Oregon Cities

Open Eastern Oregon state Senate seat sets up potential clash of notable lawmakers

Tim Burgess
A lawmaker speaks at a microphone in the Oregon state Capitol, with balcony seating visible above him.

State Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, confirmed rumors Wednesday that he won’t seek reelection to represent his vast Eastern Oregon district.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

One of the 10 GOP state senators who walked away from this year’s legislative session says he’s not seeking reelection — even as he participates in a lawsuit that could preserve his right to do so.

State Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, announced Wednesday he’s giving up his seat representing Senate District 30, which includes a vast swath of Eastern Oregon. And he’s already got a successor in mind.

Not long after Findley’s announcement went live, Mike McLane, a former House member who served as the chamber’s Republican leader from 2012 to 2018, told OPB he’ll seek to fill the seat next year. A press release confirming that bid touted endorsements from Findley and both of Oregon’s GOP members of Congress, U.S. Reps. Cliff Bentz and Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

“Mike is a proven leader and has the experience, character, and knowledge of the district to represent our communities very well,” Findley said in a statement.

McLane, an attorney and former state judge, brings a wealth of legislative experience to the Republican primary. He’s also got plenty of experience squaring off against Gov. Tina Kotek, who served as House speaker during much of McLane’s time as GOP leader and who he has called a friend.

But he should not count on cruising back into office, however. State Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, has been rumored to be interested in Findley’s seat. Breese-Iverson recently stepped down as House Republican leader.

“Stay tuned,” Breese-Iverson said Wednesday in a statement to OPB. “I am not afraid of primaries.”

A former Vale city manager, Findley won election to the House in 2018. He was appointed to the Senate in 2020, filling a seat formerly held by Bentz.

Findley has not shied away from political fights during that time. In 2020, he walked away from the Capitol with other Republicans to block a bill to regulate carbon emissions. And this year, he and nine conservative colleagues refused to attend Senate floor sessions for six weeks over what they said was overreach by majority Democrats.

Sometimes the skirmishes have extended to his own party. Findley and a colleague in 2021 proposed a bill that would have barred two of their Senate colleagues from holding leadership roles in the Oregon Republican Party. The same year, he was targeted by conservatives for a recall when he refused to walk away from the Capitol to block a gun bill. (The recall effort was unsuccessful.)

But Findley has also often been pragmatic, willing to work with Democrats in order to benefit his district. He proved instrumental in ending this year’s walkout, participating in a bipartisan group of lawmakers who hashed out a deal for Republicans’ return. He was lauded by some Democrats for his role in the agreement.

Even so, the walkout presented a major hurdle. Findley ran afoul of 2022′s Ballot Measure 113, which bars lawmakers who accrue 10 or more unexcused absences from seeking reelection.

Republicans believe the measure contained flawed wording that actually grants lawmakers an additional term before those penalties kick in. That’s an argument that Findley and four colleagues are currently making before the Oregon Supreme Court.

Oral arguments in that case are set for Dec. 14. But regardless of the outcome, Findley won’t be affected. He’s already saying his goodbyes. ”It has been an absolute honor to represent the constituents in District 30 over the last several years,” he said in a statement, “and I am humbled to have had the opportunity to do so.”

Findley is the second walkout participant to date to announce he won’t seek reelection. Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, announced during this year’s session he would not run again. Four other walkout participants who face potential reelection next year — Sens. Tim Knopp, Brian Boquist, Art Robinson and Dennis Linthicum — all have said they plan to run.

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