Peter Courtney

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Peter Courtney
Peter Courtney Senate (cropped).jpg
55th President of the Oregon Senate
Assumed office
January 3, 2003
Preceded byGene Derfler
Member of the Oregon State Senate
from the 11th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1999
Preceded byGene Derfler
Personal details
Born (1943-06-18) June 18, 1943 (age 76)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Margie Courtney
EducationUniversity of Rhode Island, Kingston (BA)
Boston University (JD)

Peter C. Courtney (born June 18, 1943) is an American politician, lawyer, and professor who is currently a Democratic member of the Oregon State Senate, representing the 11th District (in Marion County and including parts of Salem, Keizer, and Gervais) since 1999. He is currently President of the Senate, serving since 2003. He was a member of the Oregon House of Representatives in 1981, 1983, and from 1989 through 1998. Courtney teaches at Western Oregon University.

Early life[edit]

Peter C. Courtney was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 18, 1943.[1] He grew up in Moorestown, New Jersey, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and Virginia, the son of a life insurance agent.[1][2] Both his parents earned college degrees, with his mother’s degree in Latin.[2] In high school, he played on the school’s football team.[2] Courtney attended college at the University of Rhode Island where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1965 followed by a master’s in public administration the following year.[1][3] He graduated from Boston University’s law school, and then moved to Oregon in 1969 to become the law clerk of William S. Fort of the Oregon Court of Appeals.[2] Courtney arrived in Salem and stayed at the YMCA for two years.[2]

Political career[edit]

Courtney's first political office was as a member of the Salem City Council where he served from 1974 until 1980.[3] He was first elected to the Oregon Legislative Assembly in 1980 as a Democrat representing Marion and Polk counties in the Oregon House of Representatives.[4]

Courtney gave up his House seat to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, 5th district, in the 1984 primary.[citation needed] Courtney narrowly lost to state senator Ruth McFarland, who had been the 1982 nominee.[5] McFarland again lost to Congressman Denny Smith.[citation needed] Courtney ran for and narrowly lost a state Senate seat in 1986, before taking back his old state House seat in 1988.[citation needed] In the House he served as Democratic leader for eight years, longer than anyone else had before him.[2] After repairs to the Oregon State Capitol were finished in 1995 after damage from the 1993 Scotts Mills earthquake, he gave a small piece of marble with an engraved image of the building to each Democrat in the House.[2] He served as minority leader during the 1997 session.[6]

He avoided term limits by moving from the House to the Senate in 1999, representing only Marion County.[2][7] In 2002, he had surgery to remove a burst appendix and even received last rites prior to the surgery when survival was unknown. After 13 days at the hospital he recovered and returned to the legislature.[2]

Courtney in June 2008

In 2003, Courtney was selected as the President of the Oregon State Senate. The Senate was evenly divided between the state's major parties at the time, with 15 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Republican Lenn Hannon was chosen as President Pro-tem;[8] the two were recognized as having forged a strong bipartisan working relationship during the previous legislature's five emergency sessions.[9] Courtney continued to serve as President for the 73rd and 74th Oregon legislatures. Courtney is the most tenured Oregon legislator.[2][10] Some lobbyists consider him liberal and anti-business, but with a reputation as a respected strategist.[2] His support and advocacy in animal-related measures saw him labeled as a 2011 "Top Dog" by the Oregon Humane Society.[11]

Courtney serves as co-chair of the Legislative Counsel Committee.

Career and family[edit]

Courtney teaches speech at Western Oregon University, and serves as an administrator at the Monmouth school.[2] He married Margie (Brenden) Courtney in 1976; they have three sons.[1][12]

He has worked as a political commentator for KPTV television and KSLM radio.[12] Courtney appeared in the documentary film Running Forward: Conquering Oregon's Hood to Coast Relay, that was released in 2011.[13] He has served on several boards of directors, and is a member of the Oregon State Bar.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Senate President Peter Courtney. Oregon State Legislature. Retrieved October 10, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Esteve, Harry (November 30, 2004). "Converging paths to leadership: Two adept veterans who mix personal values and political skills will direct the 2005 legislature; Peter Courtney political everyman relies on dramatic, affable style". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon: Oregonian Media Group.
  3. ^ a b Senator Peter C. Courtney (OR). Project Vote Smart. Retrieved on April 17, 2008.
  4. ^ "Oregon Legislators and Staff Guide, 1981 Regular Session (61st)" (PDF). Oregon State Archives. Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved 2016-06-19.
  5. ^ Towslee, Tom (May 16, 1984). "Hatfield, incumbent House members easily win Oregon primary". United Press International. Washington, D.C.: News World Communications. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  6. ^ Feit, Josh (November 24, 1998). "The most powerful woman in Oregon". Willamette Week. Portland, Oregon: City of Roses Newspapers.
  7. ^ "Oregon Legislators and Staff Guide, 1999 Regular Session (70th)" (PDF). Oregon State Archives. Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved 2016-06-19.
  8. ^ Jonsson, Patrik (March 27, 2003). "Noah's Ark governance in North Carolina: Two House Speakers". The Christian Science Monitor. Boston, Massachusetts: Christian Science Publishing Society. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  9. ^ Steves, David (January 14, 2003). "Oregon's Deadlocked State Senate Nears Leadership Deal". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon: GateHouse Media. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  10. ^ "Oregon Legislators and Staff Guide, 2003 Regular Session (72nd)" (PDF). Oregon State Archives. Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved 2016-06-19.
  11. ^ 2011 Oregon Humane Society Legislative Scorecard Archived 2012-06-28 at the Wayback Machine at the Oregon Humane Society
  12. ^ a b c "Oregon Blue Book: Members of the Oregon Senate". Oregon Blue Book. Retrieved 2016-06-19.
  13. ^ Nielson-Stowell, Amelia (March 4, 2011). "Reasons to Run: Documentary captures essence of Oregon relay". Deseret News. Retrieved 25 February 2012.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Gene Derfler
President of the Oregon Senate