This IT professional thinks she can oust Senate president Peter Courtney

The Senate president faces his first Democratic challenger in 33 years. 


Peter Courtney has been Senate president forever.

At least that’s how it seems to his critics. The Democratic leader has served for 33 years. If he finishes his term in 2019, he’ll break the record for longest-serving Oregon legislator.

In all that time, he’s never faced a Democratic challenger.

Until now. Enter Joyce Judy, a software project manager facing Courtney in the May primary.

Joyce JudySenate Candidate Joyce Judy

Like Courtney’s other critics, Judy says Courtney kills countless bills for no good reason.

She singles out two measures Courtney voted against: a no cause eviction law, and House Joint Resolution 203, which would have affirmed healthcare as a fundamental right for all Oregonians.

The legislation passed the house but died on Courtney’s desk.  

“Another good bill gone to the graveyard,” Judy says.“I really would like to see a cultural change in how the Senate votes.”


“Another good bill gone to the graveyard,” Judy says.“I really would like to see a cultural change in how the Senate votes.”


Judy's candidacy grew out of her frustration with Courtney’s approach. She says he only advances bills with bipartisan support, even when Democrats could pass the legislation on their own.

One idea Courtney nixed struck particularly hard—the National Popular Vote. That proposal, to upend the electoral college system with a straightforward tally, has been a longtime pet project of Judy’s. She supported it since John Koza floated the idea in 2006.

Koza seems to have noticed. The computer scientist recently donated $30,000 to the Judy campaign. Her next biggest contribution, $5,875, comes from Ainsley Shea, a firm that lobbies for the National Popular Vote.



“I view that donation as a thank you rather than bribery or something like that,” Judy says of Koza’s contribution.

She’s up against Courtney’s large war chest. He’s received donations from Portland General Electric and Pacificorp, Political Action Committees representing realtors and health care associations, and concrete and soft drink companies. He’s spent more than $22,000 on surveys and polls.


“She’s got a real steep hill to climb,” says lobbyist Len Bergstein. “The conventional wisdom is that he’s going to win.”


Judy says she leans further left than Courtney. She’s prioritizing the Clean Energy Jobs bill and wants to declare state emergencies for housing and homelessness. Her solution to PERS involves bumping up the corporate tax rate.

“I know corporations would say cut cut cut,” she says. “We’re in a situation where we can’t cut services right now. I would like to see where corporations say we can expand revenue.”

Since Courtney took office years ago, Judy says, the electorate has leaned further left too. “I think he’s kind of lost touch with where people are,” she says. “People are more progressive today than they have been in the past.”


“I know corporations would say cut cut cut,” Judy says. “We’re in a situation where we can’t cut services right now. I would like to see where corporations say we can expand revenue.”


Courtney and Judy are polar opposites when it comes to governing experience. A political neophyte, Judy moved to Oregon five years ago, she says, “as one of the millions of California transplants.” She worked in software project management for Charles Schwab before deciding to run for office.

“Obviously I will have a lot to learn but I’m open,” she says. “Political experience can sometimes be a detriment rather than a positive.”



Can Joyce Judy be the one to end Courtney’s 33-year winning streak?

“She’s got a real steep hill to climb,” says lobbyist Len Bergstein. “The conventional wisdom is that he’s going to win.”

Voters in the 11th district think highly of Courtney, Bergstein says. They’ve grown accustomed to his style.

Even Judy isn’t sure about her chances.

“I hope they’re very good,” she says. “I mean, I’m not going to say they’re bad.”


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Caleb Diehl

Caleb Diehl is a reporter at Oregon Business

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