When Sen. Jeff Kruse vacates his Senate seat next month after more than two decades in office, another Republican will be selected to fill that role.
It’s too early to say with certainty who will be on that short list, but all three Douglas County commissioners have taken themselves out of the running.
Who does that leave? Technically, anyone who’s been a Republican and resided in Kruse’s district for the past 180 days. Kruse’s Senate District 1 encompasses Central and South Douglas County, Curry County, and portions of Coos and Josephine counties, along with a small chunk of Jackson. But it’s likely those putting together the slate will look to the two House representatives whose districts fall inside Kruse’s larger Senate district. One is Dallas Heard, R-Winston, who represents House District 2, covering Central and South Douglas County, along with small portions of Josephine and Jackson. The other is David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, who represents House District 1, which includes Curry County, along with rural West Josephine County, rural Southwest Douglas County and most of Coos County.
Heard declined comment Monday on whether he would seek the Senate seat. He said the current legislative short session has been time consuming, and because of the number of large, complex bills being rapidly pushed through, he hasn’t had time to focus on anything else.
“I am focused diligently on doing the people’s work during this extremely stressful short session,” he said.
Heard was first elected to the House in 2014, and became its youngest member, at 29, when he took office in 2015. He was unchallenged in the 2016 election. Heard owns the Emerald Lawns landscaping company.
Brock Smith could not be reached for comment.
Brock Smith was first elected to the House in 2016. Prior to joining the House in 2017, he served four years as a Curry County commissioner. Before that, he was the owner of a restaurant and lounge, a Port Orford City Council president and a Port Orford Chamber of Commerce president.
Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, who served as a representative in the House prior to becoming a county commissioner, said many people had asked him if he intended to run for the seat.
“Although honored by these requests, I have decided not to seek nor accept an appointment to the Oregon State Senate District 1,” he said in a written statement.
“My focus since leaving the Legislature has been solely on the challenging and rewarding work as one of your Douglas County commissioners. I hope to continue this important work and continue serving my constituents to the best of my ability in this capacity,” Freeman wrote.
Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice said he’s not at all interested in Kruse’s seat because he’s invested in staying close to home to raise his kids. Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif said he’s not interested in it either.
Former Douglas County Commissioner Susan Morgan, who, like Freeman, served as a state representative before joining the commission, might be another candidate under consideration. She’s currently a lobbyist with the Association of Oregon Counties, specializing in natural resource issues. Morgan decided not to run for a third term in 2016 despite winning a legal battle to invalidate term limits on county commissioners.
So what about commissioners from the other counties that lie in the district?
Curry County Commissioner Court Boice has his sights set on an even higher office. Although he’s yet to formally file, he has a website dedicated to his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives seat currently held by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield. Neither Court Boice, who is a second cousin of Chris Boice, nor the other two Curry County commissioners responded to emails asking if they planned to seek Kruse’s seat.
In Coos County, Commissioner Melissa Cribbins told us she lives outside District 1, while Commissioners Bob Main and John Sweet said they’re not interested in the job.