Courtney nominated for 10th term to lead the Oregon Senate
Peter Courtney of Salem is once again the choice of majority Democrats to lead the Oregon Senate as its president in 2021 and 2022.
Courtney was nominated Friday, Nov. 13, by a virtual caucus of the 18 incoming Democratic senators. The official election of the Senate president takes place on Jan. 11, the opening day of the 2021 Legislature.
Democrats will continue to lead Republicans, 18 to 12. A Republican won a coastal seat vacated by a Democrat, but a Democrat narrowly unseated an appointed Republican in a Salem area district by 505 votes of more than 74,000 cast. The margin is greater than the number (148) required to trigger an automatic recount.
Together with the House speaker, the Senate president controls the flow of legislation through the chamber by the appointment of committee members and leaders and the assignment of bills to committees.
Courtney is already the longest-serving member of the Oregon Legislature at 36 years, 14 of them in the House and 22 in the Senate. He won his sixth Senate term in 2018.
This two-year term would be his 10th as Senate president, also a record. The previous mark was four terms (eight years).
Courtney said in a statement that he intends to continue the same bipartisan approach toward running the Senate that he has shown during the past 18 years.
"Oregon is facing challenges like we've never seen before. Now is the time to act.
"The Senate president is the president of the whole Senate, not just one party. It is up to us — Democrats and Republicans — to set aside our differences and meet these challenges head-on."
He drew some Democratic critics prior to the start of his current presidency, although not enough to deny him the office. Democratic Sen. Shemia Fagan of Portland, who declined to vote for him on opening day in 2019, was elected secretary of state on Nov. 3 and an appointee will fill her seat for the two years remaining in her term.
Courtney, 77, is a lawyer who was on the Salem City Council from 1974 to 1980, when he was elected to the Oregon House. He and his wife, Margie, have three adult sons. He has retired from a job at Western Oregon University.
He was in the House four years, then lost bids in 1984 for the 5th District congressional nomination and in 1986 for the Oregon Senate. He won a comeback bid for the House in 1988 and was there for 10 more years. He was House Democratic leader from 1991 through the 1997 session; he resigned from the leadership after the session to concentrate on a second bid for the Oregon Senate.
He was elected to the Oregon Senate in 1998.
He was thrust into the presidency as a result of a power-sharing agreement in 2003, when the Senate had 15 Democrats and 15 Republicans.
He has sponsored more than 200 successful measures during his career. He was the chief advocate of Oregon's changeover from biennial to annual legislative sessions, which voters approved in 2010. Oregon had been one of only five states where lawmakers met every other year.
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