SALEM — State Rep. Peter Buckley is in a position to become the next House majority leader, a post the Ashland Democrat said he is interested in seeking.

SALEM — State Rep. Peter Buckley is in a position to become the next House majority leader, a post the Ashland Democrat said he is interested in seeking.

Buckley, the majority whip, holds the House Democratic caucus' No. 4 leadership post, behind the majority leader, the speaker pro tem and the House speaker.

"It would be a step up in leadership for me, and I have let some people know that it is something I am interested in," Buckley said in an interview Tuesday. "Whether it's this time around or another time, we'll have to see how it plays out."

The majority leader position will open up because House Speaker Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, is seeking the Democratic nomination to try to unseat U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore, in 2008. Merkley's departure will trigger a bit of a leadership shuffle in the House that could be a boost for Southern Oregon's legislative delegation.

Buckley is charged currently with candidate recruitment for the House Democrats. As majority leader, he would be the Democratic caucus' senior spokesman and political strategist.

Since being elected to the Legislature in 2004, Buckley has gained prominence in Salem and is often mentioned as a contender for senior leadership positions.

"I need to see how the February session goes and how the campaign cycle rolls out before I make a decision," Buckley said. "If it seems like a good thing for me to do after next November's election then I'll throw my hat in."

Buckley's jovial nature has helped him forge relationships across party lines, particularly with Southern Oregon's Republican delegation on issues of mutual concern such as funding for Rogue Community College.

With Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, Buckley drafted rules that were later adopted to ensure that each House member is able to bring at least two ideas forth and have them debated in committee, no matter which party is in power.

Chris Rizo covers politics for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him as csrizo@hotmail.com