In a decision that has caused a significant stir, nine Oregon GOP lawmakers have been prohibited from seeking re-election after they staged a walkout in opposition to pro-abortion legislation. This dramatic course of action was the longest walkout in Oregon’s history, lasting an astounding six weeks.
Democratic Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade explained that the move wasn’t a mere act of political antagonism. Instead, she was upholding Measure 113—a 2022 amendment that mandates that legislators with more than 10 unexcused absences cannot vie for re-election. “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution,” she emphasized.
This turn of events hasn’t been received well by the barred GOP members. Lawyers representing state Sens. Tim Knopp and Brian Boquist have come forward, signaling a potential challenge to this decision. According to them, the lawmakers’ absence was strategic, aiming to obstruct particular legislative proposals that they deemed of existential significance. “This parliamentary strategy has been employed many times in the past by members of both parties and in numerous states,” the letter stated, adding that such walkouts are a form of protected political speech.
A key argument put forth by the Republicans hinges on the language within Measure 113. The amendment indicates that lawmakers who fall afoul of this rule can’t hold office “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.” Given that their current terms culminate on Jan. 14, 2025, the GOP asserts that they should be ineligible only post the 2028 election.
However, the Secretary of State’s office holds a different perspective. The office pointed out that there was no pre-enactment suggestion that hinted at this interpretation. In their words, “The Secretary found no suggestion prior to enactment — in the voters’ pamphlet, media, or otherwise — that the measure was understood or intended to allow absent legislators to serve an additional term…and then be disqualified the term after that.”
The cause of the walkout was of critical importance. The group, comprising nine Republicans and one independent, resisted measures that endorsed abortion rights, promoted transgender ideology, and pushed for stricter gun control, as per ABC News sources. Their steadfast resistance ultimately pressured the Democrats into making certain concessions on these issues.
This ongoing conflict highlights a crucial aspect of democratic governance—how do we strike a balance between the necessity of legislative attendance and the right to protest? While the barred GOP members might view the measure as punitive, others could see it as upholding legislative responsibility. Either way, the incident underscores the fervor with which elected officials are willing to stand up for their values, even when the stakes are high.