A newly proposed bill would bar state Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Myrtle Creek, from holding office in the Oregon Republican Party while simultaneously serving as a state elected official.
The bill’s sponsors argued there are potential conflicts of interest involved in holding both party and legislative positions, but Heard told The News-Review Thursday that the bill would take away the rights of the people to choose their leaders for both party and Legislature.
“Why should the people have the person they’ve chosen to serve them in either position ripped away from them through no choice of their own, but through the choice of a few elitists up in Salem from both parties?” Heard said.
Senate Bill 865 was introduced in the state Senate Wednesday by two of Heard’s fellow Republicans, Sens. Lynn Findley and Bill Hansell, and by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner.
The bill would also impact state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, who is the treasurer of the Republican Party. In addition to legislators, the bill would bar governors, Supreme Court justices and other elected state officials from becoming office holders of any political party.
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Elected officials who violated the rule would be charged $250 per day.
Heard has been chairperson of the Oregon Republican Party, which is a separate entity from the Legislature, since February.
Responding to speculation that the bill’s introduction reflects a growing rift among Republican legislators, Heard likened it to family conflict.
“There’s always squabbles going on in every family. So there’s really nothing new about that. Doing a good job often creates opponents. It’s just the sad world we live in,” he said.
Heard has been at the center of controversy at the state Capitol more than once over the past year, especially over COVID-19 safety restrictions.
In March, he pledged to vote “no” on every bill until the Capitol building was reopened to the public.
In December, he removed his mask on the Senate floor, to protest COVID-19 safety rules.
Sen. Dallas Heard plans to vote no on every bill until Capitol opens
During a protest at the state Capitol on Jan. 6, in which demonstrators called for the building to reopen to the public, Heard had this to say about state leaders as he gestured to the state Capitol.
“Don’t let any of these punks from that stone temple over there ever tell you they are better than any of you. Trust me, I work with these fools. None of them are half as good as any of you and you need to bring the power to them,” he said.
OPB reported Hansell and Findley said in a joint statement they had been contacted by constituents in and out of the Republican party who were concerned about mixing party politics with legislative policy.
“All of a sudden, certain votes are being seen as official positions of all Republicans in Oregon when they aren’t, and vice versa. There are potential conflicts of interest and ethical considerations, and we have a responsibility to ensure the integrity of the legislature is not in question,” the senators said.
There’s no guarantee SB 865 will ultimately pass, but if it does Heard said he would challenge it on principle.
“My goal is to represent my constituents to the best of my ability in fighting for their freedoms and their rights in the Senate, and then my goal as the chair and the party leader for the state for the Republican Party is to help the Republican Party move forward and be much the same, be a party of integrity, honesty, transparency and a group that represents freedom and liberty for all people,” he said.