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Betsy Johnson has announced plans to step down from the Oregon State Senate to focus on her run for governor.

PMG FILE PHOTO - State Sen. Betsy JohnsonBetsy Johnson says she will leave her seat in the Oregon Senate early to focus on her run for governor.

Johnson's resignation will be effective Wednesday, Dec. 15, she said in a video message shared Tuesday.

The longtime lawmaker from the Scappoose area launched her campaign for governor in October. Although Johnson was elected to the Senate as a Democrat, she is running for governor as an unaffiliated candidate, dropping her affiliation with the Democratic Party.

"It's so clear Oregonians want a different kind of politics, and they certainly want a different kind of leadership," Johnson said in her message Tuesday. "They want leadership that reaches beyond party labels, rejects the extremes and puts common sense in service to the common good."

Johnson's decision to leave the Democratic Party prompted Senate President Peter Courtney to remove her as co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, the Legislature's budget-writing committee.

But in her message, Johnson said the reason for her resignation is simple: "Northwest Oregon deserves a full-time state senator, and running for governor is a full-time job."

Johnson has been a member of the Oregon State Legislature since 2001, serving in the House of Representatives before representing Senate District 16, a large district that covers Columbia and Clatsop counties as well as much of western Washington County and northern Tillamook County.

Commissioners from those counties will have to appoint Johnson's replacement.

While Johnson is no longer affiliated with the Democratic Party, Democrats in her district will nominate three to five candidates to fill her seat. Commissioners will select from that list. The appointee will serve until voters elect a new senator in November 2022.

Johnson said she hopes the officials who select her replacement will not choose someone with political ambition.

"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.

Johnson's legislative neighbor, state Sen. Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro, is also leaving the Senate this month. That means Washington County commissioners will be involved in naming three new senators within the span of several weeks, after commissioners from Washington and Multnomah counties appointed Sen. Akasha Lawrence Spence, D-Portland, to the seat formerly held by Ginny Burdick late last month.


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