Rob Wagner chosen as new majority leader of the Oregon Senate
State Sen. Rob Wagner of Lake Oswego is the new majority leader of the Oregon Senate.
Wagner will succeed Ginny Burdick of Portland, who announced in March she would step down from that position after five years. Burdick was renominated in Tuesday's primary for a seventh four-year term; she is the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate, although President Peter Courtney has been in the Legislature longer overall with an additional 14 years in the House.
The Senate Democratic Caucus made the announcement Friday.
Wagner, 47, was appointed in 2018 to the District 19 seat vacated when longtime Sen. Richard Devlin of Tualatin accepted an appointment as one of Oregon's two members on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Wagner won election to a full term later in 2018.
He remains on the Lake Oswego School Board, where he is chairman. He graduated from Lake Oswego High School.
District 19 covers parts of the three metro-area counties.
The majority leader is the party's chief spokesperson in the Senate. The leader also oversees the campaigns and fundraising for the caucus.
Wagner was already on the Democratic leadership team as majority whip, responsible for keeping tabs on party support or opposition to legislation and parliamentary motions.
Wagner is no stranger to Salem. Before he worked at Portland Community College, where he was associate vice president for college advancement and also its legislative director, he spent a decade as the legislative advocate for the American Federation of Teachers/Oregon. He also was a legislative aide to Rep. Chris Beck of Portland in the late 1990s and a legislative campaign manager for Greg Macpherson of Lake Oswego (who won) in the early 2000s.
"Senator Wagner loves the legislative process … and he is very good at it," Courtney said in a statement. "He has years of experience as an advocate, school board member, and majority whip. He is well suited to deal the with very difficult issues before us. Rob will make an outstanding majority leader."
Sen. Fred Girod of Lyons, who himself became Senate Republican leader earlier this year, offered his congratulations.
"I look forward to working closely with him as we address Oregon's economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis," Girod said in a statement. "I would also like to thank Senator Ginny Burdick for her time as leader and look forward to serving with her in her new capacity."
Wagner will lead a majority of 18 Democrats going into the Nov. 3 general election. Republicans have more seats to defend than Democrats this election cycle — nine to seven, counting one for a two-year unexpired term — and Democrats are looking at winning Republican-held seats in Salem and Bend. Six of the seven Democratic seats are in the Portland area; the other is on the coast, where no incumbent is running.
"I am ready to get to work electing Democrats across Oregon to grow the Senate majority to address challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic head on and continue to pass legislation to protect the environment, invest in public schools, and provide health care for Oregonian workers and families," Wagner said in a statement after his selection by the Democratic caucus.
Wagner earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1997 from Portland State University and a master's degree in public policy in 2001 from George Washington University.
Wagner and his wife, Laurie, have four children.
Two sisters are teachers in Portland, and a brother is a park ranger with the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District.
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