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Already a candidate for Betsy Johnson's seat, Busch wants to be considered for the vacancy left by her resignation.

COURTESY PHOTO: MELISSA BUSCH - Melissa Busch lives in Warren and is running for Senate District 16.Warren Democrat Melissa Busch, who is running for Oregon State Senate next year, will seek to enter office ahead of schedule.

Busch announced Wednesday, Dec. 15, that she wants to be considered for appointment to the Senate District 16 seat vacated by Betsy Johnson. Johnson is stepping down, effective Wednesday night, to focus on her campaign for governor.

Busch, a home health nurse, announced her candidacy for SD 16 in November.

"As our next state senator, I will lead with care and compassion, and I will stand up for our community, just like I stand up for my patients," Busch said in a statement Wednesday declaring her interest in the appointment.

State Rep. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, has also announced she'll run for the seat. But as a Republican, Weber is ineligible for appointment, since state law requires that an appointee filling out an unexpired term come from the same political party as the legislator last elected to that office.

Long known as the most conservative member of the Democratic caucus in Salem, Johnson left the Democratic Party this fall to run for governor as an unaffiliated candidate. However, she won all of her elections as a Democrat, although she was cross-nominated by the Republican Party in 2014 and 2018.

Local Democrats in SD 16 will come up with a list of three to five potential appointees, which they will submit to county commissioners. The commissioners will then choose a senator from that list.

The Senate district sprawls across much of rural northwest Oregon, also taking in some suburban parts of Washington and Multnomah counties. Nominally a "battleground" district, in practice, Johnson's popularity and cross-party appeal has kept it as a safe Democratic seat for years.

Since the district takes in parts of five counties — Clatsop, Columbia, Multnomah, Tillamook and Washington — commissioners from all of those counties will have a say in appointing its next senator. Clatsop and Columbia counties are wholly contained within SD 16.

Johnson has not endorsed anyone for her Senate seat. In a video message announcing her resignation Tuesday, Dec. 14, she seemed to suggest commissioners should appoint a placeholder who won't run in 2022.

"Looking ahead, I hope the party officials and county commissioners who select my replacement will do the wise thing and choose someone who is dedicated 100% to serving and service, and not to the politics of running for election next year," she said.

For a variety of reasons, there has been a rash of legislative resignations in Oregon this fall. In Senate District 15, Sen. Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro, is also leaving the Senate this month. Longtime Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, resigned last month.PMG FILE PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - State Sen. Betsy Johnson, I-Warren, said Tuesday, Dec. 14, that she will step down from the Oregon Legislature after more than 20 years. Johnson is running for governor without a party affiliation after she left the Democratic Party this fall.

By Mark Miller
Editor-in-Chief, Washington and Columbia counties
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