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Dec-12-2006 09:49printcomments

Oregon Senate Democratic Caucus Welcomes Ben Westlund

Westlund left the Rebulican party in February to run for Governor as an independent.

Oregon State Senator Ben Westlund
Oregon State Senator Ben Westlund.

(SALEM) - The Senate Democratic Caucus Tuesday welcomed Senator Ben Westlund (D-Bend) as its newest member.

The welcome came after Westlund announced that he is changing his registration from Independent to Democrat.

“We are very happy to have Senator Westlund join our caucus and the Democratic Party,” said Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown (D-Portland).

“Senator Westlund will bring a wealth of experience and a valuable Central Oregon perspective to our discussions on critical issues like health care, education and renewable energy.”

In announcing his decision to join the Democratic Party, Westlund said:

“The people have sent the message that they are ready for a new direction and the Democrats have been given an opportunity to make progress on the big issues that will move our state forward -- I have been inspired by the message sent by the people and I think Democrats value the help of Independents to get us back on track.

“I have said that being an Independent doesn’t mean standing alone, it means choosing who you stand with. This past month, I have found myself rooting for the Democrats’ success on healthcare, on education funding, on expanding renewable energy. And I think it’s time to get off the sidelines and stand with them.”

In welcoming Westlund, who will become the 18th member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Brown noted that “Senator Westlund has always been willing to work across party lines.

Everyone in the caucus is looking forward to working with him as we move ahead on the issues that matter to all Oregonians.”

Westlund's full statement on becoming a Democrat:

In every political decision I have made, I have followed my heart.

I knew in my heart when I left the Republican Party last February that they were taking us in the wrong direction, both in the state and nationally.

The November election confirmed that belief as Oregonians and Americans also rejected their brand of leadership.

These last 10 months as an Independent have been exhilarating, yet somewhat lonely. But I don’t think I am alone when I say that the election was more a rejection of Republicans than an affirmation of Democrats.

The people have sent the message that they are ready for a new direction and the Democrats have been given an opportunity to make progress on the big issues that will move our state and nation forward.

As I said when I entered the race for Governor, it’s time for us to solve real problems for real Oregonians.

I promised then I would work to reduce the cost of health care and cover everyone, to make our tax structure more stable and fair, to create renewable energy jobs and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

After leaving the race for Governor, I was moved to support Governor Kulongoski’s re-election because I felt his platform was closest to my own and his vision was best for Oregon.

Since the election I have been inspired by the message sent by the people and I think Democrats value the help of Independents to get us back on track.

I have said that being an Independent doesn’t mean standing alone, it means choosing who you stand with.

This past month, I have found myself rooting for the Democrats’ success on healthcare, on education funding, on expanding renewable energy. And I think it’s time I get off the sidelines and stand with them.

As I said, I follow my heart when it comes to these decisions and my heart is a Democrat.

But, my spirit will always remain Independent and I think the Democrats will be ok with that because as Will Rogers said, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”




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