Rachel Armitage, a Warren resident who chairs the Democratic Party of Oregon’s Womxn’s Caucus, is the new state senator for Senate District 16.

County commissioners from within the district appointed Armitage on Friday from a group of three finalists during a virtual meeting held at the Columbia County Courthouse.

Armitage will finish the term of former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, the prominent and influential Scappoose Democrat who announced her independent gubernatorial run in October and resigned from the Senate in December to focus on her campaign. The term runs through 2022.

The district covers all of Clatsop and Columbia counties and parts of Tillamook, Washington, Multnomah and Yamhill counties.

In an interview, Armitage — who received 87.6% of the weighted vote — said she felt “very excited, deeply honored.”

Melissa Busch, another Warren resident and a home health nurse with Providence Health & Services, and Nadia Gardner, an environmental consultant from Arch Cape, were also vying for the appointment.

The three candidates were selected last week by Democrats from among a slate of eight contenders at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. In the first round of balloting, Busch, who is running in the Democratic primary for Senate in May, had walked away with 73% of the weighted vote.

“I’d like to thank the (Democrats) who voted for me and the commissioners who appointed me,” Armitage said in an interview. “I would like to thank the two women — Melissa Busch and Nadia Gardner — who ran this race alongside me.

“And I especially want to thank Sen. Betsy Johnson for setting such a strong example of what good public service looks like in this district.”

Unlike Busch, Armitage said she will not run in the Democratic primary for Senate. State Rep. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook, is giving up her House District 32 seat to campaign in the Republican primary for Senate.

“I am definitely not running for any office in 2022,” Armitage said.

Armitage emphasized her experience serving as a legislative aide during the 2016 and 2017 sessions. She is an alum of Emerge Oregon, a program that trains Democratic women to run for office. She will represent Senate District 16 when the Legislature convenes for a short session in February.

On Friday, several county commissioners — including Clatsop County commissioners Mark Kujala and Lianne Thompson — pointed to Armitage’s experience in Salem.

Commissioners Courtney Bangs and John Toyooka also voted for Armitage. Commissioner Pamela Wev cast the sole vote for Gardner.

Lindsay Berschauer, the chairwoman of the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners, said of Johnson: “One of her biggest strengths was her communication style and her ability to reach out across the aisle and talk to anybody.

“And in the spirit of that, I was very impressed with Rachel. She did reach out to me almost immediately to have a conversation, and we had a lovely conversation,” she said. “We likely don’t agree on much and we would probably vote opposite of each other. But we had a lot of things that we did talk about and saw in common.”

Berschauer said that Armitage was the only candidate who reached out to her. “I really appreciate that,” Berschauer said.

Johnson, a centrist Democrat from a family tied to Oregon politics and government, had led the district since 2006 after several years in the state House of Representatives. She served as co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, which crafts the state budget. She often sided with Republicans on issues such as gun rights and environmental regulation.

Among the eight candidates Democrats considered for the vacancy, two well-known names — former state House representatives Deborah Boone, of Hamlet, and Tim Josi, of Tillamook — came in last.

In reaction to the news of Armitage’s appointment, Andy Davis, the chairman of the Clatsop County Democrats, said, “I think that that was a reasonable outcome. I understand the commissioners’ desire to have someone with some legislative experience in the seat, and I don’t think they are out of line to want that in a candidate.

“So I think Rachel seemed like a natural fit for that, and certainly the county party will support her and hope that we can play any part we can to make her successful in that short role.”