Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend

Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, on the floor of the Senate in January during the opening days of the 2023 session in the Oregon Capitol.

Knopp is leading a walkout of GOP senators and one Independent ally that has the effect of blocking all legislation from coming to a vote in the Senate. If he misses the Wednesday and Thursday sessions, Knopp will hit 10 absences, which would bar him from re-election next year. He's created a political action committee to fight the penalties for all those absent.

Senators who are barred from re-election will not be allowed to file for re-election in 2024 when the window for candidates opens Sept. 14, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

Under Measure 113, passed with a 68% yes vote in November, lawmakers who have more than 10 excused absences cannot seek re-election.

Ten senators have passed the absence threshold as part of an effort to keep the Senate from reaching the two-thirds of members present required under the state constitution to form a quorum to meet and do any business. The Senate has not established a quorum since May 3.

A political and legal showdown would come if any of the "disqualified" senators attempted to file for re-election.

"If a candidate is not eligible to hold office, the courts have interpreted election statutes to mean that the filing officer can’t allow them on the ballot," Ben Morris, spokesman for the office of secretary of state, said Thursday.

An analysis of Measure 13 submitted to the secretary of state at the time of the November ballot measure's drafting said lawmakers that surpassed the absence limit could conceivably file for re-election and even win, but could not be seated.

Morris said that conflicts with state law that does not allow for candidates who are ineligible to assume an office to appear on the ballot. A recent example was New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff, who was blocked from the Democratic primary ballot for governor by then-Secretary of State Shemia Fagan for failing to meet the state's residency rule.

As first reported in Willamette Week, attorneys are debating the text and intent of Measure 113 as to whether the prohibition would take effect in lawmaker's next term or the one following. Legal challenges are expected.

 "We stand by our position that this a qualification issue," said Morris, the Secretary of State's office spokesman. "We are seeking a legal opinion from the Oregon Department of Justice to clarify in which election the qualification issue should be enforced. We’ll follow their advice in our administrative role as the filing officer for statewide elections."

Not all senators barred in 2024

The Senate has staggered four-year terms. The ban on filing to run in 2024 would affect six senators who would be up for re-election, including House Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend.

Also past the 10-absence threshold and up for re-election in 2024 are Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale; Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls; Sen. Art Robinson, R-Cave Junction; and Sen. Brian Boquist, I-Dallas. Sen. Bill Hansell, who would be barred from re-election, had previously announced he would retire at the end of his current term.

Four other senators in the walkout are not up for re-election until 2026: Sen. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook; Sen Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles; Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer; and  Sen. Cedric Hayden, R-Rosburg, Other senators who have taken part in the walkout hold seats that are not up for re-election until 2026 or have not accumulated 10 absences through Thursday.

Sen. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, had four absences when he began to return to the Senate floor for quorum calls. Sen. Dick Anderson, R-Lincoln City, has one absence and has been on the floor for all other sessions. Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, has been on a long-term excused absence due to medical reasons.

Republicans have kept two senators on the floor for most of the walkout, which ensures the Senate is still under the minimum 20 members needed to meet.

The participants in the walkout have said they will challenge the unexcused absences and Measure 113 itself if needed. They argue their actions are in the best interests of their constituents and the absences recorded by Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, are "retribution."

"We are the last line of defense to hold the majority accountable,” Knopp said Tuesday.

Oregon's 13 Constitutional Defense Fund, a political action committee formed by Knopp to support the walkout, has raised $5,726 since it was established May 10, mostly through small donations, including from the Republicans' "WinRed" small online donation website. The PAC has spent $675.53. No legal challenge to the law has been filed by the GOP senators as yet.

The fund is directed by veteran Prineville political consultant Bryan Iverson, who also directed the 2022 efforts of The Leadership Fund and Evergreen Oregon PAC, the political fundraising arms of Senate Republicans and House Republicans, respectively. He is married to House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville.

Breese-Iverson has expressed support for the Senate walkout and said House Republicans could also leave the Capitol if Democratic Party actions became punitive to her caucus. But to date, the 25 GOP members have come to the floor and joined with the 35 Democrats to establish the minimum quorum of 40 House members to meet the two-thirds requirement in the state constitution.

Morris said the secretary of state is developing rules to integrate Measure 113 into the state's campaign filing and fundraising regulations.

"The Elections Division will work with the Legislature to create a process for including Measure 113 in the candidate filing process," Morris said. "That work is currently underway."

The work is going on under Acting Secretary of State Cheryl Myers, Fagan's deputy until May 8, when Fagan resigned from office amid reports she had accepted paid work, outside of her state job, as a consulting attorney to a subsidiary of La Mota, a major cannabis dispensing company whose business license is issued by the secretary of state and that is part of the marijuana-related industry audited by the office. Gov. Tina Kotek said she would not name a replacement for Fagan until after the May 13 local elections. Last week, Kotek said had not settled on a choice or even developed a list of possible replacements for the state's top elections job. The office of secretary of state will be on the 2024 ballot and any appointee who sought to continue in the position would have to run for the job beginning with the May 2024 primary.  

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(1) comment


Umm, no matter how bad you want this, think you should wit until the OR DoJ issues notice.

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