Thatcher among DQed legislators

State Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, can’t seek reelection in 2026 based on a decision by Secretary of State La Vonne Griffin-Valade announced Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Griffin-Valade ordered the Oregon Elections Division to implement an administrative rule that Measure 113 disqualifies legislators from running for reelection if they racked up 10 or more unexcused absences during the 2023 Legislature.

“It is clear voters intended Measure 113 to disqualify legislators from running for reelection if they had 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session,” said Secretary Griffin-Valade. “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution.”

In the 2022 general election, Marion County voters approved Measure 113 by a 62%-38% margin.

 In a letter posted on her website on June 18, titled Response to Return of a Quorum, state Senator Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer), criticized fellow Republican lawmakers for surrendering to the majority Democrats to provide a quorum for Senate business after a six-week walkout. 

In her letter the senator wrote she could not, in good conscience, return to the Senate floor until ongoing Constitutional concerns or breaking the rules are “adequately addressed.” 

The main issue that caused a Senate Republican walkout was House Bill 2002, which establishes a right to make decisions about an individual’s reproductive health and allows individuals to bring civil action against public body to enforce right. The bill clarifies circumstances permitting a minor under the age of 15 to obtain an abortion without consent of parent or guardian. The bill also prohibits health benefit plan exclusion of medically necessary gender-affirming treatments. 

Rate payers will pay 100% of “gender affirming care,: such as facial feminization, tracheal shaving, hormone treatments and genital reconfiguration. 

The bill has “loopholes you can drive a truck through,” said Thatcher. 

In an interview earlier this year, Thatcher said she believed much of the gender affirming care legislation was brought by outside groups. “It’s not just Oregon, it’s national organizations.” She said that HB2002 requires insurance companies to pay for all of that care while some cancer patients have to spend tens of thousands of dollars for their care. 

When asked what the Republicans can do when voters don’t buy what the GOP is selling, Thatcher said that a switch of about 1,500 votes in the 2022 general election would have resulted with Republicans in control of the state legislature. 

As a deputy minority leader, Thatcher works to be sure her voice is heard when she meets with her caucus leader. 

“The caucus is not run with an iron fist. When I speak my mind, I am heard,” said Thatcher. 

The senator had more than 10 unexcused absences during the Republican walkout. Measure 113 excludes a legislator from re-election if they have 10 or more unexcused absences. There is expected to be a legal challenge to the constitutionality of Measure 113. 

Thatcher was among nine GOP senators and one independent who ducked out of the Senate during the last legislative session in a move to block a series of Democratically-sponsored bills they disagreed with.

In Oregon, two-thirds of the members of the Senate must be on hand to constitute a quorum for votes on legislation. With no quorum, bills stall.

In her announcement, Griffin-Valade said she “found no suggestion prior to enactment – in the voters’ pamphlet, media or otherwise – that the measure was understood or intended to allow absent legislator to serve an additional term after accumulating too many absences, and then be disqualified the term after that.”

She said that voters “universally understood” that the bar to running for reelection involved “the immediate next term.”

Not long after the Griffin-Valade’s announcement, GOP Senate Republican leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, released a statement.

“We believe the plain language of Measure 113 allows for members to run again in 2024 elections. We disagree with the Secretary of State’s determination and will challenge it in court,” wrote Knopp.

Senator Thatcher responded via written text regarding the Secretary of State’s decision: “I’d say the decision is no surprise. It used to be that law was determined by the objective plain English of law. Not on the subjective intent of the law. But it remains to be seen whether this will happen.”