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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmaker On Short List For Trump Administration Job

An Oregon state representative is awaiting word from the Trump administration about whether he’ll receive a job that would require him to leave the Legislature. Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, said Thursday he’s in the running to be the head of rural development in Oregon for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Huffman said as rural development director for the state of Oregon, he would help administer federal loans and grants on a variety of programs from farm worker housing to water and sewer infrastructure. He said it’s a low-level appointment that doesn’t require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

And while he’d be working for the Trump administration, Huffman said he wasn’t personally recruited by the president.

“Not even the vice president,” he quipped.

If Huffman gets the job, he’ll have to step down from the legislative seat he’s held since August of 2007, when he was appointed to replace another lawmaker who stepped down mid-term. He’s been elected five times since then, most recently in November 2016, when he received two-and-a-half times as many votes as his Democratic opponent.

The district leans Republican and generally isn’t considered a swing seat.?

If Huffman does step down, county commissioners across HD-59 will select his replacement. It wasn’t immediately clear who is in the running for the role. Local Republican Party leaders will meet informally Friday to come up with a tentative list of possible replacements.

Huffman said if he doesn’t get the job, he’ll serve the remainder of his term but won’t seek re-election. In that scenario, the seat would be open and his replacement would be chosen by voters during the November 2018 election.

At this point, Huffman said he has no idea who might ultimately replace him at the state Capitol.

“I’m kind of afraid that people might be thinking, ‘Well, if he doesn’t get the rural development job, then he might change his mind and run for re-election and we don’t want to be involved in running against him,’” he said. “I want to assure folks that that’s not going to be the case.”

If Huffman quits mid-term, he’d likely become the fifth state lawmaker to resign from office since the end of the 2017 legislative session. Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, resigned in August to become a judge. Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, is stepping down this month to become President & CEO of Oregon Business & Industry. And this week, Gov. Kate Brown announced she is appointing two Senators—Democrat Richard Devlin and Republican Ted Ferrioli—to serve on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, pending confirmation by the Oregon Senate. They would assume their new roles in January, shortly before the start of the 2018 legislative session.