U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden says he’s seeking reelection in 2022, ending speculation that Oregon’s senior senator might retire and pave the way for a crowded lineup of potential replacements.
Wyden, 71, told OPB he believes he has more work to do in Washington D.C.
“Of course I’m running,” he said. “There’s so much to do for Oregonians, and I’d very much like to have the honor of representing Oregonians again.”
Wyden holds several key positions in Congress, including on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Should Democrats regain control of the Senate this month, Wyden is in line to chair the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
One of his priorities in the coming Congress, Wyden said, is wildfire preparation and prevention. He and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley have proposed creating a 21st Century civilian conservation corps — essentially a modern re-creation of a program that was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts to pull the United States out of the Great Depression. Among other points, the legislation would pay young people to work in wildfire-prone areas doing fuels treatments and community protection work, among other conservation work nationwide.
Wyden said the racial justice protests of 2020 changed the way he thinks about his job. For example, he said, the Senate Finance Committee is looking at racial injustices in the health care system.
“You look, for example, at the fact that so often in affluent white suburbs there’s an incredible array of health care services. But in communities of color, very often, what we’re seeing is almost healthcare deserts, where they really lack for basic services,” he said. “... These challenges are going to have to be priorities for every single senator, for every single committee, and they will be at the top of my list.”
He’s hoping President-elect Joe Biden makes infrastructure a priority during his first 100 days in office.
“I believe the big major piece of legislation right out of the gate needs to be infrastructure, roads, bridges,” Wyden said. “This is a chance to put folks to work. It creates jobs.”
Wyden’s decision to seek reelection changes the political calculus for ambitious politicians planning ahead. Though the 2022 campaigns are more than a year from entering high gear, speculation is already mounting about which Democratic leaders might be considering seeking higher office. Wyden’s announcement means there will be only one high profile statewide job up for grabs: The governorship.
Gov. Kate Brown is term-limited out of office in 2022. The list of people who could be interested, or wooed, to run is long. It includes House Speaker Tina Kotek, State Treasurer Tobias Read, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Metro Council President Lynne Peterson.
On the Republican side, Salem oncologist and 2016 GOP nominee Bud Pierce has said he’s running for governor. The GOP has struggled to find challengers for Wyden since his first election in 1996.
Prior to his Senate career, Wyden served 15 years in the U.S. House.