PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Senators set business aside for a moment to honor Republican state Sen. Jackie Winters after she passed away on Wednesday — bringing her battle with lung cancer to a close at age 82.
“I really didn’t think we’d lose her,” Senate President Peter Courtney said. “She tried to protect me from knowing how bad it was, I think.”
Courtney said he’s still coming to terms with the loss. He said he and Sen. Winters were a dynamic duo in Salem. Party lines aside, they worked together for the common good.
Likewise, colleagues described the late state senator as fierce, noble and dignified.
“A true champion for justice and fairness in many ways and has given her life in many ways to this state,” Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek said.
Up to her last moments, Courtney said Winters was still fighting to create a criminal justice system that was fair and firm — giving juveniles a chance at rehabilitating. Before she died, Winters passed SB 1008, which will ensure that juveniles 15 years of age or older aren’t automatically tried as adults for crimes like murder, rape and kidnapping.
“This was a masterpiece, and if Jackie hadn’t been involved in this, we never could have gotten that bill through,” Courtney said. “It’s a huge piece of legislation.”
The greatest loss, according to lawmakers, is that she’s the woman who could bring the parties and people together.
“She was the one who believed the institution and the way we live in our civilization depended upon her being able to talk to one another and relate to one another and that is fading — so I think her loss is going to be staggering, just staggering,” Courtney said.
In her place in the Senate, there are now white roses and a single candle along with photos capturing her vivacious essence. The display, Courtney said, signifies how profound Winters was for Oregon and her people.
The Oregon State Senate will not be voting on any measures until Monday.
Gov. Kate Brown, Mayor Ted Wheeler and more politicians released statements on Sen. Winters following her death.