Oregon GOP senators barred from reelection over walkout seek statewide office instead

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Two Republican state senators in Oregon are seeking statewide office after being barred from reelection for staging a record-long walkout last year to stall bills on abortion, transgender health care and gun control.

Sen. Brian Boquist, who also made headlines for his threatening comments toward state police during GOP-led walkouts in 2019, is running for state treasurer. Sen. Dennis Linthicum is running for secretary of state, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Both were among the 10 GOP senators whose boycott of the Legislature last year disqualified them from reelection under a ballot measure aimed at stopping walkouts. Measure 113, approved by voters in 2022, amended the constitution to bar lawmakers from reelection if they have more than 10 unexcused absences.

Their disqualification was affirmed by the Oregon Supreme Court last month.

Boquist was strongly criticized in 2019 as Republicans were on the verge of a walkout over climate legislation. As the governor considered sending state police to compel boycotting lawmakers to return to the Capitol in Salem, Boquist said authorities should “send bachelors and come heavily armed” if they attempted to bring him back.

A legislative committee sanctioned him over the comments, and voted to require Boquist to give 12 hours' notice before coming to the Capitol. The measure was intended to give the state police time to bolster security in his presence. Boquist sued and won, arguing that his First Amendment right to free speech was violated, OPB reported.

The U.S. Army veteran has served in the Legislature since 2009, representing rural areas of the Willamette Valley and the Coast Range west and northwest of Salem.

He said that his time serving on the state revenue committee made him well qualified for the role of treasurer, OPB reported.

“I have honed the ability to speak bluntly and truthfully to Oregonians about where their hard-earned money is going and how the government machine spends it,” Boquist said in a statement.

The Oregon Capital Chronicle first reported Boquist's bid. He'll be facing Democratic state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, and Jeff Gudman, a former city councilor from the affluent Portland suburb of Lake Oswego.

Linthicum, in office since 2017, hails from a vast district stretching south from Bend to Klamath Falls and the California state line. He describes himself as a rancher and businessman on his legislative website.

“I have a laser-focused interest in auditing Oregon’s currently lacking election and financial integrity standards,” he said in a statement reported by OPB.

Linthicum will run against Democrats Tobias Read, currently state treasurer, and state Sen. James Manning for the office of secretary of state. The race has drawn attention following last year's ouster of secretary of state Shemia Fagan over an influence-peddling scandal related to her consultancy work with a marijuana business.