HOOLEY, Darlene

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
HOOLEY, Darlene
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives


A former Oregon public schoolteacher, Darlene Hooley began a long climb in state politics in the 1970s, inspired initially by defective equipment at a local playground. Hooley served in city, county, and state government for 20 years before winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996. During her tenure in Congress, Representative Hooley focused on identity theft and data security, education funding, affordable health care and prescription drug coverage, the National Guard, and veterans’ health care.

Darlene Olson was born on April 4, 1939, in Williston, North Dakota, to Clarence Alvin Olson and Alyce Rogers Olson. When she was eight years old, her family moved to Salem, Oregon. Darlene Olson earned a B.S. in education from Oregon State University in 1961, and pursued postgraduate work at Oregon State University and Portland State University from 1963 until 1965. She also taught reading, music, and physical education in Oregon. Darlene Olson married John Hooley, a fellow teacher, and they raised two children, Chad and Erin, before they divorced in 1997. The lack of city response to playground equipment maintenance issues at a local public park, where her son had fallen off a swing onto the asphalt, convinced Hooley to enter politics. In 1976, she was the first woman elected to the West Linn city council. Four years later, she earned a spot in the state house of representatives, where she served until 1987. In the legislature, she chaired the environmental and energy committees where she helped pass energy conservation measures, recycling legislation, and a rewrite of land use planning laws. In her third term, she served on the Oregon house of representatives’ ways and means committee, chairing its education subcommittee. She focused on establishing public kindergarten, passing pay equity laws, and reforming the state’s welfare system. In 1987, she became the first woman member of the Clackamas County commission where she served until her election to Congress.1

In 1996, Hooley entered the race for an Oregon seat in the U.S. House of Representatives covering much of the northern Willamette Valley from West Linn in the north to the state capital, Salem, and the university town of Corvallis to the south. With backing from major women’s political action committees such as EMILY’s List, Hooley prevailed in the three–way Democratic primary with 51 percent of the vote. In the general election, she faced Republican Jim Bunn, a first–term incumbent. Her platform contrasted with the Republican “Contract with America” and was especially critical of Medicare cuts. Hooley defeated Bunn by a 52 to 45 percent margin in a race with two independent candidates. In her subsequent five re–election campaigns, Hooley won by margins of between 53 and 57 percent of the vote.2

During the first year of the 105th Congress (1997–1999), Representative Hooley was elected Democratic freshman class president. She was then elected as Regional Representative to the Democratic Steering Committee in the 106th–107th Congresses (1999–2003). Hooley was appointed as Whip–at–Large (106th and 107th Congresses) and then Senior Whip. She received seats on the Banking and Financial Services Committee (later renamed Financial Services) and the Science Committee (later renamed Science and Technology). In the 106th Congress, Hooley took leave from serving on the Science Committee to serve on the influential Budget Committee, but was termed out in the 109th Congress (2005–2007) and returned to the Science Committee. She also served two terms on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee before receiving a coveted position on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the 110th Congress (2007–2009). During the 110th Congress, she also returned to the Budget Committee.

On the Financial Services Committee, Hooley became the leader of ID theft prevention efforts and for increased medical and financial privacy. In the 108th Congress, Hooley’s consumer protection legislation providing all Americans the ability to see their credit reports from all three major credit bureaus annually at no cost was enacted. Locally, Hooley secured public investments in her district, including millions of dollars in county timber payments in lieu of taxes on federal lands for local schools and roads, federal funding for transportation, port and infrastructure needs, and agricultural research and biomedical research funding.

In 2002, Representative Hooley voted against the authorization of the use of military force in Iraq. During the occupation of Iraq, she was a vocal advocate for the proper training and equipping of troops serving overseas, and worked to correct inequities between the active duty and National Guard. As the Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Hooley worked to improve veterans’ health care and increase funding for Veterans’ Administration medical centers.3

On February 7, 2008, Hooley announced her retirement from the House, capping 32 years of public service. “At some point in everybody’s life you have to decide, how much longer do I want to do this?” she said. “It’s time to move on.”4 Hooley’s term expired at the conclusion of the 110th Congress on January 3, 2009.


