U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, will begin his 15th year in Congress come January with a new title. Oregon’s 2nd District congressman will serve as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House of Representatives. At the same time, Walden becomes the fifth-ranking member of his party in the House.
The chairmanship, which is filled by election among House Republicans, is a testament to Walden’s political savvy and his ability to play nicely with others.
No one ran against him in the election, which was held Wednesday behind closed doors. Nor was the position awarded based on Walden’s seniority. Just starting his eighth term, he has been in Washington far less time than some other Republicans.
But Walden grew up in a household where political talk was part of life — his father served in the Oregon Legislature from 1971 to 1977 — and he followed in Paul Walden’s footsteps, serving first in the state House and then the Senate for a total of 12 years.
He’s learned his political lessons well. He is willing to cross the aisle when need be, as he has done with Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland; Peter DeFazio, D-Eugene; and Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, on a variety of issues that are important to Oregonians across the state. He’s known as a thoughtful, hard worker.
All that helps explain Walden’s rise in Republican ranks. In 2010 he was named chairman of the House GOP Leadership, and he oversaw the transition from Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s speakership there to John Boehner’s.
Walden’s new position may not mean new bridges and highways for his district, which covers all of eastern and some of southern Oregon, but it’s important to the region, nonetheless. It is, after all, a recognition of his reputation among his fellow House Republicans, who had 240 or so other Republicans to choose from for the job. That, combined with his ability to work with congressional Democrats should serve Oregonians well.