Walsh gets another shot at state senate

Keizer voters won’t be able to cast a ballot for Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson in the upcoming November election for the Oregon Senate District 11 seat because he pulled out of the race in June. His replacement, local attorney Richard Walsh, was on the primary ballot in May, however – finishing second behind Swenson. Walsh was selected by the local party precinct committee on June 30 and will square off in November against Republican Kim Thatcher.

“I had packed up everything thinking it was over, and now I get another shot at it – it’s great, I’m excited to get started,” said Walsh.

Walsh has been a longtime fixture in Keizer politics as a city council member and has played a leading role in city projects such as Keizer Rapids Park and fundraising for The Big Toy. His law firm, Walsh and Associates, specializes in representing people injured in accidents. Walsh himself has practiced law in Oregon for more than 30 years, and successfully argued multiple cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court.

“I’ve represented people from all walks of life in my career,” he said, describing his part in the 1993 Leo Pohlen Orchards v. Maria Hernandez in which he represented Hernandez , a local farmworker who had broken her arm at work, on appeal. The case led to the expansion of the state’s workers compensation coverage to farmworkers and others injured on-the-job as a result of their working and living conditions.

He also mentioned the 1998 Colman v. Corrections Dept., which is the case he argued and won in the Oregon Supreme Court, which helps people exposed to infectious diseases prove their cases.

“The case involved a prison guard who was present when an inmate coughed his guts out,” he said. “The guard got tuberculosis, but the prison refused to release the inmate’s medical records.”

Walsh said the ruling makes it easier for people like the guard and other frontline workers to access the information they need in order to meet the insurance-related burden of proof should they become ill as a result of their work.

He said these cases and others are what motivated him to run for the Senate seat, and it’s why he wants to have a hand in crafting similar laws.

“I would love to work on a law that would shift the burden of proof in infectious disease workers compensation cases so that grocery, medical, and other frontline and essential workers who are exposed to the public, inmates, or patients during a pandemic would be presumed to have contracted it at work unless the employer can prove otherwise,” he said. “This is not only important for workers exposed to COVID, but for workers asked to work during future pandemics.”

Walsh said he’ll be focusing his energy on the campaign full-time, having made arrangements ahead of time in case he won his primary.

“I’ll still be seeing clients, but I won’t be the bottleneck for the firm, for now,” he said.

He said he’s known Thatcher for years and looks forward to the race.

“I respect Sen. Thatcher a lot – we’ve been in the same community for 20 years,” said Walsh, “But she’s in the minority party, and I think Keizer needs a representative on the majority party in order to get things done.”