'm running."
He said his main priorities if he were to be appointed would be finding new ways to economically empower underserved communities, increasing funding for education, and working to reform the state's criminal and civil justice systems.
Sosa said his work both professionally and at the Hillsboro Schools Foundation has required him to work with people from all backgrounds. He said he would rely on his experiences finding common ground between public and private interests to bridge political divisiveness.
Ryan Van Domelen
Van Domelen said watching Oregon lawmakers fail to adequately support working families during the pandemic motivated him to seek the SD 15 seat.
"There is just this huge disconnect between our regular working families that were running the check stands and the government," said Van Domelen, who works as a cashier at New Seasons Market in Hillsboro.
Van Domelen, 23, graduated from Pacific University in 2020.
He grew up on his family's generations-old dairy farm in North Plains.
Van Domelen said his interest in politics came after watching his family members struggle to keep the farm afloat following the economic crash in 2008 and subsequent recession.
"It felt like déjà vu, being a grocery worker during COVID," Van Domelen said.
He said he has been disappointed with state leaders' handling of COVID-19 vaccine prioritization, which left essential workers ineligible to receive vaccines for months after they were first available.
He added that lawmakers' inability to pass a bill creating hazard pay for essential workers who worked during the pandemic, while the state received massive federal relief packages, further shows the Legislature is out of touch with working people.
If he was appointed, he said supporting workers, boosting availability of affordable housing and decreasing homelessness would be among his top priorities. He added that funding education and tackling climate change would be high priorities.
"How do we make an economy in Oregon that working family can afford to live in?" Van Domelen asked rhetorically.
Van Domelen said he's active in local and state politics, is working to start a local retailers advocacy association, and has plans to attend Oregon Labor Candidate School.
Martin said he chose to seek appointment to the SD 15 seat because of a passion for serving his community and making people's lives better.
"I think there is a lot of work for the state to do," he said. "I will use my policy background, lived experience, and passion for getting the community involved to help chart a new path for the state."
Martin was first elected to the Hillsboro City Council in 2016. He was re-elected in 2020 after running unopposed.
The Banks High School graduate grew up on a goat farm in the community of Buxton and has lived in Hillsboro since 2015.
Martin holds a bachelor's degree in Spanish and political science from the University of Oregon and a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Texas at Austin, where he focused on local government.
He has worked as a financial and economic consultant for cities in the Pacific Northwest and currently works as a financial analyst for the City of Portland.
Martin told Pamplin Media Group one of his top priorities if he is appointed to the seat will be "ensuring we recover equitable from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and addressing the structural issues that became even more prevalent during the pandemic."
Another priority for Martin will be sustainability, he said, noting the need to create a state that is both sustainable environmentally and economically "so future generations can live in a better state."
Martin added that he will focus on making sure everyone has access to a transparent government in which people feel welcome and empowered to affect change.
Editor's note: This story has been updated Tuesday, Oct. 5, with Anthony Martin's announcement that he will seek appointment to the SD 15 seat.
The story was updated Wednesday, Oct. 6, to clarify the process for nominating potential appointees to the vacant Senate seat.
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