Hansell’s Senate Seat Has Been Announced by Doherty and Nash

Two cattle ranchers with expertise in county administration have declared their candidacy to replace outgoing state senator Bill Hansell. Early front-runners in the election for Senate District 29 include former Morrow County Commissioner Jim Doherty and current Wallowa County Commissioner Todd Nash.

Hansell, a Republican from Athena, has been active in politics for almost 40 years, including eight stints as a commissioner in Umatilla County. He is now serving his third term as a senator for Oregon, representing a sizable rural district in the state’s eastern region.

“Frankly, I’d love to follow in the footsteps of Sen Hansell,” Doherty said. “I’d like for Sen. Hansell to know there are good folks out here to continue on his legacy.”

“I can’t imagine trying to fill Sen. Hansell’s shoes, and I certainly won’t,” Nash said. “He certainly left a legacy there.”

Both men praised Hansell for his contributions to the Senate. “One of the things he did is he tried to be a statesman rather than a politician,” Nash said.

Doherty claimed that Hansell specifically invited Senator Elizabeth Steiner (a Democrat from northwest Portland) to the Pendleton Round-Up from Western Oregon. Doherty has promised to carry on the practice if he is elected.

Allowing the Election to Take Place

On March 3, Hansell said he would not run for reelection as the representative for California’s District 29. He claimed he made the declaration early to give other possible candidates time to think about joining the race.

Doherty served as a commissioner for Morrow County, Ohio, from 2016 to late 2022, when he and Melissa Lindsey were ousted from office in a recall election. In 2022, he tried to draw public attention to the nitrate pollution in well water used by many people in the Boardman region.

Hansell's Senate Seat Has Been Announced by Doherty and Nash

Hansell’s successor as president of the Organization of Oregon Counties is a lifelong Morrow County cattle rancher. Doherty claims that his time in that capacity broadened his understanding of Eastern Oregon and its many communities.

Nash has been in Wallowa County since 1968 and has been a commissioner there since 2017. He also runs a cattle ranch there. He has experience in both the logging and sawmill industries. “I’ve kind of had my hands in ranching the whole time,” he said.

Since 202, he has presided over the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association as its president. He has also participated in the work of the National Association of Counties as a member of its Public Lands Committee and the Association of Oregon Counties as its co-chair of its Natural Resource Committee. After 15 years of service, he has just stepped down as co-chair of the Wallowa County 4/H FFA Fair cattle auction.

Nash’s involvement with the state legislature began in 2010 when he began working to influence legislation on agricultural, forestry, ranching, and natural resource problems. In addition to his work with the state weed board, he has experience working with the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

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Extreme Difficulty Exists

Both candidates have pledged to continue Hansell’s work in the Oregon Legislature to provide people in rural areas a voice.

“There are a multitude of issues that need to be addressed and challenges that need to be tackled that will require experienced leadership in natural resources, economic development, and community-based issues if we are going to ensure rural Oregonians have the representation they deserve,” Nash said. “I will be that leader and the voice we need.”

As a state senator, Doherty said he could do more to bring attention to the tainted water supply in Morrow and Western Umatilla counties. He said that one goal of this effort would be to forestall interference from the Environmental Protection Agency. “I think that’s a little heavy-handed,” he said.

Water resources, the housing shortage, more people living unhoused, economic development, the conflict between wolves and livestock producers, and the continuation of the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision process were all mentioned by Doherty as other issues that need to be addressed in the district, in addition to the nitrate contamination. “There are a lot of challenges out there,” he remarked.

What Should Be Done Next? 

Nash has already established a political action committee, an exploratory committee, and a management agency in Oregon in anticipation of the September filing deadline.

According to a news release, he stated, “It would be an honor to represent the citizens of Senate District 29 in the Legislature.”I look forward to meeting with and listening to constituents throughout the district, learning their issues, earning their trust, and eventually voting.”

Hansell's Senate Seat Has Been Announced by Doherty and Nash

He didn’t expect to be in politics for very long but said he’d do so for as long as necessary, which is how long he’s been on the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners.

“I didn’t really see myself moving onto the state Legislature, but things change,” he said. “It seemed like the time to do that. … I’m glad to pursue it.”

To better understand the wants and concerns of his constituents, Doherty has been in touch with the Portland-based Moore Information Group. Doherty has indicated that, as a contender, he has to start working immediately and securing campaign money, even if the primary is still over a year away.

He has already contacted the political PR company Pac/West Communications as he prepares to launch his PAC. Although Doherty acknowledges the importance of advertising, he says he is more at ease meeting people face to face and knocking on their doors. “I’d rather do the personal touch,” he said.

Nash hopes to be “able to represent a great district.” Doherty said he wants voters to know, “I’m the guy who can get things done.” Umatilla, Morrow, Union, Gilliam, and Sherman counties are all included in Senate District 29, along with a portion of Wasco County.

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