SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A group of Republican senators and one Republican-turned-Independent who held up Oregon’s legislative session during the longest walkout in state history are deciding whether to seek reelection, despite the fact that most Oregon voters want them barred from doing so.
Of the 10 senators who refused to attend Senate floor sessions in an effort to block Democratic bills, six face reelection in 2024, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Four say they plan to run, including Sens. Tim Knopp, Dennis Linthicum, Art Robinson and Independent Brian Boquist, a former Republican. Sen. Lynn Findley said he’s still deciding. Sen. Bill Hansell, of Athena, has announced his retirement.
“I will absolutely be filing for reelection on Sept. 14th,” said Linthicum, of Beatty.
Robinson, of Cave Junction, told the media outlet he’s hopeful that the voters will return him to the Capitol to represent them.
“If they do, I am confident I will be seated as the Oregon constitution requires of duly elected legislators,” he said.
But while the men say they plan to run, whether they will be allowed to do so remains unclear. That’s because voters passed a ballot measure in 2022 that disqualifies lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences from reelection.
The senators who walked out say the measure is flawed. While the public sector unions that pushed Measure 113 intended it to block absent lawmakers from running for their next term, the language says lawmakers with at least 10 unexcused absences cannot hold office “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.”
Since elections in Oregon are held before a lawmakers term is completed — not after — Republicans say the constitution plainly allows them to serve another term before penalties take effect.
An attorney for Knopp and Boquist has asked the Secretary of State’s Office for a formal ruling laying out how it would implement Measure 113.
A spokesperson for newly appointed Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade said this week that the office had not decided whether to issue a ruling on how Measure 113 will work in practice. The spokesperson, Ben Morris, said the office was awaiting advice from the Oregon Department of Justice.
Griffin-Valade’s decision will dictate how the senators planning to seek reelection move forward, said John DiLorenzo, the Portland attorney representing Knopp and Boquist.
If she determines the lawmakers cannot seek reelection, they could appeal directly to the Oregon Court of Appeals. If Griffin-Valade declines to issue a ruling, the lawmakers will have to wait and see how the secretary responds when they file for office.
Republicans returned to work in the Oregon Senate in mid-June after wresting concessions from Democrats on measures covering abortion, transgender health care and gun rights.