SALEM &

State Rep. Peter Buckley is in a position to become the next House majority leader, a post the Ashland Democrat said he is interested in seeking.

Buckley, currently the majority whip, holds the House Democratic caucus' No. 4 leadership post, behind the majority leader, speaker pro tempore and the House Speaker.

"It would be a step up in leadership for me, and I have let some people know that it is something I am interested in," Buckley said in an interview Tuesday. "Whether it's this time around or another time, we'll have to see how it plays out."

Buckley is charged currently with candidate recruitment for the House Democrats. As majority leader, Buckley would be the Democratic caucus' senior spokesman and political strategist.

Since being elected to the state Legislature in 2004 Buckley has gained prominence in Salem much to the same degree he has in local political circles, and is oft-mentioned as a contender for senior leadership positions.

"I need to see how the February session goes and how the campaign cycle rolls out before I make a decision," Buckley said. "If it seems like a good thing for me to do after next November's election then I'll throw my hat in."

Buckley's jovial nature has helped him to forge relationships across party lines, particularly with Southern Oregon's Republican delegation on issues of mutual concern, including funding for Rogue Community College.

With Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, he drafted rules that were later adopted to ensure that each House member is able to bring at least two ideas forth and have them debated in committee, no matter which party is in power.

The majority leader position will open up as a result of House Speaker Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, being unable to run for re-election next year since he is seeking the Democratic nomination to try to unseat U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore, in 2008.

His departure will trigger a bit of a leadership shuffle in the House that could be a boost for Southern Oregon's legislative delegation.