The Jackson County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously selected retired Southern Oregon University administrator Kevin Talbert to fill the late Sen. Alan Bates' seat in the Oregon Legislature until January.
Bates, a Democrat, died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack on Aug. 5 while on a fishing trip.
Commissioners said they chose Talbert because of his community involvement and because they did not want to make a choice that would have political influence.
Two other finalist candidates put forward by Democrats to fill Bates' seat on an interim basis are running for political office.
Mike Moran, former Talent police chief, is a candidate for House District 6 against Rep. Sal Esquivel. Moran previously said being appointed to fill Bates' seat on an interim basis would help him defeat Esquivel, a Republican.
In mid-August, Democrats nominated attorney Tonia Moro to run as their party's candidate for Bates' seat during the November general election.
Republicans have selected former Ashland mayor and car dealership owner Alan DeBoer as their nominee.
The winner of Bates' Senate District 3 seat will take office in January, relieving Talbert of the position.
All three county commissioners are Republicans.
Commissioner Colleen Roberts said Talbert, Moran and Moro were all fully capable of serving as interim replacements, but she preferred Talbert.
"I'm drawn to the person who is not running, Kevin Talbert, so the election will be free of any of our influence," Roberts said.
Commissioner Rick Dyer also said he wanted to avoid making the interim replacement process political.
He said choosing a replacement who is also running for office would have given that person an advantage.
Dyer said Talbert is involved in the community and he and Roberts also know Talbert because they were all campaigning at the same time in 2014 for two commissioner seats.
Talbert ran a late write-in campaign as an Independent after Democrats failed to field a candidate. Although Talbert did not win a commissioner seat, he had wide-ranging endorsements, including from Bates.
“Nobody is going to fill Alan Bates’ shoes,” Talbert said in a statement. “I am just going to try to do the best I can to continue his legacy and I think it’s important to represent the constituents of Southern Oregon as best I can for the time I am in office.”
State Democratic leaders praised Talbert on Tuesday.
“We all miss and relied upon Sen. Bates for his steady-handed approach to leadership and love of this state, and Sen. Talbert is in a position to help create a smooth transition as the Oregon Senate moves forward from the loss of one of our bright guiding lights," Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, said in a statement. "We are grateful to have a colleague join us who has a deep passion for Southern Oregon and has a long record of volunteer and public service in his community.”
Oregon law tasks county commissioners with selecting interim replacements in the event of a state legislator's death.
Republicans' decision to field DeBoer as their candidate in the November election for Bates' seat set off additional shuffling. DeBoer had been running against Democrat Pam Marsh for the state House seat held by Democrat Peter Buckley, who is not seeking re-election.
Republicans have picked home sprinkler design business owner Steve Richie to run against Marsh, an Ashland City Council member, executive director of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank and inn co-owner.