Oregon House ousts GOP rep for helping protesters enter state Capitol
The Oregon House on Thursday voted 59-1 to expel Republican state Rep. Mike Nearman, who was accused of helping far-right protesters enter the state Capitol in December.
The vote is the first time the legislative body has ejected a sitting representative, according to The Oregonian.
Nearman’s seat will likely remain vacant for the remainder of the legislative session, which is scheduled to end on June 27.
The 22 other state House Republicans reportedly remained silent during the floor debate. Nearman was the lone “no” vote against his ouster.
He had previously been stripped of committee assignments and forced to pay $2,000 to make up for damages caused by the protesters.
The lawmaker declined to answer questions at the advice of his attorney during a committee hearing on the expulsion proposal, according to the outlet.
He simply said it is against the Oregon Constitution to close the state Capitol to the public and it was “a place they had a right to be, a place the legislative assembly had no right to exclude them from.”
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) said in a statement after the vote that “elected leaders must be held to the highest possible standard.”
“The facts are clear that Mr. Nearman unapologetically coordinated and planned a breach of the Oregon state Capitol,” Kotek said. “His actions were blatant and deliberate, and he has shown no remorse for jeopardizing the safety of every person in the Capitol that day. Given the extraordinary circumstances, this was the only reasonable path forward.”
Oregon House Republican Leader Christine Drazan said the incident could have led to someone’s death.
“[Nearman] made a decision to intentionally come up with a plan to let people into the building [when] he did not know how that would turn out and he was comfortable with that,” Drazan said on the public radio show “Think Out Loud.” “I am not comfortable with that. There could easily have been a death on that day.”
The vote comes after Nearman was charged with two misdemeanors: first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass.
Court records state Nearman “unlawfully and knowingly” aided in allowing far-right protesters, some of whom were armed with rifles and pepper spray, to enter the statehouse while lawmakers inside carried out a special session on COVID-19 regulations.
The building was closed at the time and remains so due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The four-term Republican was seen on surveillance video on Dec. 21 leaving the building through a locked door and stepping aside so that demonstrators waiting nearby could slip inside.
The protesters then clashed with police and allegedly sprayed law enforcement officers with bear mace, according to officials.
Another video appeared to show Nearman talking to an audience of protesters about how they could get inside the Capitol, even telling them to text his cellphone, the outlet noted.
“Somebody might exit that door while you’re standing there,” Nearman said, nicknaming the plan “Operation Hall Pass.”
At least three people involved in the Oregon Capitol protest were active participants during the Washington, D.C., Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The Oregonian reported that the group also included the right-wing, Vancouver-based group Patriot Prayer. People were seen wearing Three Percenters militia logos and a Confederate flag hat.