Oregon House Democrats nominate Dan Rayfield of Corvallis as speaker

Oregon House Democrats nominated Rep. Dan Rayfield de Corvallis to be the next House speaker in a private vote on Sunday night.

Rep. Janelle Bynum of Happy Valley also contested the leadership position in the preliminary vote, but a majority of the 34 Democrats who attended the meeting backed Rayfield, who is co-chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and known as the name of qualified fundraiser.

If Bynum had won the support of her caucus, she would have been well on her way to making history as Oregon’s first black speaker. Bynum has played a major role over the past two years in passing police reform and accountability legislation.

The 60 members of the House, including 23 Republicans, will participate in a floor vote to select the next speaker when they meet on Capitol Hill in February. It’s unclear how many Democrats backed Bynum and Rayfield because the count was kept secret even from caucus members, two Democrats told The Oregonian/OregonLive. The lawmakers requested anonymity to outline the caucus developments before they were publicly announced.

Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, holds an early morning meeting in her home office before heading to Salem in May 2021. Beth Nakamura/StaffThe Oregonian

Democratic and Republican leaders generally expect their caucuses to coalesce behind the presidential candidates each caucus has privately selected, but that outcome is not guaranteed.

Portland Speaker Tina Kotek, the state’s longest-serving president, is stepping down Friday to focus on her gubernatorial bid in the May Democratic primary. Pro Tem Chairman Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, will temporarily become Speaker until the House reconvenes on Capitol Hill.

House Democrats also voted to select Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, as Majority Leader. Former Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner of Portland announced to fellow Democrats earlier this month that she was stepping down, in another example of broad turnover in legislative leadership and rank-and-file membership.

Rayfield, who is an attorney, said in a statement that he was appearing as the speaker “to help guide the House as we work collectively to build a recovery that affects all Oregonians.” Our economy has accelerated in recent months and I am extremely optimistic about the future of our state. But after years of living in a global pandemic, I know many are still suffering. »

Bynum’s aspiration to be president dates back to 2020, when she challenged Kotek for the leadership position before dropping her candidacy ahead of the plenary vote. Bynum said she only withdrew from the exam after Kotek and Smith Warner, the majority leader, agreed to support Bynum if she continued as a lecturer in the future, an agreement reported by the OPB has been reflected in emails and attested to by another legislator.

After Sunday night’s vote, Bynum said in an interview that the process showed him “how deprived our community is of that political and social capital that you need to rise to the highest levels of power, and that doesn’t only comes with intentional mentorship and support and opportunity.”

“I knocked on the door and announced to Oregon that people of color have always been ready, but the door has to be opened,” Bynum said. “It didn’t happen to me today, but the process, I would say, was cathartic.”

In a statement sent to reporters, Bynum called on the Oregon Democratic Party to commit to “coaching, stepping back, and creating pathways for leadership development” for people of color. Bynum, who along with her husband operates four McDonald’s franchises in Oregon, said Oregonians of color “are capable of so much more than the opportunities that are available to us.”

Bynum isn’t done pushing for a bigger leadership role in the House Democratic caucus. The next speaker will hand out committee assignments and Bynum said she asked Rayfield to appoint her as co-chair of ways and means which he is leaving. “I strongly hope that I will be considered,” Bynum said.

—Hillary Borrud

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