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Oregon Democrats elect new Majority Leader and Speaker of the House

Speaker Tina Kotek and Majority Leader Rep. Smith Warner are both stepping away from their duties; their spots will be filled for the 2022 session.
Credit: Rex Wholster - stock.adobe.com

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon House Democrats elected Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) to serve as the Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives and Rep. Julie Fahey (D- West Eugene, Junction City) to serve as the Majority Leader, the House announced on Sunday.

Both the former House Speaker, Tina Kotek, and Majority Leader Rep. Barbara Smith Warner have stepped down and are being replaced by the newly elected representatives.

Kotek will step away from the legislature on Jan. 21. She is the longest-serving House Speaker in Oregon history. She is currently running for Oregon Governor to replace term-limited current governor Kate Brown.

“Our state is facing enormous challenges that legislators are ready to tackle in the upcoming session,” Speaker Kotek said in an emailed statement. “The Oregon House of Representatives will be well-served through this transition as the legislature continues to do the people’s work.”

RELATED: House Speaker Tina Kotek leaving Oregon Legislature

Rep. Rayfield was elected to the legislature in 2014 and represents House District 16, comprising Corvallis and Philomath.

“I’m deeply honored that my caucus has entrusted me with this nomination," Rep. Rayfield said in an emailed statement. "I recognize this comes with tremendous responsibility at a pivotal moment for families across our state.”

He has also served as co-chair of the Committee on Ways and Means, which deals with the state’s budget, since 2019.

“I ran to be Speaker to help guide the House as we collectively work to build a recovery that reaches all Oregonians,” said Rep. Rayfield. “Our economy has picked up steam in recent months and I have tremendous optimism about our state's future. But after years of living in a global pandemic, I know many are still hurting. The omicron variant is contributing to workforce shortages and challenges for our students, educators and families. But I know there is a brighter future ahead and I am committed to working with both parties and both chambers to lead the entire state forward."

Kotek’s resignation will be effective on Jan. 22 and until an official nomination is made on the House floor on Feb. 1 when the 2022 legislative session convenes, Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) will serve as the Speaker.

However, Rep. WInsvey Campos (D-Aloha) said in an emailed press release that she intends to make the formal nomination on the House floor.

RELATED: Peter Courtney plans to retire from longtime role as Oregon Senate President

Rep. Smith Warner became the Majority Leader in 2019. She will continue to serve as the Representative for House District 45.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Oregon House Democrats through the challenges of the last few years. I am proud that we led with science and good faith in our pandemic response, centered the needs of those most impacted, both economically and health-wise, and acknowledged and addressed the continued racial justice imbalances in our state," said Rep. Smith Warner.

Rep. Smith Warner is credited with the passage of the Student Success Act to establish ongoing dedicated funding (currently at $1 billion per year) for pre-K- grade 12 education for the first time in a generation.

Rep. Fahey will become the Majority Leader immediately following the election.

"I thank Rep. Smith Warner for her courageous leadership, and I’m honored to have my colleagues’ trust to lead this incredible caucus," said Leader Fahey. "As the pandemic continues to impact schools, small businesses, healthcare workers, and working families, I stand committed to the bold, structural changes we need to meet this moment, build resiliency, and ensure an equitable recovery."

Future-Majority Leader Fahey joined the Oregon Legislature in 2017 and has served as Chair of the House Committee on Housing. She was instrumental in securing $765 million dollars in investments for affordable housing and permanent supportive housing, down payment assistance, homeless services, tenant support, and more. During the 2021 December special session, Fahey led efforts to extend the safe harbor policy, in addition to investing $215 million for housing protections in an effort to keep thousands of people housed.

The Legislature announced that Rep. Rob Nosse was elected Majority Whip, Rep. Andrea Valderrama was elected Deputy Majority Whip and Rep. Karin Power as Assistant Majority Leader.