SALEM — State Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Eugene, announced Tuesday he is stepping down from the legislature to lead “strategic initiatives” at the University of Oregon’s new Knight Campus at the end of the year.
Edwards, who was elected to the Oregon House in 2006 and appointed senator in 2009, will join the University of Oregon as vice president of strategic initiatives Dec. 15, according to a University of Oregon news release.
Edwards won elections to the seat in 2010 and 2014. His resignation from the state senate is effective Dec. 31.
The Democratic Party of Lane County will choose nominees for the seat through a voting process.
In that process, the party’s precinct committee members who live in the district will select at least three and no more than five nominees.
The Lane County Commission has the final say in choosing someone among those nominees to serve the rest of Edwards’ term.
State Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, said Tuesday afternoon that she was interested in seeking Edwards’ spot.
Hoyle, a former House Majority Leader, did not run for reelection to her house seat this year, as she sought the Democratic party’s nomination for Secretary of State this spring.
Hoyle lost in the primary to Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who in turn lost to Republican Dennis Richardson in the general election earlier this month.
In his new role, Edwards will focus on developing the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, according to the university. He will be paid $150,000 per year.
The campus was established by a $500 million gift from the Nike co-founder and his wife and was announced Oct. 17.
Edwards, reached by phone Tuesday, said he applied for the job prior to the gift announcement; he received an offer over the weekend.
He said he initially applied for the job hoping to keep his spot in the Legislature, but after learning of the gift and the university’s plans to seek $100 million in matching funds from the state, he sought to avoid an apparent conflict of interest.
The initiative is intended to “fast-track scientific discoveries,” according to the university, and to be a hub for training and innovation in the sciences.
Edwards is the chair of the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee and was previously co-chair of the Senate’s Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources.
In a statement, Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, called Edwards a “pragmatic leader with a keen ability to bring together differing interests to create compromises that work in the best interest of all parties.”
Hoyle, reached by phone Tuesday, said she learned of Edwards’ resignation over the past couple of days.
She said she consulted with Edwards and State Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, who is her senior in the Legislature. Nathanson declined to pursue the seat, Hoyle said.
Hoyle said she is an independent contractor doing development work at the University of Oregon’s Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics and a policy fellow with the political science department.