Appointed Incumbent easily defeats Republican David Poulson for seat in Salem

WAGNERDemocratic incumbent Rob Wagner easily defeated Republican challenger David Poulson on Tuesday in his bid for a full term in the Senate District 19 seat long held by Richard Devlin.

Unofficial returns at midday Wednesday showed Wagner with 65.4 percent of the vote; Poulson, a member of Lake Oswego's Development Review Commission, trailed with 34.4 percent.

"It's an absolute honor to have the chance to represent our communities," Wagner said in a Facebook post Tuesday night. "Thank you everyone for your amazing support."

Wagner, 45, was appointed earlier this year to serve out the remainder of Devlin's current term. He was sworn in on Jan. 31, just a few days before the start of the 2018 legislative session, and jumped straight back into the election race after the session ended.

Wagner worked for 10 years as the director of political and legislative affairs for the American Federation of Teachers (Oregon) and was then hired by Portland Community College in 2012 to serve as its government relations director.

He was promoted in 2014 to become the school's associate vice president for college advancement, where he remained until he decided to seek the Senate appointment in late 2017. Wagner also serves on the Lake Oswego School Board, to which he was elected in May 2017.

He said he came away from the legislative session with a stronger focus on taking action to address gun violence, and said he was particularly inspired by students from Lake Oswego schools who visited Salem to advocate for gun reform.

Looking toward the 2019 session and beyond, Wagner said he wants to focus on advancing two of the core issues from his campaign: health care and education. Upcoming work on the state's budget will be an opportunity to make the case for additional resources for education, he said.

"Targeted investments in certain educational programs make a huge difference," he said.

As a civil engineer, Poulson, 60, said he's spent his career working with government agencies and review boards, typically as a development applicant. He sought more direct involvement in government because of concerns about Oregon's direction, he said, and hoped that his engineering background would have enabled him to provide a unique perspective on the challenges facing the state.

"There aren't a lot of engineers in politics," he said. "I think it may be time to bring an engineering perspective to things."

Poulson currently works as a senior principal engineer at PACE Engineers and manages the company's Lake Oswego office. His campaign touched on a wide variety of issues, ranging from infrastructure maintenance and sustainability to education and the economy.

Late in the campaign, he released a music video called "Oregon, Blaze On" that expressed his deep concern "about our nation's false perception that Oregon is an epicenter for aggressive and volatile politics."

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Poulson said. "Oregonians are creative, collaborative, funny… and just a little different."

On Tuesday, he said he was "honored and humbled by the support. I was happy about the voter turnout, and it shows people care."

"Maybe the interest was great enough that more people will take some time to look at my music video, which could be inspiring to us all," he said. "We'd like to put it forward as a possibility for a new state song, or at least stimulate interest in developing a new state song."

Poulson also said he was happy with the positive nature of the campaign and thanked Wagner for helping to make that happen.

"The fact the people of this district were able to look at who we were and make their decision based on that should be encouraging to people that it can be done this way," he said. "I want to thank Rob for working with me on that."

Lake Oswego Review reporters Claire Holley and Anthony Macuk contributed to the story. Contact reporter Sam Stites at 503-479-2375 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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