Scappoose substitute teacher Robby Backus seeks Senate seat
Robby Backus, a 24-year-old Scappoose resident, is aiming to fill the Oregon State Senate vacancy left by Betsy Johnson, who resigned earlier this month after announcing her run for governor.
Backus, a regular audience member and public speaker at Scappoose City Council meetings, said in a video that he recently came to the realization that he "can no longer sit on the sidelines critiquing and complaining without being a part of the solution."
Backus is a substitute math teacher at Scappoose High School, from which he graduated in 2015 before studying economics at Oregon State University and New York University.
Backus also serves on Scappoose's economic development committee and is an assistant athletic coach.
"If nominated, I understand I wouldn't only represent Scappoose or Columbia County. I would represent coastal towns, rural farm lands, the outer edges of suburbia and everywhere in between," Backus, who was born and raised in Scappoose, said in a Dec. 27 video announcing his interest in the nomination.
Backus said he sees his young age as an advantage.
"I'm full of energy, determination and ideas. I haven't started a family just yet and I still haven't started my career, so I'll be able to devote 100% of my time and energy to this job," he said in the video.
Backus joins two other Democrats in Senate District 16 to publicly state their interest in being appointed to fill Johnson's seat.
Melissa Busch of Warren, who previously announced she would run in the 2022 election, announced shortly after Johnson's resignation that she is seeking the appointment.
Former state Rep. Deborah Boone of Hamlet also told the Spotlight she would like to be appointed, although she doesn't plan to run for a full term in 2022.
Rep. Suzanne Weber, a Tillamook Republican who represents Boone's former seat in the House, is also running for the Senate seat. However, state law requires that a vacancy in the Oregon Legislature be filled by someone from the same political party.
When Johnson announced her resignation, she seemed to suggest county commissioners should appoint a replacement who will not run in next year's election.
"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," Johnson said in a video.
Backus said he currently has "no plans to run for the Senate seat in 2022 or in the future."
"However, regardless of the outcome, I will always seek out ways to serve and improve my community. And I will consider any opportunity that may arise," he added.
Under both the new legislative district lines drawn this year and the lines under which Johnson was elected, Senate District 16 includes pieces of six counties: Clatsop, Columbia, Multnomah, Tillamook, Washington and Yamhill (though the portion of Yamhill County under the new lines had less than 50 residents as of 2020).
County commissioners in all six counties will approve Johnson's replacement, after the local Democratic party leaders in the counties select three to five nominees. The commissioners' votes will be weighed by the number of residents within the senate district, meaning Columbia County commissioners will have a far greater say than Yamhill County commissioners.
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