New Democratic candidate for Senate District 11 chosen after election winner drops out

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Democratic precinct committee persons in Senate District 11 nominated former Keizer city councilor Richard Walsh Thursday night to represent the party in the district's general election race this fall, replacing Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson.

Swenson won the primary but unexpectedly stepped down from the race two weeks ago.

Walsh came in second to Swenson in the May primary with 34% of the vote, compared to Swenson's 44%. Precinct committee persons selected Walsh over Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon and Anthony Rosilez, who came in third in the SD 11 primary with 21%.

"Thank you to the District 11 Democrat precinct committee persons for validating and honoring the voters, the election process and all of the votes cast in the primary election," Walsh said in a statement.

Senate District 11 has been represented since 1999 by Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. Courtney will be retiring when his current term ends in January.

Leadership changes:Salem's Peter Courtney retires after two decades in the Legislature

Walsh will take on Republican Sen. Kim Thatcher of Keizer in the fall general election in what is anticipated to be one of the most competitive state Senate races this cycle.

“Rich Walsh is a community leader and former Keizer City Councilor with deep ties to Marion County," Senate Democratic Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, said in a statement. "Senate Democrats look forward to working with Rich to elect a true champion for Woodburn, Keizer, and North Salem.”

Swenson's decision to step down as the Democratic nominee came as a surprise.

After winning the primary, Swenson said in a statement he "look(ed) forward to a vigorous and respectful campaign" in the fall.

Then on June 17, Swenson announced he was abandoning his candidacy and would instead seek a third term as Woodburn mayor. In his statement, he recommended precinct committee persons support Alonso Leon, saying he asked her to run for the seat and touting her as the most qualified candidate.

Swenson's departure caused some Oregon politicos to speculate that he was a placeholder candidate who won so he could step down and allow another candidate to take his place in the general. Swenson has denied this speculation.

Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn, speaks in support of the Equal Access to Roads Act at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem on March 25, 2019. The bill would allow non-citizens to obtain drivers licenses.
Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn, speaks in support of the Equal Access to Roads Act at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem on March 25, 2019. The bill would allow non-citizens to obtain drivers licenses.

Alonso Leon unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for Congressional District 6 this election cycle, which precluded her from running for another seat, including her current position of House District 22 representative.

However, she would have been eligible to run in the general election if appointed as the candidate.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Richard Walsh selected as Democratic candidate for Senate District 11