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The change of the guard: The column by Steve Duin

The change of the guard: The column by Steve Duin

Metal detectors are on the way in at the state capitol, while Peter Courtney is on his way out.

The changing tide in Oregon politics is pretty much resuming.

On January 5, Courtney, who has previously served in the Oregon Senate, announced he would not seek re-election.

The 78-year-old Democratic was a bit more talkative on Thursday. I dont want to leave the Legislature, he admits. Im going to miss it terribly. I always figured Id die in the Legislature.

And for all the time he devoted to retrofitting the Capitol, he never imagined the seismic change that would force him to spend the last of his 38 years in the statehouse being frisked, electromagnetically, at the door.

On the 18th of this month, we will install metal detectors, Courtney says. That's what makes me sad, buddy. It's what makes you sad. That shows you how much things have changed.

In this year's election, several major politicians in Oregon are on the move. Tina Kotek will this week focus on her governor campaign.

And the 2019 presidential runoff of Gov. Kate Brown has been roiled, and energized by the independent candidacy of former state Sen. Betsy Johnson and the debate, now before the Oregon Supreme Court, over whether Nick Kristof is a carpetbagger or an Oregonian.

Count me among those who believe that the Oregon election is best for him to voice his interest in politics.

Many of those voters are exhausted by the pandemic and their corrosive isolation. They dont know if Democrats, the party in perpetual power or Republicans, the party in utter disrepair, have the skills or the tools to combat climate change, revitalize the city of Portland, or nourish the middle class.

When Courtney, who had battled for the longest time than any legislator in state history, slipped into the sunset, officials arent sure how to assess what will happen in Salem.

Former state Sen. Mark Hass says he was the sole crusader for this whole idea of governance, that budgets must be passed before services are delivered. No one in the state's history did more to keep it running.

There wasn't much fanfare over that, Hass says. "It wasn't very sexy. There have been 46 special sessions in Oregon history, and Peter was there for 26 of them. And special sessions are called because something has gone wrong, and you need to put chewing gum and bailing wire on state government. Thats what youre losing."

A Democrat who sought out at least one Republican vote before moving a controversial bill to the Senate floor. A guy who remembers the times in the House when, a rancher from Malheur County, and, a Northwest Oregon progressive, disagreed on all aspects of everything.

Courtney recalls when he was growing up in Catholic schools in West Virginia, saying: You may not like certain people, but you dont have the luxury of not working with them.

Because he held to that idealism, Courtney's disappointment with the institution was often boundless even when he ended up on the winning side. In 2003, he was already criticized for the loss of moderates like Ray Baum and Tony Van Vliet, saying, The handshake doesn't work anymore. Your word doesn't work anymore. Now, you spend all day and all night in your caucus meeting. That's your locker room. There are few conflicts between players in opposite parties; the fight

Courtney says his final session is a lot worse. They dont want to be complimented, and we dont, because it infuriates our bases, he adds.

Regardless of who's on the ballot this fall, I don't see that changing.

I hope I've helped.

Courtney points to ambition and drive, but it's the difference between ambition and drive. I was brought up to despise ambition. It's selfish. But the person who is driven to perfection?

They're really hard to replace.

Steve Duin is the subject of the Steve Duin Group.

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