A third of Oregon state senators are no longer eligible for reelection, including the chamber’s only elected member of the Independent Party of Oregon, following a series of walkouts that triggered a state law to curtail “legislative absenteeism.”
The walkouts started at the beginning of the month and in response to Oregon House Bills 2002 and 2005. H.B. 2002 would establish a pilot project to deploy two mobile health clinics to provide and expand abortion access and gender-affirming services. Respectively, H.B. 2005 would restrict ownership of “undetectable” firearms and impose heavy punishments for those violating such restrictions.
Several members highly critical of both bills began avoiding sessions when they were expected to vote and denying the chamber the necessary quorum to conduct business. The initial reason for the walkout is that the bills are not written in “a manner that results in a score of at least 60 on the Flesch readability test,” according to a 1979 Oregon law on legislative readability. As the days passed, however, members who participated beyond ten days triggered a constitutional failsafe adopted by voters on the ballot the year before.
The “Exclusion from Re-election for Legislative Absenteeism Initiative,” which went in front of voters as Ballot Measure 113, was passed by a 2:1 majority during the previous state election. It bars lawmakers from seeking reelection if they accumulate more than ten unexcused absences on a day they are scheduled to vote. As a result, it limits the ability of lawmakers to engage in walkouts as a form of political strategy.
As of this week, the total number of members impacted by the anti-absenteeism law has risen to ten. While the vast majority of senators involved are members of the Republican Party, lone Independent Party of Oregon member Brian Boquist is also barred. He was among the first three members to be so, reaching the threshold late last week.
Boquist was first elected to the Oregon State Senate in 2008 as a Republican, having served several terms previously in the state legislature. During his most recent campaign in 2020, he received the nominations of both the Republican Party and the Independent Party of Oregon. However, on January 15, 2021, Boquist formally left the Republican Party and stated in an email that he was no longer caucusing with Oregon State Republicans.
On social media, the Independent Party of Oregon’s official Twitter account denounced Boquist’s action, as well as criticized the Oregon State Republicans who have been participating. “Brian Boquist does not represent the Independent Party’s membership through this walkout,” the account wrote in response to one individual.
Brian Boquist does not represent the Independent Party’s membership through this walkout. Snarky responses and wishful thinking are not going to change how badly y’all gonna get rolled for this.
— INDEPENDENT PARTY OF OREGON (@ORIndependent) May 19, 2023
It is unknown if Boquist will attempt to seek reelection in 2024. However, doing so will likely require him and any number of the Oregon State Republicans also trying to do the same to challenge the new state law in court.
The Independent Party of Oregon was established and recognized in 2007. Its slogan is “Not Left, Not Right, But Forward.” The party boasts upward of 140,000 registered members, or just under five percent of the Oregon electorate. The party did not formally nominate nor cross-endorse any gubernatorial candidate in the 2022 state election, expressing frustration with the primary election process.
I have no legal basis for feeling it may be invalidated. Just a feeling , that’s all.
I agree with Jeff. NF, show your homework on why you think this could be invalidated.
Kim Thatcher is also one of those no longer eligible to run for reelection next term due to absences. She had been cross endorsed by the Libertarian Party in 2014, 2018, and 2022.
Art Robinson is also ineligible. He had been cross endorsed by the Constitution Party in some previous elections, including 2020, according to ballotpedia.
I don’t know if there are others who had been cross endorsed by 3rd parties who are now ineligible. I just happened to know those two names.
Hi NF – I don’t know much about Oregon law. What do you see as a basis for invalidation? Some states require some kind of pre-clearance of voter initiatives. Do you know if Oregon is one?
Seems to me this law is likely to be invalidated by the courts.