The Oregon Supreme Court says 10 GOP senators who staged a lengthy walkout cannot run for re-election

(Amanda Loman/Associated Press)

The Oregon Supreme Court says 10 GOP senators who staged a lengthy walkout cannot run for re-election


February 1, 2024

The Oregon Supreme Court said Thursday that 10 Republican senators who staged a record-long strike last year to block bills on abortion, transgender health care and gun rights cannot seek re-election.

The decision confirms the Secretary of State’s decision to disqualify senators from voting under a voter-approved measure aimed at stopping such boycotts.

Measure 113, which was passed by voters in 2022, amended the state constitution to bar lawmakers from re-election if they have more than 10 unexcused absences.

Last year’s boycott lasted six weeks, the longest in state history, and paralyzed the legislative session, halting hundreds of bills.

Five lawmakers have filed a lawsuit over Secretary of State Sens’ decision. Tim Knopp, Daniel Bonham, Suzanne Weber, Dennis Linthicum and Lynn Findley. They were among 10 Republican senators who were absent more than 10 times.

We clearly disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling,” said Knopp, the chamber’s minority leader. “But more importantly, we are deeply disturbed by the chilling impact of this decision, which should crush dissent.

Democratic Senate President Rob Wagner welcomed the decision.

“Today’s ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court means that lawmakers and the public now know how Measure 113 will be applied, and that is good for our state,” he said in a statement.

During oral arguments before the Oregon Supreme Court in December, attorneys for the senators and the state wrestled over the grammar and syntax of the language added to the state constitution after Measure 113 was approved by voters.

The amendment says a lawmaker may not run for office after the election after the members’ current term has expired.

The debate


when that exclusion takes effect: If a senator’s term ends in January 2025, they would typically seek reelection in November 2024. Elections after the member’s current term expires would not take place until November 2028, Republican senators argued, so they could run for re-election this year and then serve another term before becoming ineligible.

The court disagreed, saying that while the language of the amendment was ambiguous, the information provided to voters in the ballot title and explanatory statement made clear that the intent was to prevent truant legislatures from to hold office in the next term of office.

Those other materials expressly and uniformly informed voters that the amendment would apply to a lawmaker’s immediate subsequent term, indicating that voters understood and intended that meaning, the justices wrote.

The lawsuit against the senators was filed against Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade, who said last August that the boycotting senators had been barred from re-election. She ordered her office’s election division to implement an administrative rule based on her position.

All parties in the lawsuit had sought clarity on the issue ahead of the March 2024 filing deadline for candidates seeking to run in this year’s elections.

The 2023 strike paralyzed the legislature for weeks and ended only after Republicans wrested concessions from Democrats on a sweeping bill related to expanding access to abortion and transgender health care and another measure related to the production and transfer of undetectable firearms, known as ghost guns.

Oregon voters approved Measure 113 by a wide margin after Republican walkouts in the Legislature in 2019, 2020 and 2021.


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