State Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, who has been co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee since 2009, will not run again for his House seat in 2016. Buckley cited a need to serve his family but will fill out the remainder of his term.
“I’m not sure what’s next, but I do not believe another political office is in my immediate future,” said Buckley. He said he’s always been able to find jobs that allow him to give back.
Buckley won the contest for District 5 House seat in 2004, replacing Alan Bates, who became a senator that year. The district covers southern Jackson County and includes Ashland.
Bates, D-Medford, said Buckley's decision not to run is understandable since the Ways and Means position is basically a full-time job. Bates said he talked with Buckley over the last year about his choice.
“He was running a $30 billion budget for $20,000 per year. He was doing a great job because his heart was in it and he was smart,” Bates said. “Oregon was lucky to have him for the length of time he served. He’ll be very difficult to replace.”
Ways and Means co-chairmanship requires good relations with Republicans and Democrats, the House and Senate and the Governor’s Office, and Buckley managed to develop those relationships, said Bates.
“He led us through some of the worst times financially in Oregon history,” said Bates.
Getting as much funding as possible for education under the current revenue system and working across party lines in a time of declining revenues were two major accomplishments, Buckley said.
“I will miss having this avenue to get things done and I will miss a lot of the people who I work with,” said Buckley, who was on the road returning from Salem Thursday.
Buckley said his role as co-chair was a factor in the decision, as it has prevented him from taking outside work when the Legislature is not in session, he said.
Buckley has put 262,637 miles on his car since being elected in 2004. His youngest son, Christopher, 17, was in kindergarten during the first session and will be a high school senior in 2016. Buckley estimated he’s been away from home for an equivalent of four years on legislative and campaign matters during his tenure.
“Peter consistently did what was best for the state rather than what was best for special interests,” said former Ashland mayor and political consultant Cathy Shaw. “He will be a hard act to follow.”
People on both sides of the aisle in Salem respected him, said Shaw. He would return texts and emails within minutes, she recalled.
“He has been so good for the state, for the Rogue Valley, for Jackson County and for all of us,” said education advocate and former Ashland School Board member Chuck Keil. “He will be tremendously missed.”
Buckley’s ability to work across the aisle with former Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, as joint House co-chairs of the budget committee during an economic downturn was quite remarkable, Keil said. The two representatives shared the responsibility, as the House had equal numbers from both parties.
“That is something that very few other states could work through. You had co-governance in time of financial decline,” said Buckley. “We were able to balance the budget on time in a fair and civil manner.”
In an email to supporters, Buckley wrote he intends to work on two major issues, state revenue reform and climate change, over the next 15 months.
“I plan to do everything I can on both those issues. They are both central to the future of our state,” said Buckley.
The representative is supporting initiative petition efforts on revenue reform. The Legislature needs to look next at what is happening worldwide with cap and trade programs when it meets again in February, he said. A clean fuel program already has been passed.
Buckley has lived in Ashland for 18 years. He and his wife, Joan Langley, have three sons.
Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.