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Don't Shoot the MessengerSad Passings

Since our last publication, the Rogue Valley has lost two important public figures—Alan Bates, a long-time State Senator, and Judith-Marie Bergan, a 16-year member of Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“Judith-Marie was one of our most accomplished and beloved long-term company members,” said OSF artistic director Bill Rauch in a press release.

Bergan’s first season at OSF was in 1997, when she played Elena Guarneri in the world premiere of The Magic Fire, which went on to play at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. She returned to the company in 2000 to play Lorraine Sheldon in The Man Who Came to Dinner. This season, she was Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

Both poised and playful, Bergan played serious roles as well as comic ones.

“It was so clear from the moment she stepped on the Bowmer stage that she was a high-quality actor, with a sharp wit, a sparkling intelligence and a beautiful, elegant demeanor.  What a rare find!,” said OSF artistic director emerita Libby Appel.  

Bergan passed away on Saturday, August 20 after a battle with cancer.

Earlier in the month, the region also lost State Senator Alan Bates. On August 5, the 71-year old physician and politician was fly fishing with his son on the Rogue River when he suffered an apparent heart attack. Bates represented Senate District 3, which covers the southern half of Jackson County, including Ashland and much of Medford. Bates was in the middle of his third term. Both as a physician and politics, Bates was well-liked and about 400 persons attended his memorial service at Southern Oregon University.

In somewhat reverse order, the day before the memorial service, the Jackson County Democrats (JCD) held a convention at the Medford Public Library to determine who will be on the ballot in November to complete the remainder of Bates’ term. About 100 people attended, with a dozen vying for the position. The timing is unfortunate, as there is a Shakespearean sense of urgency to fill Bates’ seat; but with November elections looming, the urgency is keen.

From a crowded field, Tonia Moro received slight more than half of the precinct committee members’ votes.  

A local attorney and Rogue Valley Transportation District Board member, Moro has a strong reputation in the region. She has supported legislation for clean energy and also helped organize community opposition to the proposed LNG pipelines, and also has expressed interest in issues around poverty and housing.

She had a well-organized contingent at the convention, with supporters wearing blue “Elect Tonia Moro” t-shirts. Two years ago, Moro ran unsuccessfully for Jackson County Commission.

Because of state law, although the JCD choice for their candidate in November, Moro does not automatically fill in the empty State Senate seat. Instead, she is one of three names presented to the Jackson County Commissioners as the interim State Senator (to serve until January).  

Interestingly, one of the other potential interim state senators is Kevin Moran, a former Talent Police Chief and current Democratic candidate for state representative, a somewhat quixotic campaign in the district. He has suspended his candidacy for the State House until the Commissioners make their determination, and if not chosen, will resume his bid for the House.

The third potential candidate is Kevin Talbot, a Rogue Community College Board member. Talbot’s calling cards are collaboration and innovation, as he has started a number of programs at RCC and SOU, and also tried to build collaboration between the institutions.

Whoever is chosen, he or she has big shoes to fill: Bates was well-known for his keen and calming bed-side manner, and his good-nature. He also was well-known and successful in his wide-reaching public service. As the chairman of the Health Services Commission, he was instrumental in designing and implementing the Oregon Health Plan. He also served on the Eagle Point School Board for a decade, before being first elected to the State Senate in 2004.

“He left an indelible impression on Oregon, and I will miss him forever,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a press statement.


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