Oregon lawmakers lift 2019 limits on state senator who warned ‘send bachelors’ when rounding up Republicans

An Oregon state senator who cautioned authorities to “send bachelors and come heavily armed” in 2019, when Gov. Kate Brown hinted she would force Republicans back to the Capitol if they walked out, got a reprieve this week.

Lawmakers on the Oregon Senate Committee on Conduct voted 3-1 on Monday to rescind restrictions that had been in place since mid-2019 on Sen. Brian Boquist, I-Dallas, after he appeared to threaten the Senate president and state police.

For more than three years, Boquist had to give 12 hours’ notice before reporting to the state Capitol for work under requirements that the conduct committee adopted in July 2019. Boquist’s advance notice was supposed to allow time for officials to arrange for additional state troopers when Boquist arrived.

Senators adopted the rules after Boquist, who was a Republican at the time, warned Senate President Peter Courtney in a floor speech that “hell is coming to visit you personally” if Courtney were to ask Brown to send state troopers to round up Republicans. They were known to be contemplating a Capitol walkout to kill a climate change bill.

Later the same day, Boquist made comments captured by a KGW television news crew in the hallway of the Capitol. Boquist said state police should “send bachelors and come heavily armed,” if they attempted to haul him back from a walkout. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon,” he said.

The four-person Senate Committee on Conduct, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, offered minimal explanation for why its leaders decided to revisit the committee’s limits on Boquist. Co-chair Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, read from a prepared statement in which he noted that Boquist abided by the notification requirement the entire time it was in effect and had not been asked to leave the Capitol for any reason.

“Accordingly, I do not believe the interim safety measures imposed on Sen. Boquist on July 8, 2019 are needed to continue to provide a safe workplace for the legislative assembly employees and individuals who come to the Capitol for work or other reasons,” Prozanski said.

Sen. Dick Anderson, R-Lincoln City, asked his colleagues to suspend rather than rescind the restrictions on Boquist. He cast the only “no” vote.

Boquist, who left the Republican Party in early 2021 and is now an Independent, has been fighting the restrictions since 2019. He filed a federal lawsuit on July 26, 2019 that alleged the restrictions violated his First Amendment rights to free speech. A judge threw out the suit in January 2020 on the grounds that Boquist’s statements were threats not protected by the First Amendment, but last April the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated it. Boquist is representing himself.

It’s not clear what effect, if any, the vote will have on the state senator’s legal challenge. Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland, asked Prozanski about the potential legal ramifications but Prozanski did not directly answer her question.

— Hillary Borrud; hborrud@oregonian.com

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