"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

House speaker to freshman senator?

Arnie Roblan

That the 2011 Oregon legislative session may go down as legendarily good – you don’t see that kind of description a lot in terms of legislative sessions – owes a lot to Representatives Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, and Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay. Together, they managed to lead an evenly-split Oregon House, which might have been the scene of ugliness and disaster, through a smooth and productive session.

We’ll see that team in place again, for a short time, in the abbreviated 2012 session. But not after that. Roblan said this morning he’s running next year for the Senate seat opened by the upcoming retirement of Senator Joanne Verger, D-Coos Bay.

Two notes are worth making here.

One is that Roblan could be giving up a future speakership or co-speakership (if the flipped coins lands on its side again, and the House splits evenly a second time). In a conference call with reporters this morning, acknowledged that, and considered it. But he’d been interested in the Senate seat for a while and, as he noted, those don’t come open often. But the possibility of a House speakership is quite real, since the last Democratic House speaker, Dave Hunt, is headed out of the Legislature in a run for Clackamas County office. Expect a good deal of speculation about who may be the next House speaker, then, if Democrats regain control. (If Republicans do, the answer almost certainly would be Hanna.)

The other point is the coastal open-seat situation, given how close the chambers are split: The House tied, and the Democratic majority in the Senate hanging by but one seat. And the fact that all three central coastal seats (the Senate district Roblan will run in, and the two House districts) will be open in 2012 has some significance. All have been held by Democrats, but this is not overwhelmingly Democratic area; the southern area, notably, is competitive.

Roblan, who has been representing that more competitive area up to now, probably is a strong bet to win the Senate seat, since the northern part of the district should be easier for him. There was an implication, though not explicit, that Roblan has been active in finding a Democratic replacement for his current House seat. But open seats are less predictable than the occupied, and a lot can depend on the political environment at the moment.

The central coast could be one of the more interesting places to watch next year as Oregon works out what sort of party control the 2013 legislature will have.

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