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Oregon GOP chair stepping down due to ‘warfare tactics’ within his own party

Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, talks to his fellow senators. Oregon state senators gather in the Senate chambers on Feb. 11, 2020 in Salem, Oregon.
Kaylee Domzalski
Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, talks to his fellow senators. Oregon state senators gather in the Senate chambers on Feb. 11, 2020 in Salem, Oregon.

The chair of the Oregon Republican Party is stepping down due to “communist psychological warfare tactics” he believes are being used within his own party to “destroy anyone of true character.”

State Sen. Dallas Heard, a conservative from Myrtle Creek, wrote a letter to members of the Republican Party of Oregon announcing that he will step down on March 11. He’s keeping his legislative seat.

Heard’s letter encouraged his party colleagues to “guard” their “hearts against the wickedness” that exists within the Republican Party. His letter did not name any names but mentioned someone within the party deploying tactics that have harmed his physical and spiritual health. He wrote that he can no longer “survive exposure to the toxicity that can be found in this community.”

“The endless slander, gossip, conspiracies, sabotage, lies, hatred, pointless criticism, blocking of ideas, and mutiny brought against my administration has done what I once never thought possible,” Heard wrote. “They have broken my spirit. I can face the Democrats with courage and conviction, but I can’t fight my own people too.”

Heard wrote that Republicans must “beat the godless Left this November,” but also urged the party to not ignore the “wickedness within” their own organization.

“It must be exposed and removed if this party is to be relevant in supporting Republican candidates in a meaningful way that leads to actual election victories,” according to his letter. “I hope you find a way to purge this darkness from the ORP (Oregon Republican Party) and I will be praying for your success and protection.”

Heard waskicked outof the Oregon state Senate during the recently concluded legislative session for refusing to wear a mask. He had been absent from the Capitol for most of the session, and when he appeared in Salem he balked at wearing a mask.

Heard has also made it a practice to vote against bills, even those he agreed with, to protest the Capitol being closed to the public during the pandemic.

He is no stranger to fervent language, having described his colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, as “fools” and “the enemy”while speaking about COVID-19 restrictions.

Heard also recently asked his fellow Republicans to support him for a run for governor. He told Willamette Week that the party declined to give him that support.

At the end of his letter, Heard wrote that he believed God would restore his health and inspiration to return to the “battle for Oregon in the years to come,” but that for now, he needs to rest and fully invest in his wife and children.

It was rare, although not unheard of, for a sitting state lawmaker to lead a state party. Normally, elected officials and party leaders are distinct and often have different priorities and responsibilities.

Party Vice Chairman Herman Baertschiger told the News Review he would step in the role of acting chair until Heard is replaced.

In Oregon, most of the work of recruiting candidates for legislative openings falls to the House and Senate party caucuses, not the statewide parties.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Lauren Dake is a JPR content partner from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Before OPB, Lauren spent nearly a decade working as a print reporter. She’s covered politics and rural issues in Oregon and Washington.