SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Tina Kotek has won her party’s nomination for an unprecedented fifth term as speaker of the Oregon House, withstanding a rare challenge from a fellow Democrat.
However Oregon Public Broadcasting reports Rep. Janelle Bynum, the Clackamas County Democrat who has mounted a bid to unseat Kotek, announced Monday night she would continue to pursue the role despite not receiving the formal nomination of her caucus.
“I will seek the nomination for Speaker on the House floor on January 12, 2021,” Bynum said in a statement. “For too long, old ‘traditions’ and ‘customs’ have… prevented people who don’t come from traditional political backgrounds or communities of color from successfully challenging the status quo.”
Bynum, who recently won her third term in office, has been a leading voice this year as lawmakers take up new police reforms. A restaurant owner with a background in engineering, Bynum had urged her colleagues to embrace a changed power structure in the House, with decision making less concentrated at the top.
She also made the case that the Capitol needed more people of color in top positions.
“Those holding on to power also have to be intentional about changing things,” Bynum, one of two Black women in the Legislature, told OPB last week.
In most years, the Democratic caucus vote for Kotek would be decisive because Democrats hold a supermajority in the chamber. But it was unclear Monday if Democrats planned to vote in lockstep for Kotek on the Oregon House floor.
If they don’t, it could create an opening for Bynum — who is more moderate than Kotek — to build a coalition of Republicans and Democrats. A majority of the House’s 60 members are necessary to select the speaker.
Kotek’s latest nomination to preside over the House marks the first time in eight years the Portland lawmaker has faced competition for speaker.
The speaker since 2013, Kotek had publicly made a case that her long tenure atop the chamber — a period during which Democrats have grown a sizable majority — made her an ideal pick as the state prepares to navigate budget shortfalls, calls for further police reform and a housing crisis.
“We have a huge amount of work to do on behalf of Oregonians, and I am ready to bring my experience to bear and get things done,” Kotek said ahead of the vote.