SALEM — The Oregon House Republican caucus will be seeing more leadership from east of the Cascades following a leadership election Monday night.
Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, will be replacing Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, as Oregon House minority leader. Rep. Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles, will be taking over the deputy leader position, previously held by Rep. Greg Barreto, R-Cove. And Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, will take over for Rep. Sherrie Springer, R-Scio, as whip.
“In the end, the caucus wanted to go in a new direction and approach to how primarily they manage campaigns,” said Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner.
Smith, who represents District 57, which includes Morrow and Umatilla counties, moderated the election, and noted the meeting was finished within an hour.
Wilson and Sprenger were elected last November. Barreto had previously served as deputy leader to Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, before Wilson took his place as minority leader.
Barreto, who represents District 58, which includes all of Union and Wallowa counties, as well as portions of Umatilla County, said he was nominated to continue with in the position, but that he wasn’t interested in doing so with Drazan.
“If Carl would have won, I would have run again for deputy leader,” he said. “There’s a point where you want to give people a chance.”
Barreto noted that his former role was time-consuming, and said he looks forward to spending more time in his own district.
“You’re never really out of the election cycle,” he said. “There’s a lot of time, energy and finances involved. It’s a huge amount of work, and it’s a difficult task to find qualified and willing candidates.”
OPB reported last week that the Republican caucus had scheduled a Monday meeting that would possibly host a leadership election — a rare move in the month of September on an odd-numbered year.
They also reported that the election may have been pushed in part by corporate lobbyist Shaun Jillions, who told OPB on Tuesday that he wanted to see “significant changes” to the Republican Caucus campaign infrastructure.
Smith noted that all three elected into leadership are new to the caucus.
“l think if you really look at the House Republican caucus in its entirety, the vast majority of those members have served one, maybe two terms. It’s a very inexperienced caucus, and they wanted to go a different direction,” he said.
Smith said that a different direction primarily has to do with how the caucus runs campaigns.
“That seemed to be the argument, but the argument was never clarified,” Barreto said.
While Drazan might be new to lawmaking, her political experience is vast.
Having held an executive director position for the Republican party’s campaign efforts in the past, she also previously served as the chief of staff to former House Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House Mark Simmons.
“She has strong political instincts and experience at the highest level of the Oregon House. A lot of the newer members were really drawn,” Smith said.
Bonham said that he felt Drazan was tenacious and talented, and also the last Republican standing in the Portland metro area.
“I think that you’re going to see a new crop of Republicans — that are relatively new to this process — bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the campaign season,” he said.