A stunned Tonia Moro was selected as the Senate candidate in the November election Friday night by local Democrats who continued to mourn the loss of Alan Bates, who died Aug. 5.
"I was surprised," she said. "I have some really good organizers. We had an idea that we'd get out a lot of support."
On the first round of balloting during the Democratic convention at the Medford library, Moro received 27 votes, a majority of the 52 precinct committee persons who were eligible to select a candidate.
Thirteen people had submitted their names as candidates for consideration for the November election.
"That's a record number," said David Roadman, chairman of the Jackson County Democrats. He said it appeared to be a record number for any recent election in Oregon.
Moro also was selected as one of three candidates for the interim Senate seat that will be forwarded to Jackson County commissioners, who will pick one of them to serve until January. The other two candidates are Mike Moran and Kevin Talbert.
Despited endorsements from Rep. Peter Buckley and Medford businessman Bill Thorndike Jr., Medford doctor Rick Schaefer didn't receive enough votes to get the interim Senate nomination.
Republicans will be selecting their own Senate candidate on Aug. 23 to run against Moro in the November election.
A Talent resident and Medford lawyer, Moro ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 2014.
She is chairwoman of the Rogue Valley Transportation District, a member of Medford Rotary Club, and serves on the Oregon Public Transportation Plan Policy Advisory Committee and on the board for OnTrack Inc. In her time at OnTrack, she worked on issues related to mental health and family services. The organization collaborated with Bates for policy reform.
Democrats appeared to favor candidates who had run for office previously, and she also had about a dozen supporters in blue T-shirts proclaiming "Elect Tonia Moro" who circulated among the precinct committee persons.
"I think people get it that we need experience," Moro said.
When she was proclaimed the winner, more than 100 people in the audience cheered and clapped.
"Now's the time," Moro told them. "Let's do it."
Moro will have to hit the ground running with less than three months before Election Day.
In a surprise move, Moran withdrew his name for consideration for the November election after he saw so many candidates turn out. He said he hoped to get the interim Senate seat because he thought it would bolster his chances in House District 6 as he tries to unseat incumbent Rep. Sal Esquivel.
A former police officer in Medford and Talent police chief from 2008 until April, Moran has held elected positions on the Medford School Board and with the Rogue Valley Transportation District.
Talbert also ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 2014.
He served as chief information officer for Southern Oregon University and is now retired after 26 years at the school.
Talbert is a member of the Rogue Community College board, a member of the Executive Committee for Southern Oregon Land Conservancy and vice chairman of the Rogue Initiative for a Vital Economy. He served on the Workforce Council and two terms as president of Oregon Community College Association.
The commissioners are expected to name the interim person for Bates' seat by Sept. 6.
Gov. Kate Brown has ordered all flags at Oregon public institutions to be flown at half-staff to honor Bates. Flags should be lowered from sunrise to sunset Saturday.
Funeral services for Bates will be held 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Rogue River Room at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.