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Lawmaker's Comments About State Police Continue To Roil Senate

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Bryan M. Vance/OPB
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Republican Oregon state Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, speaks in support of a resolution honoring those who fought and died in the Modoc War in the Oregon Senate chambers at the Oregon Capitol in Salem, Ore., Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

State Sen. Brian Boquist said Sunday morning that no one should have cause to worry about their safety, after his remarks that state police should “send bachelors and come heavily armed” if they tried to apprehend him.

In one of his first interviews since that comment drew national attention — and may have spurred a formal complaint against him — Boquist also downplayed the matter.

“Welcome to politics,” Boquist said when asked about the reaction to his remarks. “The challenge in a Democracy… is everybody gets to speak. And everybody gets to interpret it.”

Like other Republican senators, Boquist returned to the Capitol on Saturday, after a nine-day walkout that left emotions raw and tensions high as the Legislature sought to adjourn. But the senator did not take to the floor when the Senate convened Saturday evening.

Democratic senators Sara Gelser and Shemia Fagan had asked leadership to keep him from the floor, after a confidential memo reportedly found that people in the building feared for their safety.

"I personally asked [Senate President Peter] Courtney and [Senate Republican Leader Herman] Baertschiger to ask him not to come, given the fear of so many staff and members,” Gelser said, adding she didn’t think Boquist should return to the floor for the remainder of session.

Asked about his absence on Saturday, Boquist said he’d agreed to stay off the floor as a way to “keep the peace” in case the Legislature made enough progress to adjourn for the year.

Boquist did come to the Senate chamber for a floor session scheduled for Sunday morning, but Courtney immediately called a one-hour recess. That followed two earlier delays, as lawmakers discussed the situation behind closed doors.

When the Senate finally did convene, Boquist was present. Gelser was not.

Fagan told reporters Sunday that she and Gelser had once again called on leaders to keep Boquist from the floor.

“If we can’t keep a guy who threatened to kill the police off the floor, what’s the point of a conduct committee?” Fagan said, referencing the Senate Special Committee on Conduct, which takes up complaints against legislators.

Fagan said there was discussion among Democrats of convening the conduct committee on Sunday. The committee has been expected to take up a formal complaint against Boquist in coming weeks. It could recommend that lawmakers reprimand, censure, or expel the senator.

Boquist said Sunday he had not seen the complaint against him, and did not know what it was in reference to.

“If they want to have a conduct committee meeting, that’s how the process works,” he said.

He was adamant, though, that he did not pose a threat.

“If people are worried they shouldn’t be,” Boquist said. “That’s why we have state police here. They do a fine job.”

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.