1Politics in America, 2004 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2003): 847–848; Almanac of American Politics, 2004 (Washington, D.C: National Journal Inc., 2003): 1344–1345; “Official Biography of Darlene Hooley,” http://www.house.gov/hooley/biography.htm (accessed 24 November 2004).

2“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,” http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/index.aspx.

3“Official Biography of Darlene Hooley,”http://www.house.gov/hooley/biography.htm; Politics in America, 2004: 847–848.

4“Rep. Hooley Will Not Run for Re–Election,” 7 February 2008, The Oregonian.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Oregon State University
Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Corvallis, OR
Oral History: 2014, 18 pages. In the interview, Darlene Hooley discusses her early life in North Dakota and Salem, Oregon, including her experiences working in a cannery and attending high school and Pasadena Nazarene College. A significant portion of the session is devoted to Hooley's recollections of her two year undergraduate experience at Oregon State. Her decision to transfer to OSC is recounted, as are her living arrangements in Corvallis, her participation in choir and field hockey groups, her academic load and campus social life. The remainder of the interview focuses primarily on Hooley's entry into the political realm and the gradual evolution of her political career. Hooley notes the playground injury suffered by her son that first spurred her interest in political action. She also discusses her involvement with the West Linn city council before detailing her experiences as a member of the Oregon legislature and the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. Hooley's session concludes with a detailed reminiscence on her years as a Congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives. She speaks to her early experiences as a House Whip and remarks on her involvement with veterans affairs, including a trip that she took to Iraq in 2003. She also recounts her work advocating financial privacy and individual access to their own financial information. The session ends with Hooley's general thoughts on her time in Washington and some advice that she would give to students today. The interview transcript and video are available online.

Willamette University
Archives and Special Collections, Mark O. Hatfield Library

Salem, OR
Papers: 1980-2009, 60 linear feet. The Darlene Hooley papers are organized into three series: I) Campaign records, II) State of Oregon records, and III) United States Representative records. The Campaign records series documents Hooley's opponents and contains information and memorabilia from various campaigns throughout her political career. The State of Oregon records series consists of papers generated and received by Hooley's office during her two terms representing the Twenty-seventh District in the Oregon House of Representatives and during her time serving on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. The third series contains materials generated by her office during her six terms representing Oregon's Fifth District in the United States Congress from January 3, 1997 through January 3, 2009. She served on the Science and Technology, Energy and Commerce, and Budget committees. She was a House Senior Whip for the Democratic Party and a member of the New Democrat Coalition. Of particular note is the Legislative subseries, which contains appropriations requests for science, technology, energy, and commerce, along with other funding, and is organized by Funding Year (FY), then session of Congress. Many of these requests are for Oregon projects centering on public transportation, i.e. the Light Rail project in the Portland Area, and technology programs such as the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute at Oregon State University. Hooley was successful in securing public investments in Oregon's Fifth District, which is evident in the materials relating to legislative work on bills concerning Mount Hood, forestry issues, and the Port of Portland. She also obtained millions of dollars in county timber payments in lieu of taxes on federal lands for local schools and roads, federal funding for transportation, port and infrastructure needs, as well as agricultural research and biomedical research funding. This series also contains material on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (HR 2622). Other highlights of the collection include constituent letters from grade school students, photographs of Hooley at work in Congress, and copies of speeches she made on subjects such as women's rights, science, and trade. A finding aid is available in the repository and online.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

"Darlene Kay Hooley" in Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U. S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2006.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Banking and Financial Services
  • House Committee - Budget
  • House Committee - Energy and Commerce
  • House Committee - Financial Services
  • House Committee - Science
  • House Committee - Veterans' Affairs
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