SALEM — State Rep. Carl Wilson, a Republican of Grants Pass, was elected Monday to serve as House minority leader.
Wilson has represented since 2015 a district that runs from the California border up to Grants Pass. He also served in the House from 1998 to 2003. A U.S. Navy veteran, Wilson had a career in radio as on-air talent, a station manager and executive.
He believes the Republican caucus of 22 representatives will be “under a tremendous amount of stress” as it faces a much larger Democratic caucus.
Democrats hold 38 seats in the House, and that could make it easier for them to pass measures that do not have bipartisan support, including tax increases.
Wilson said Tuesday he’s equipped to lead the smaller caucus with a “steady hand.”
“I don’t get very excitable about a lot of things,” Wilson said. “I can certainly be passionate about things, but you know, in the legislative process, a steady hand, especially when you’re leading people, is an important thing.”
He said the caucus hasn’t developed its priorities for the 2019 session and is still reeling from the results of the general election, where Democratic voters turned out in droves, expanding majorities in the Legislature.
Wilson is already looking ahead to 2020 and said his party will be working to “remind Oregonians of what they could have had” if they had elected more Republicans. He hopes to also be encouraging to his fellow Republican legislators.
“You’ve got to give people hope where there is no hope to be readily seen,” Wilson said, “And to do that, you’ve got to keep them encouraged, you’ve got to help them to understand that they are still there to serve their constituents, the people who elected them, and so get your victories where you can.”
House Republicans may not have much luck on the “larger” issues, Wilson said, but they can still serve their constituents.
“On some of the larger things you may not have much good luck, but when it comes to dealing with issues that your community sent you to resolve…that can make your day worthwhile so we want to keep that message up among our crew,” Wilson said.
He succeeds State Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, served as party leader in the House since 2012. McLane, an attorney, remains in the House but elected not to hold the leadership role.
Reporter Claire Withycombe: firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-385-4903. Withycombe is a reporter for the East Oregonian working for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.