SALEM — Newly-elected state Sen. Dick Anderson fully embraced his current reality shortly after the then-sitting mayor of Lincoln City won in the November General Election over Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins to represent Oregon’s 5th Legislative District.
“You know, I can only speak for myself, but I’ve been amazed at just how busy I’ve been since the first few days after the election results came in and I was declared the winner,” Anderson said late last week by phone from Salem. “Since I was declared the winner, I’ve been contacted by so many people, organizations, lobbyists and such that want to meet with me. Frankly, I have a backlog of about 14 different groups wishing to get some time with me.”
Anderson and the other 29 members of the state senate were sworn into office on Jan. 11 in Salem. He takes his seat as one of 12 Republicans among a supermajority of 18 Democrats. Anderson said his first week in office was packed tight with mandatory meetings educating newly-elected members of the Oregon Legislature on policies and procedures.
“Maybe I’m being foolish or maybe I’m just new enough to be so optimistic to think that I can make a difference within a super minority,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of challenges before us, but that’s where my optimistic side comes in. I’m patient, I’m a good listener, and I think that’s something we need from both parties.”
In the meantime, Anderson hired two staff members he says he’s looking forward to working alongside. Matt Friesen is Anderson’s legislative director, helping advise the senator on policy, conduct research and help Anderson understand the impact of bills that come before the state Senate. He joins Anderson’s team with more than eight years of experience in Salem, including four as a senior policy advisor to state Senate leadership.
After serving as his campaign manager during the November election, Andrew Yoxall takes over as Anderson’s legislative assistant. He’s handling scheduling, media inquiries and helping the senator become more familiar with the district, which encompasses all of Lincoln County and portions of Tillamook, Yamhill, Polk, Lane, Douglas and Coos counties.
Anderson succeeds Democrat Arnie Roblan, who served consecutive four-year terms after winning elections in 2012 and 2016. Roblan defeated Anderson four years ago by 0.6 percent of the vote during Anderson’s initial run for the state Senate.
“I think most people probably know I ran twice for this position, in ’16 and ’20,” Anderson said. “It’s something I’ve had my sights set on and wanted to do for a while. This isn’t something I decided to do on a whim by any means.”
On Jan. 13, the state announced the legislative session scheduled to begin Tuesday, Jan. 18, would start amid a delay of at least two days, after legislators canceled floor sessions set for this Wednesday and Thursday. The state Capitol was prepped for possible protests in the days working up to Wednesday’s inauguration of President Joe Biden.
According to multiple media reports, windows on the ground floor of the Oregon Capitol were boarded up late last week, and a heightened law enforcement presence is on site this week to combat potential violence, such as when armed far-right rioters entered the building during a Dec. 21 special session.
“Actually, for me having the two extra days that I didn’t think that I had to prepare myself is kind of nice,” Anderson said.
Anderson reiterated his campaign promise to give a voice to the array of interest of coastal residents during the next four years in Salem.
“I represent the coast, and this senate district is a real mixed bag of political opinions,” he said. “And not one group is so dominant that they get to dictate my ultimate actions.”