Oregon Democrats demand investigation into Republican state senator who threatened to kill a police officer

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Democrats in Oregon are demanding that a Republican state senator who threatened police be investigated.

A memo from an outside law firm retained by Oregon’s state legislature recommended that Brian Boquist, who made national news when he threatened state police last week, be barred from the courthouse until those threats were investigated. According to the Associated Press, several staff members recorded in the memo that they were “fearful and scared to come to work.”

“This member threatened to kill an Oregon state trooper,” said senator Shemia Fagan, a Democrat. “If that’s not unacceptable, then what is unacceptable?”

A formal complaint has also been filed against Mr Boquist, which will be heard at a special committee meeting in July. At a news conference last week, senate minority leader Herman Baertschiger refused to characterise Mr Boquist’s comments as inappropriate, saying his words were simply “unhelpful”.

The saga began last month when Republicans in Oregon’s senate walked out to avoid voting on a proposed cap and trade bill to reduce the state’s fossil fuel emissions, in an effort to battle climate change. In response, Oregon governor Kate Brown ordered the state police to round up the eleven fugitive senators, who were thought to have fled to neighbouring Idaho.

Boquist, one of the hiding republicans, told reporters that his message for the state police was to “send bachelors and come heavily armed.” He later clarified that he was indeed threatening harm, after a reporter cited his comments as “thinly veiled” threats.

“Nothing thinly veiled,” senator Boquist wrote in an email to an Oregon newspaper. “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.”

The Republicans did eventually return after a week away, but legislature was this time delayed by Democrats, whose requests for senator Boquist to be barred from the floor due to his threats were denied.

Senator Sara Gelser, a Democrat, said Saturday that she would not appear in the chamber if Mr Boquist was present. Citing her disappointment in state senate leadership, she entered the courthouse only after the Republican left the building on Sunday.

A separate memo from the state’s interim human resources director said only the full senate can take action against one of its members. Ms Gelser maintains that leadership was more focused on pushing through policy bills before the legislative session ended at midnight on Sunday night than attending to safety concerns.

“There has to be a point at which we are willing to ... have a rocky floor session if that’s what it takes to make things better,” she said. “People deserve to be safe.”

Mr Boquist told the Associated Press that he had not spoken to Ms Gelser about the matter. He said he was unaware of the formal complaint until seeing news reports on the situation.

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