Tensions were already smoldering in the Oregon Senate Wednesday, when Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, poured gasoline on the situation, suggesting he would shoot and potentially kill any state trooper sent to haul him unwillingly back to the Capitol.
After Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. said Tuesday that his caucus was “prepared to take actions” to prevent passage of a major climate change bill, Gov. Brown announced on Wednesday that she was ready to answer Republican stonewalling by calling lawmakers back for a special session.
Brown hinted that she would be willing to send state troopers to round up Republicans if they walk out in the final days of the regular legislative session, saying in a statement that she is “in close communication with Oregon State Police.” That’s an option Democratic senators and the governor did not use earlier this year, when Senate Republicans first brought the Senate to a standstill by walking out and preventing the necessary quorum.
The governor’s hint that she would consider sending troopers in the event of a second walkout triggered an aggressive response from Boquist, which was captured by a KGW news team at the Capitol.
“This is what I told the superintendent,” Boquist said, referring to OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton. “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”
A spokeswoman for the Oregon State Police did not respond to an inquiry Wednesday afternoon about whether the agency is investigating Boquist’s threat. Baertschiger’s spokeswoman also did not respond to a request for comment. Senate President Peter Courtney’s spokeswoman said she might have a comment, but had not responded by 6 p.m.
In an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive Wednesday afternoon, Boquist stuck with his earlier statement and rejected a reporter’s characterization of his threat to troopers as “thinly veiled.”
“Nothing thinly veiled,” Boquist wrote. “I have been in political coup attempts. I have been held hostage overseas. I have been jailed politically overseas … Not going to be arrested as a political prisoner in Oregon period.”
As Willamette Week has reported, Boquist is a U.S. Army veteran whose businesses include military training and an international operation that journalists described in the 1990s as a paramilitary force of armed American and Russian ex-military officers.
Boquist contends that state troopers only have the power to enforce criminal violations and arrest warrants, not to compel absent lawmakers to return to the Capitol during a legislative session.
In recent emails with Boquist, legislative lawyers have provided copies of their earlier legal opinions that the Legislature has the ability under the state Constitution to have a sergeant at arms or — with the governor’s approval – the Oregon State Police arrest absent members in order to compel their attendance at the Capitol.
Boquist, however, chalked up the lawyers’ conclusions in support of the practice as partisan favors to Democrats.