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Hanna aims for House GOP leadership.

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

Lane County's only Republican in the Legislature is about to ascend to his party's top post in the House.

Rep. Bruce Hanna is running unopposed in Thursday's election for House Republican leader.

That will put the 47-year-old businessman in charge of campaigning for the House Republicans in next year's elections and the Republicans' policy positions when the Legislature convenes in a planned February special session.

Although he lives across the Douglas County line in Roseburg, Hanna's House District 7 includes east Lane County, including the communities of Cottage Grove and Oakridge.

Rising to a leadership post wasn't a specific goal for Hanna when he entered the Legislature three years ago.

`I never came to the Legislature and thought, `Gee, if I don't become the leader of our caucus, I'm not a good legislator,' ' he said.

"It just doesn't work that way. I didn't come with that vision.'

Hanna started his legislative career with more of an interest in budget matters than political strategy.

That interest, and his business background, helped earn him a place on the budget-writing Joint Ways & Means Committee in each of his two sessions.

In 2007, Hanna also served as deputy minority leader, a post that gave him a taste of the kind of work he'll soon be taking on as minority leader: working with members of his own party to determine the Republican caucus position on policy matters and then negotiating with the Democrats as bills move up for votes.

Given his background in budget matters and political strategy, Hanna said he plans to give his fellow House Republicans the leeway to help steer caucus positions on topics ranging from farm and forest policy to education and health care.

"I will not ascend to that leadership position assuming to know how all this works," he said.

"The more of our members whose experience we can use and take advantage of, the stronger we will be as a caucus."

Hanna readily acknowledged that he takes the GOP caucus reins during a challenging time for his party.

Republicans followed up on their frustrating session as the minority House caucus with many of them announcing they would not run again - leaving Hanna to recruit perhaps a half-dozen candidates for GOP-held seats as well as challengers in districts held by Democrats.

`I'm hoping to set the bar as high as we can to get candidates to come from the highest level. I'm saying, `It's important that you take your turn at representing Oregonians,' ' he said.

Hanna also said he is trying to adapt to an era in which the electorate's mood has swung in the Democrats' direction.

He and other top House Republicans recently replaced longtime campaign consultant Chuck Adams, known for his hard-right, hard-hitting campaign style, with a New York-based firm, Mercury Public Affairs.

Mercury helped Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., win his 2002 re-election and has helped elect Republicans in other states that lean Democratic.

Hanna said the move reflected his desire to "reach out and try to connect with all voters" rather than rely on the Republicans' traditional strategy of building a coalition of conservatives and motivating them to vote.

House Democratic Leader Dave Hunt said Hanna's politics - solidly conservative on everything from social issues to business regulation to taxes and spending - are no different from those of his predecessor, current Minority Leader Wayne Scott, who is stepping down because he won't be running for re-election next year.

But Hunt said he was optimistic that Hanna would be easier to work with across the aisle than he found Scott to be.

"My experience has been that he's been very trustworthy," said Hunt, D-Gladstone, of Hanna's style. "When he's told me something, I can take it to the bank."

Rep. Phil Barnhart, a Eugene Democrat and the majority whip, said Scott did a bulk of the negotiating on the Republicans' behalf, leaving few opportunities for deputies such as Hanna to showcase their own styles.

"Most of the negotiating was done by Wayne," he said. "So knowing exactly how Bruce is going to handle it is up in the air at this stage."

Barnhart, whose comments came after a joint appearance with Hanna at the Eugene Rotary Club's luncheon Tuesday, said he was encouraged by something the incoming GOP leader said.

Hanna had told the audience that while the Republican position probably would differ from that of the Democrats, he had no intention of limiting his party's role to that of obstructionist. Instead, he hoped that by making clear what the Republicans' objections are, there may be an opportunity to find common grown with the Democrats.

"When we have differences, I want to be clear about what that difference will be," he said, `so you won't say, `He's just a Republican getting in the way.' '
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Title Annotation:Politics; The Republican from Roseburg is running unopposed for the minority leader position
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 27, 2007
Words:800
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