Local government

Secretary of State’s decision stymies reelection prospects for Sen. Lynn Findley

VALE – State Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, can’t seek reelection based on a decision by Secretary of State La Vonne Griffin-Valade announced Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Griffin-Valade ordered the Oregon Elections Division to implement an administrative rule that Measure 113 disqualifies legislators from running for reelection if they racked up 10 or more unexcused absences during the 2023 Legislature.

“It is clear voters intended Measure 113 to disqualify legislators from running for reelection if they had 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session,” said Secretary Griffin-Valade. “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution.”

In the 2022 general election, Malheur County voters approved Measure 113 by a margin of 57% to 42%.
Findley was among nine GOP senators and one independent who ducked out of the Senate during the last legislative session in a move to block a series of Democrat-sponsored bills they disagreed with.

In Oregon, two-thirds of the members of the Senate must be on hand to constitute a quorum for votes on legislation. With no quorum, bills stall.

Findley walked out, he said, because he would not support passage of legislation that did not meet the requirements of an obscure law from the 1970s that required a summary of a bill be written in language an eighth grader can understand. The GOP walkout lasted six weeks.

Recently, Findley said he had not decided about running again for his Senate seat. He did not respond immediately to a message seeking comment on the latest development.

The first day a candidate can file for the 2024 election is Sept. 14.

The Republican caucus asserted Measure 113 was not crafted clearly and may not prevent senators from running in the next election. The caucus asserted the language of the constitutional amendment requires legislators with at least 10 unexcused absences cannot hold office “for the term following the election after the members’ current term is completed.”
Elections in Oregon are held before the term of a legislator is finished and GOP supporters say that means the Constitution grants them the flexibility to serve another term before they step down because of unexcused absences.

In her announcement, Griffin-Valade said she “found no suggestion prior to enactment – in the voters’ pamphlet, media or otherwise – that the measure was understood or intended to allow absent legislator to serve an additional term after accumulating too many absences, and then be disqualified the term after that.”

She said that voters “universally understood” that the bar to running for reelection involved “the immediate next term.”

Not long after the Griffin-Valade’s announcement, GOP Senate Republican leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, released a statement.

“We believe the plain language of Measure 113 allows for members to run again in 2024 elections. We disagree with the Secretary of State’s determination and will challenge it in court,” wrote Knopp.

Findley is the former Vale city manager and a retired Bureau of Land Management employee. He was appointed to be a state representative in 2018 to replace Cliff Bentz. He was then appointed to the Senate in 2020 and won election to the position in November 2020.

Findley’s senate district covers Baker, Crook, Grant, Harney, Lake and Malheur counties and portions of Deschutes and Jefferson counties.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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