SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Supreme Court made a decisive ruling on Thursday regarding the fate of 10 Republican state senators who staged a prolonged walkout last year. This walkout aimed to delay bills on controversial topics such as abortion, transgender health care, and gun rights. However, the court’s decision has put an end to their hopes of running for re-election.
The court’s ruling upheld the secretary of state’s decision to disqualify the senators from the ballot due to a voter-approved measure. This measure, known as Measure 113, was passed in 2022 and amended the state constitution to prevent lawmakers from seeking re-election if they have more than 10 unexcused absences.
Last year’s six-week boycott, the longest in Oregon’s history, brought the legislative session to a standstill and resulted in the stalling of hundreds of bills. Five of the boycotting senators, namely, Tim Knopp, Daniel Bonham, Suzanne Weber, Dennis Linthicum, and Lynn Findley, filed a lawsuit against the secretary of state’s decision.
During oral arguments before the Oregon Supreme Court in December, there was a contentious debate over the interpretation of the language added to the state constitution by Measure 113. The senators argued that they could seek another term, citing the timing of a senator’s term and the wording discrepancies between the ballot and the measure as included in the voters’ pamphlet.
The state, however, contended that the voters intended for legislators with 10 or more unexcused absences to be barred from running after their current term is up. Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade, against whom the senators’ lawsuit was filed, had stated in August that the boycotting senators were disqualified from seeking re-election, leading to the ongoing legal battle.
The 2023 walkout led to the paralysis of the Legislature for weeks and only ended after Republicans secured concessions from Democrats on significant bills related to expanding access to abortion, transgender health care, and regulations on ghost guns.
The court’s ruling has significant implications for the future of political strategies and accountability in the Oregon state legislature. As the March 2024 filing deadline for candidates approaches, the decision will undoubtedly impact the upcoming election and the makeup of the state’s legislative body.