Oregon News

Politicians on Nov. 8 ballot seek to be first, longest-serving, oldest and more

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By GARY A. WARNER
Oregon Capital Bureau

The Nov. 8 election could result in a number of firsts for Oregon.

Ron Wyden could become Oregon’s longest-tenured U.S. Senator.

Betsy Johnson could be the state’s oldest governor.

Tina Kotek could be the first lesbian to serve as a governor in the United States. 

Jamie McLeod-Skinner could be Oregon’s first lesbian member of Congress.

Christine Drazan could be the first Republican woman governor of Oregon.

Jo Rae Perkins could be the first Republican woman U.S. Senator from the state.

Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer and/or Andrea Salinas could be the first Latinas elected to the U.S. House from Oregon.

Along with seeking public office, some candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot are looking to extend streaks, break barriers, set records or join ranks.

Oregon is already guaranteed a lot of “new” in 2023. A new governor, a new Senate president, and a new labor commissioner. With three open congressional seats, Oregon will have a new wave of U.S. House members. One will represent the brand new 6th Congressional District, added to the state because of its growth over the past decade.

The three major candidates for governor are women, ensuring that for the first time, a woman will succeed a woman — current Gov. Kate Brown — in the state’s top job.

Some of the other possible titles that could be won when votes are tallied in November:

Ron Wyden – Oregon’s longest-serving U.S. Senator

Ron Wyden isn’t just seeking re-election this year, he’s looking at a shot at making Oregon’s political record book: Longest tenure of a U.S. Senator from Oregon.

On Nov. 5, Wyden will have served 26 Years and 8 months since he was sworn in as a senator on Feb. 5, 1996. That’s second only to U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Oregon, who was in office 3 days short of 30 years. Wyden’s tenure would beat Hatfield’s by the end of his new term. 

U.S. Sen. Charles McNary, a Republican, who served from 1917 to 1944. McNary sought to cut short his own tenure, running for vice president on the 1940 GOP ticket with presidential nominee Wendall Wilkie. Franklin Roosevelt won a third term and Henry Wallace became the new vice-president. McNary went back to the Senate, staying until he died four years later.

Oregon’s other long-termer is U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse, who was elected in 1944. A Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, Morse served 24 years stretching from the end of World War II to the middle of the Vietnam War. He was defeated in 1968 by Republican Bob Packwood.

It would take a seismic upset for Republican Jo Rae Perkins to defeat Wyden on Nov. 8.

The only woman to serve in the U.S. Senate from Oregon has been Democrat Maurine Neuberger. A former Oregon legislator, she was the wife of U.S. Sen. Richard Neuberger, a Democrat elected in 1954. When her husband died in office in 1960, she won a special election to finish his term and also won a full six-year term of her own, leaving the Senate in 1967.

Betsy Johnson – Oregon’s oldest governor

Betsy Johnson, the unaffiliated candidate for governor, has most often been linked in news reports with Julius Meier, the state’s only independent to win the governorship. But she also has a tie-in with the governor after Meier, Republican Charles Martin, who was elected in 1934.

If elected this November, Johnson would be a week away from her 72nd birthday on the day she’s sworn in. She would surpass Martin as the oldest person to take the oath of office. Martin was 71 Years, three months, and 14 days when sworn in.

Times have changed. Martin was an outlier, having already surpassed the average lifespan of an American man at the time, 59.9 years. The life expectancy for women today is 82.2 years, with men averaging 78 years.

Americans have been voting in older leaders in recent years. President Joe Biden was 78 years and 61 days old when sworn in as president. Former President Donald Trump was 70 years, 220 days.

Johnson would be younger than Gov. Kay Ivey, R-Alabama, when she took the oath at age 72 years and 177 days. Republican Gov. Mike Dewine was nine days past his 72 birthday when he was inaugurated.

The current U.S. Senate has an average age of 64 years, with a bi-partisan tie for the oldest — 88 years — attained by Democrat Diane Feinstein and Republican Chuck Grassley.

Tina Kotek – First lesbian U.S. governor

Kotek last year set a record as the longest-serving Oregon House speaker in state history before stepping down to run for governor. She was also the first openly lesbian House speaker of any U.S. legislature when here colleagues elected her to the post in 2013. Kotek would be the first openly lesbian governor in the United States if elected in November. Gov. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, became the first openly gay person elected governor in the United States, in 2019. Gov. Kate Brown identifies as bisexual. She was involuntarily outed in a 1990s Oregonian article on LGBT politicians in Oregon. She is married to Dan Little, and has two stepchildren.

Around the U.S., prominent lesbian politicians include U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., California President Pro-tem (and former assembly speaker) Toni Atkins, Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Elsewhere, Ana Brnabić, the prime minister of Serbia, is a lesbian. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was the first lesbian head of state when she served as prime minister of Iceland from 2009-2013. Kathleen Wynne was the premier – roughly equivalent to an American governor – of the Canadian province of Ontario from 2013 to 2018.

Christine Drazan – first female Republican governor of Oregon

Oregon’s two female governors have been Democrats. Barbara Roberts was elected to a single term in 1990. Kate Brown was the elected secretary of state and under the Oregon constitution became governor after Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned during an influence-peddling scandal in 2015. She won a special election in 2016 and a full term in 2018. Drazan, the former House minority leader from Canby who is the GOP nominee for governor, would be the first female Republican to hold the state’s top office. She would be the first Republican to be elected governor since Vic Atiyeh won a second term in 1982.

Congressional firsts

Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer would be the first Latina elected to Congress from Oregon if she wins the race for the 5th Congressional District seat. Her Democratic opponent, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, would be the first openly lesbian member of Congress from Oregon. Andrea Salinas would also be the first Latina elected to Congress from Oregon if she wins her race for the 6th Congressional District against Republican Mike Erickson.

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