Wednesday: Dems likely to keep majorities in Oregon Legislature
Democrats appear poised to retain majorities in both chambers of the Oregon Legislature in early returns Tuesday.
But Democrats may be losing two seats in the Senate, though a close race in District 20 between Democratic Rep. Mark Meek of Gladstone and Republican incumbent Bill Kennemer of Oregon City may prove to be pivotal. Republican Rep. Suzanne Weber of Tillamook was leading for the open District 16 seat, and Republican Sen. Kim Thatcher of Keizer was ahead for the open District 11 seat. Thatcher was redrawn out of her current District 13 seat.
If those trends held, Democrats would be down one from their current number of 18.
Democrats also were losing seats in the House, but several races were close, and Democrats are likely to retain the 31 required for a majority.
Whichever party has a majority usually names the House speaker and Senate president. They appoint the members and leaders of committees — where most of the work of the Oregon Legislature is done — and assign bills to the committees. The majority party usually sets the agenda for the chambers.
Democrats have held majorities in both chambers for a decade, and supermajorities (60%, the requirement for revenue-raising measures) since 2019.
Republicans were mounting a strong bid to win their first majority in the Senate, or at least force a 15-15 tie, in two decades. They lost their majority in 2002, when Democrats gained a tie, and then Democrats won three seats for an outright majority in 2004.
Democrats now lead Republicans in the Senate, 18-12. But even before this election, retirements and redistricting will result in at least six new senators, including a successor to Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem who was Senate president for a record 20 years and the longest serving member of the Legislature at 38 years.
Democrats are likely to retain their majority over Republicans in the House. But Republicans hoped to make enough gains to reduce the Democrats' 37-23 advantage below the supermajority mark of 36. There will be at least 20 new members — 13 Democrats and seven Republicans are vacating their seats — and if all six appointees on the ballot win their elections, almost half the House will be serving their first 160-day (long) session in 2023.
The House had 25 new members in 1999 after Oregon's term limits kicked in, and 24 new members in 2001. (Those totals exclude two members with prior legislative service in 1999, and one in 2001.) The Supreme Court tossed out term limits in 2002.
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