Sen. David Nelson (R-Pendleton) and Rep. Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton) were winners in many ways on Tuesday.
Jenson, who brings a sense of history to the House of Representatives, was returned to Salem by an overwhelming margin. Nelson was not up for re-election this year, but he is still a winner. Both have been an island of nonpartisanship in a sea of partisan politics.
Now it is time for them to be rewarded. It hasnt always been a popular mission for either Nelson or Jenson. Both have been highly-criticized when they have forsaken the party line in the interest of those they represent, and when they have been guided, morally and ethically, not by their caucus but rather by their conscience.
In recent years, Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner) has followed somewhat the same path.
In this years primary elections, the Oregon Republican party tried hard to punish both Jenson and Smith for their perceived transgressions, but Eastern Oregon voters sent yet another reminder to the Willamette Valley that, in this part of the world, people think for themselves.
Oregon now finds itself in a situation unlike that faced by virtually any other state in the nation. It appears there will be an even distribution of party members in the House and possibly in the Senate. Even if the Senate swings to 16-14 in the favor of the Democrats, the vast majorities that existed in the last session are gone and President Peter Courtney is already on record talking about the fact the two parties have worked together in the past and that work should continue.
In the words of The Oregonian, an endangered species moderates are about to have their day. And thats where, in our mind, both Jenson and Nelson fall and probably Smith as well, as he has gained more experience in office and learned the value of working both sides of the aisle as a path toward effective representation.
The other link in the equation, of course, is the new governor.
John Kitzhaber has plenty of experience working with GOP lawmakers since they were in the majority during his last two terms. He also had to forge relationships during his tenure as Senate president.
Kitzhaber, who probably regrets having defined Oregon as ungovernable, will certainly have his hands full trying to help plug a massive budget hole and providing leadership to one group that is just emerging from having had the freedom to impose its will and another stinging from a lack of empowerment.
In the course of that mission, we suspect he will find valuable allies in those who represent our corner of Oregon, since they are well down the road of nonpartisanship and have already demonstrated their skill in working collaboratively across party lines.
That bodes well for Oregon and for eastern Oregon in particular.
George Murdock is the former superintendent for the Umatilla-Morrow Educational Service District. He now lives in Roseburg and Pendleton, Oregon.