Malheur Redux?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Texas

 I visited the state Capitol last week to see the zombies in action. The hallways were empty, even the lobbyists weren’t around. So I did the practical thing and had a beer with my state senator, Floyd Frank Prochoiceski, and former senator Jackie Dingfelder. Floyd described the lack of communication among the members and their respective caucuses. Succinctly speaking, Salem sucks.

 And although she served in the Senate just four short years ago, Jackie commented: “The House is scary, with a lot of newbies. I hardly know any of them.” Floyd’s response: “Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger; I work in the same building and I don’t know half of ’em.” Floyd Frank often relapses into cowboy similes because he’s from Texas and has dual citizenship. 

Speaking of Texas and homonymic duels, I hope Salem’s not headed in the direction of the Lone Star Republic: Their recent House session almost ended with a bang when a Republican legislator publicly threatened to put a bullet in the head of a Democrat colleague with whom he disagreed over a sanctuary city ban.

Here in Oregon, Republican senator Brian Boquist wants to repeal Oregon’s constitutional ban on dueling by public officials. Bad timing, senator! Turns out our Oregon forebears were prescient when they banned dueling 172 years ago. Years before statehood, the Second Provisional Legislature placed the ban in our Constitution. The ban provides that anyone who participates in a duel “shall be ineligible to any office of trust or profit.” 

 “They decided that it would not be very civil if two members of the Legislature disagreed and then shot each other on the front steps of the provisional capitol,” Boquist said during the proposal’s first committee hearing. Good point, senator. Consider Rep. Mike Nearman and his charming policy analyst Angela Roman.

 Mike is in his second term and lives just up the road in Independence. He is a piece of work, a hard right Republican. Is there any other kind these days? But now Roman is charged with providing a gun to a felon at a March 25 rally at the Capitol, according to the June 6 Oregonian. She has a criminal record including convictions for driving without a license, criminal mistreatment and endangering the welfare of a minor.

Ms. Roman is also affiliated with anti-government militia groups like the Three Percenters and the Oathkeepers. The Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights groups have identified these hate groups as extremists. Speaking of cowboys, these are the same groups that showed up to provide armed protection during the Bundy brothers’ takeover of Malheur National Reserve. Also the same armed groups that showed up offering to “help” the Seattle police control antifas (anti-fascists) during the recent anti-Muslim “shariah” protests.

Marion County prosecutors charged Roman with providing a gun to a 31-year-old convicted felon, Matthew Heagy. Heagy was arrested for pepper-spraying a state trooper during the nasty pro- and anti-Trump rally on March 25. That’s when they found the concealed handgun. Ironically, Heagy was charged under a statute meant to ensure gun transfers happen through licensed gun dealers and that a criminal background check is completed. Thank you, Sen. Prozanski, for your leadership on that gun bill!

Anyway, Heagy copped a plea, and Angela Roman is charged. But Nearman stands by his policy analyst. Mike says he’s aware of Roman’s affiliations with the nationally recognized hate groups. “She still works for me,” says Nearman. “That case involves something that happened on her own time, so that’s between her and law enforcement.” Video footage of the rally showed her standing with a pro-Trump banner, handing out Constitutions and screaming profanities at flag-burning protesters.

 There’s a reason Mike Nearman’s Republican caucus calls him “Representative Near Man.” He’s just not quite all there. He defended Roman this way: “I know she’s affiliated with the Three Percenters; other legislators have staff who are affiliated with 1000 Friends of Oregon.” RUFKM? When’s the last time you saw an armed member of 1000 Friends? Seriously?

 Turns out Near Man has his own video problems. Mike originally told reporters he was unsure if he had attended the Capitol rally. Then footage showed Nearman holding a megaphone with James Buchal, head of the Multnomah GOP. Selective memory loss; hate it when that happens.

 I’ll be back in Salem this week to judge the worst bills of the session at the biennial Turkey Party. Stay tuned.

Former state Sen. Tony Corcoran of Cottage Grove is a retired state employee.

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