Nearly a dozen conservative candidates from the 20th Oregon State Senate District have thrown their hats into the ring, seeking an appointment to the seat vacated earlier this month by Alan Olsen.
Olsen, a Canby-area resident who had served in the state Senate for a decade, cited family reasons as the motivation for his decision to leave mid-term and move out of state.
The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners will ultimately decide Olsen’s replacement, but as Clackamas County Republican Party Chair Margie Hughes explained, there is some groundwork still to be done before the matter lands on commissioners’ desks.
Three to five nominees for the position must first be selected by a majority of the district’s 122 Republican precinct committee people (PCPs).
The 11 candidates who have requested consideration will have the opportunity to make their case during the selection convention this Saturday, Jan. 23, which will be held via Zoom.
Hughes said all 11 will be invited to speak for three minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session. Oregon Republican Party Chair Bill Currier will preside over the meeting, which is closed to the public.
The PCPs have discretion over the number of candidates they ultimately send to the Board of Commissioners for consideration. Each PCP will get a certain number of votes, which will be weighted according to a formula based on the number of Republican registered voters in each precinct, Hughes explained.
A candidate must earn a simple majority of 50% plus one to make the cut. With so many candidates under consideration, Hughes expects it to take several rounds of voting before a slate of nominees is finalized.
The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners has not announced when it will consider the nominees, but an appointment must be made within 30 days of Olsen’s resignation — which was effective Jan. 10. Previously controlled by Democrats, the board’s composition flipped to a 3-2 conservative majority in last year’s elections.
Those who have requested consideration for the seat are Steve Bates of Boring, Mark Callahan of Oregon City, Paul Carlson of Canby, Bill Kennemer of Canby, John Lee Jr. of Boring, Tim Lussier of Damascus, Sara Magenheimer of Canby, Chris Morrisette of Milwaukie, Steve Newgard of Milwaukie, Les Poole of Gladstone and Grant Sharp of Beavercreek.
Bates is a longtime Boring community leader, the former chair of the Boring Community Planning Organization, founder of the Boring Oregon Foundation, chief sponsor of the annual Boring and Dull Day, and president of the Oregon Vietnam War Memorial Fund. He is the founder of Oregon Fire Equipment Company and Stephen L. Bates Enterprises.
Callahan is an IT system administrator from Oregon City who has sought a number of elected positions over the past decade, including president of the United States in 2012. He has also unsuccessfully sought state and congressional offices, most recently challenging incumbent Democrat Kurt Schrader in 2018, when he won 42% of the vote.
Carlson is a businessman, former city councilor, past member of the Canby Area Chamber board of directors and an active civic leader. He co-founded the Canby Dahlia Run in 2011 and served as its director until 2019. He is also the founder, owner and a financial advisor for 4:8 Financial, which he started in 2015, named after the Bible verse Philippians 4:8.
The only candidate with previous experience as a member of the state Legislature, Kennemer retired in 2018 after nearly 10 years representing House District 39. Kennemer had previously served two terms as a state senator (representing what was then District 12) and a Clackamas County commissioner. His professional experience includes working as a psychologist from 1975 to 1997.
John Lee Jr.
Lee, a longtime leader of the Clackamas County Republican Party, was one of the candidates seeking to replace Kennemer in the House back in 2018. He finished second in the Republican primary that year to the ultimately victorious Christine Drazan. He has also served as treasurer of the Oregon GOP and worked in various roles providing sales strategy consulting for small businesses.
Lussier is a farmer, motivational speaker and public relations/campaign consultant with a number of appearances as a commentator on networks and shows, including Fox News, PBS and CBS. While admitting in his Facebook announcement that he may be a long shot for this position, he said he is also considering running for open seats in 2022 and 2024.
Magenheimer is a member and the current vice chair of the Canby School Board and a lifelong resident of the Canby/Oregon City area of Clackamas County. She has spent much of her professional career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serving as congressional liaison, public affairs director and partnership liaison.
Newgard is a longtime business owner who previously ran for a seat in the Oregon House representing District 40 — a largely urban Clackamas County district that includes Oregon City and Gladstone. Both times, in 2012 and 2014, he was defeated in relatively close races by Democrat Brent Barton.
Poole is an independent public relations and communications professional, as well as an occasional columnist for local newspapers discussing political and land use matters. He currently serves on the Gladstone Planning Commission.
Sharp is a Molalla-area businessman who has owned and operating several companies, including a ranching operation. He is a longtime volunteer for a number of local nonprofits and events, has served on the Clackamas County Livestock advisory board and president of the Salem Gun Club and currently sits on the Molalla Buckeroo executive committee. He is a 50-year member of the Molalla Buckeroo Association.