Rep. Mike McLane's first legislative session marked him as a GOP leader of the future. Unexpected shakeups in the House Republican leadership elevated him sooner than anyone expected — and before most people even knew who he was.
The Powell Butte Republican was elected House GOP Deputy Leader after Rep. Kevin Cameron, R-Salem, stepped down as House Republican Leader and was replaced by Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, who was serving as Speaker Pro Tem.
McLane's political ascent comes after Rep. Matt Wingard's sexual misconduct charges and an ill-fated boys night out by several male House GOP leaders, including Wingard, in Palm Springs. But that doesn't cloud why McLane was chosen to join the House GOP leadership team of Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna and Olson.
McLane grew up in Condon and worked on farms and ranches during the summers. He attended Oregon State University and earned a degree in agricultural economics before entering Lewis & Clark Law School and later practicing at Stoel Rives in Portland. Wanting to return to his rural roots, he and his wife, Holly, moved to a small ranch in Powell Butte, between Redmond and Prineville. The McLanes have three children.
His credentials also include clerking for an Oregon Supreme Court justice and the U.S. Attorney's office, serving in the Oregon Air National Guard assigned to the JAG Corps and co-authoring a best-selling children's history book about the presidency called Wooden Teeth and Jelly Beans. McLane is the co-founder and former CEO of a publishing company for children's books, which produced a series of books that inspired CBS' Saturday morning cartoon show, Flying Rhino Junior High.
It takes more than kids books and a law degree to be an effective legislative leader, and many Salem observers believe McLane has the right stuff. He is credited with "smarts, likability and respect." On a political level, McLane represents a safe GOP district, which gives him the freedom to campaign for other Republicans in tough races and swing districts.
Those traits will be tested in this election cycle as the GOP seeks to gain control of the House, which currently sits at 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans. Many believe Republicans have the tougher challenge this year even to hold onto a tie as they must defend the six mostly suburban seats they won in the 2010 election.
Complicating the challenge are lingering hard feelings within the House GOP caucus over the Wingard affair and the Palm Springs escapade. The fractured caucus will draw on McLane's skills as a good listener, negotiator and military disciplinarian to steer a straight, smart course in the remaining weeks before the general election.
McLane's rapid rise to leadership is reminiscent of the 1990s when Oregon legislators were subject to term limits. That allowed Gordon Smith, Lynn Lundquist and Lynn Snodgrass to move into leadership positions barely after settling into their legislative seats.