SALEM — Oregon Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced all but one of their members up for re-election will run in November 2016.
The terms of eight of 12 Republicans who served in the Senate in 2015 will expire after the November 2016 election. Seven of them, including Bend Republican Tim Knopp, will run for re-election, the caucus said in a release Wednesday.
The fate of Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls,wasn’t immediately clear. His term expires at the end of next year but his name was left off the list of Republican senators seeking re-election.
A Whitsett aide said the three-term Republican was in a meeting with two other legislators and wasn’t immediately available to confirm whether he would run to serve another four-year term. The aide said he hadn’t spoken with Whitsett about whether he’d run again.
Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said several members of the caucus had a “difference of opinion” over whether their names would appear on the release announcing who would seek re-election.
Ferrioli, who is serving as leader during the 2015-16 session in which Republicans hold 12 of 30 seats, said he had heard there was speculation over whether Ferrioli himself would seek re-election, a rumor he sought to put to rest by announcing he’ll run in 2016.
“I got a ticket on the 50-yard line,” Ferrioli said. “A lot of our members believe their services to Oregonians are more valuable now than ever.”
These Republicans are seeking re-election: Sens. Herman Baertschiger Jr, of Grants Pass; Brian Boquist, of Dallas; Ted Ferrioli, of John Day; Fred Girod, of Stayton; Bill Hansell, of Athena; Tim Knopp, of Bend; and Jeff Kruse, of Roseburg.
Whitsett, 72, is a retired veterinarian and serves in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly 2-to-1. His rural district spans north from Klamath Falls and includes Crook County and parts of southern and eastern Deschutes County. His wife is Rep. Gail Whitsett, also a Republican from Klamath Falls.
Rep. Whitsett hasn’t reported raising any campaign contributions since the weeks following the 2014 election. Sen. Whitsett also hasn’t reported raising any campaign cash since January and has no money reported in his account. Neither was immediately available for comment.
Sen. Whitsett is one of eight lawmakers who last session worked on a transportation package that would have repealed and replaced the state’s low-carbon fuel standard.
Whitsett worked on a proposal that would have converted the state’s school bus fleet to compressed natural gas as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The eight lawmakers proposed various carbon-cutting measures in exchange for a repeal of the low-carbon fuel standard, a biofuels policy lawmakers approved and Gov. Kate Brown signed early in 2015 that aspires to lower greenhouse gas emissions from fuel over 10 years.
Brown tabled the high-wire effort to repeal the standard and pass a transportation package in the face of opposition from House Democrats and state environmental groups. She said Wednesday on OPB’s Think Out Loud, “I think it’s also very important that we support our Clean Fuels legislation.
“We worked very hard to get a transportation package that would either meet or beat that standard,” Brown said, referring to the amount of greenhouse gas reductions sought under the program over 10 years. “We simply ran out of time.”
A group representing the oil industry has moved to put three ballot measures on the November 2016 ballot that would either outright repeal or dramatically water down the low-carbon fuel standard. Paul Romain, a lobbyist working with the ballot measure group, told The Bulletin last week the group would challenge any effort to raise a gas tax to pay for roads as long as the low-carbon fuel standard is in place.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and others have said lawmakers who are elected in November 2016 must work to pass a transportation package in the 2017 session.
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