The general election is a month away, but the plot is already thickening over who will be in control in the Oregon legislature after all the votes are counted. What's happening out of public sight is a combination of inside baseball and roller derby.
If Democrats regain control of the Oregon House, there appears little doubt Portland Rep. Tina Kotek will ascend to become House Speaker. Rep. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, who served as co-speaker in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, is running for an open Senate seat.
The bigger question is who takes over for Kotek as Democratic leader. Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, is the only declared candidate, but rumors have circulated that Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, is considering a bid for the post, which is complicated by his departure from Nike and search for a new job.
Another logical option could be Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, but he may prefer to keep his job as co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee for a third consecutive term. Another candidate who could emerge is Rep. Chris Garrett, D-Lake Oswego, who assumed the co-chairmanship of House Business and Labor after Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, was stripped of the role after a scandal.
Earlier this year it looked as if there could be a rebellion in the House Republican caucus, with a handful of new lawmakers eager to be more aggressive in opposing Democrats, including Governor Kitzhaber. However, events — including a scandal that led Rep. Matt Wingard, R-Wilsonville, to drop his bid for re-election — seem to have cemented Roseburg Rep. Bruce Hanna's position as GOP leader or speaker if Republicans claim 31 or more House seats this fall.
Hanna, who enjoys a warm working relationship with Kitzhaber, which eased passage in 2011 of major gubernatorial initiatives, could still face a challenge from Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, who favors a harder-line approach to policy issues. Richardson has served as the GOP co-chair of Ways and Means.
The sudden retirement of Senator Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point, and the primary victory of Tim Knopp over sitting GOP Senator Chris Telfer from Bend have sparked conversation about Senate Republican caucus leadership. Senator Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, has mounted what could be described as loyal opposition in the Senate, but some expect Knopp, a former House majority leader, to inject more fire in caucus debates. Knopp has made no pubic gestures to unseat Ferrioli, but the caucus has edged to the right and may want a fresh voice leading it.