One of the leading candidates in the 2020 race for Oregon Secretary of State will step down as a lawmaker later this month.
State Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, the former House majority leader, announced Friday she’ll end her nearly seven-year tenure in the legislature on Dec. 30. She'll dedicate her time to her current campaign.
“It has become clear that the right thing for me to do for my constituents is to step aside early to make room for the next generation of leadership in House District 36, while focusing full-time on my campaign for Secretary of State and fighting for our agenda to protect and improve our democracy across Oregon,” Williamson said in a statement.
The move creates an immediate opening for a House seat that has seen a fair amount of interest since Williamson announced she won’t run for re-election.
To date, three Democrats and one Republican have filed to run for the deeply Democratic district that spans much of Southwest Portland. With Williamson’s early departure, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners will be responsible for appointing a Democrat to fill the seat in the short term.
The announcement also leaves a vacancy atop one of the Legislature's busiest committees as lawmakers prepare to convene in February. Williamson, the former House majority leader, served as chair of the House Judiciary Committee in the 2019 legislative session. In naming Williamson to the post, House Speaker Tina Kotek bumped longtime judiciary chair Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, from the seat, spurring some bad feelings.
Williamson faces stiff competition in the Democratic primary for secretary of state. State Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, is also running for the post. So are Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a Terrebonne resident who mounted a challenge to U.S. Rep Greg Walden last year, and Cameron Smith, the former head of the state's Department of Consumer and Business Services.
Williamson suggested in her announcement she’ll travel the state in coming months “meeting people throughout Oregon to hear their ideas and share my plans for protecting and expanding our democracy. That’s a full-time job and Oregonians deserve my full attention in this fight to count every vote.”
The Portland lawmaker isn't the only legislator to step down in order to campaign. State Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, plans to leave his seat in January in order to focus on a congressional run.
Meanwhile, Hass, the other lawmaker vying to be secretary of state, says he’ll remain in the Senate through the 2020 legislative session.
“My priority is passing a carbon bill in February,” Hass told OPB, referring to cap-and-trade legislation Democrats plan to push next year.
“Fundraising will have to take a back seat.”