SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown will be sworn in Monday for a new term, and new state lawmakers will take their seats — including freshman Bend-area House members Cheri Helt and Jack Zika, both Republicans.
The Legislature won’t get down to business until Jan. 22, but last week saw the release of texts of bills to be introduced at the start of the session. One topic hits close to home: sexual harassment in the Capitol.
Meanwhile, stalemate drags on in Congress. Recently re-elected Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, is holding a town hall in Bend, a center of opposition to his campaign. He’s also in the news for surprising stands on the federal shutdown.
All of the action — and purposeful inaction — are signs that the political tempo is picking up in both Salem and Washington, D.C., where new power dynamics are coming into play.
Among some of the items of political interest over the past week:
Knopp and Capitol sexual harassment reform
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, has signed on as a chief sponsor to a package of legislation aimed at curtailing sexual harassment in the Capitol and closing loopholes that can keep perpetrators in the building with their victims. Knopp is joining Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, and Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie, as chief sponsors of the bipartisan effort.
Senate Joint Resolution 10 proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to pass laws permitting courts to order a legislator or other elected official to stay away from the Capitol and other workplaces if it is determined his or her physical presence creates a hostile environment. The other bills — SB 477, SB 478 and SB 479 — deal with other issues pertaining to politicians and sexual harassment. Gelser was one of the targets of alleged sexual harassment by former Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, who resigned. The state Bureau of Labor and Industries recently issued a scathing report saying legislative leaders allowed a “hostile” work environment that allowed for sexual harassment. The bureau and the Legislature plan conciliation talks in hopes of reaching a settlement.
Walden’s votes and wallet
Congressman Walden will hold a town hall in Bend on Saturday. That’s the same day as the Women’s March in Bend, and organizers are telling participants to go right from the march to the 2:30 p.m. town hall at Mountain View High School’s auditorium. Walden supporters are also planning to attend.
Walden is likely to get an earful about his role in the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the deep tax cuts backed by President Donald Trump.
Walden has made a different kind of news in recent days as one of a handful of Republican U.S. House members who have bucked Trump and voted in favor of some bills to end the federal government shutdown. Walden said the shutdown was hurting his largely rural district, which includes large swaths of federally managed lands. He represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Central Oregon’s counties.
Walden also joined a small group of lawmakers who have volunteered to have their pay withheld during the shutdown, saying politicians shouldn’t get paychecks as long as hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors aren’t being paid. Congress was one of the federal budget items fully funded before the impasse with Democrats over Trump’s demand for funding for a border wall with Mexico.
Familiar Bend GOP surname will vote against Carpenter
Bend businessman Sam Carpenter is seeking to replace Bill Currier as chair of the Oregon Republican Party. Carpenter blames Currier’s leadership for the party’s poor showing in the 2018 elections. Deschutes County GOP chair Paul deWitt recently came out in support of Carpenter. But a vocal supporter of Currier has emerged in Jackson County Republican chair Reagan Knopp. He’s the son of Bend’s state senator. The vote for party chair will be held Feb. 16 in Salem.
Chairs and Trump
Currier confirmed last week that he has taken part in conversations with Trump political operatives who are seeking to ensure loyalists to the president are at the top of state GOP parties in the run-up to the 2020 election. Politico reported recently that the goal is to prevent any anti-Trump elements at the 2020 GOP convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The return of a partisan tweeter
Jonathan Lockwood, former spokesman for the gubernatorial campaign of Bend’s Knute Buehler, has returned to the Oregon political trenches after some time in Texas. Well-known in Salem for his copious and combative tweets and other missives, he’ll be working for Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls; Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer; and Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer. In Oregon, Lockwood has also previously worked for the Senate Republican Caucus and GOP governor candidate Greg Wooldridge.
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin