May 22, 2024

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Oregon Republicans protest on redistricting: ‘We’ve been cheated’

6 min read
Oregon House Republicans protested their treatment by the majority party on Sept. 20, 2021.

Oregon House Republicans protested their treatment by the majority party on Sept. 20, 2021.

Republicans in the Oregon House were stunned when they showed up in Salem last Monday. They would no longer have equal standing with Democrats on one redistricting committee. Instead, there would be dual committees, one for Congress and one for the state legislature. And in deciding on the federal map, Republicans would be in the minority. Presiding during the scheduled time for protests, called Remonstrances, the Speaker of the House: Rep. Tina Kotek.

[00:00:31] Rep. Tina Kotek: Remonstrances. Representative Drazan.

[00:00:33] Rep. Christine Drazan: At the close of the last session, we came to an accord. It was a difficult, long session, it was a challenging session. We implored the majority at the beginning of that session to limit the focus of their work, since Oregonians could not be in this building, to: wildfire recovery, economic recovery, COVID response, and balancing the budget.

That was not to be the focus. It would be much more expansive than that. And understanding that meant that as members representing the voices of minority political interests across the state, we did everything we could to push back against that. It was challenging for all of us. But at the end of that time, we came to an agreement.

The agreement was the redistricting committee would be even equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats in order to be assured that maps passed by this chamber were fair. Not gerrymandered, not rigged to benefit one political party over the other. I had confidence that that was the right decision, that I could take that agreement at its word, that in fact, we had a chance unlike the last hundred years or so where this body has only been able to come to agreement twice. We stood a greater chance of coming to a negotiated agreement.

I now realize that all along the plan was in fact to get gerrymander maps through this body, no matter what.

Oregonians do not deserve this, they don’t. They deserve better from this body. All we have here is our word. All we have here is trust. If we cannot trust each other, then we cannot operate inside the inside this space, that’s what this is about. We have to be able to trust each other. This didn’t have to happen this way.

We came forward. We asked to discuss these matters. We asked to be able to negotiate these congressional maps. And instead we get a gerrymandered committee, which is going to have a predetermined outcome that is not going to serve our state. Even Willamette Week says this method is gerrymandered. Madam Speaker, you had the opportunity to do the right thing. I ask that you reverse this decision.

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[00:02:58] Rep. Tina Kotek: Thank you, Representative, for the remonstrances. Rep. Brock Smith.

[00:03:03] Rep. David Brock Smith: You know, colleagues, I really enjoyed talking about the integrity of former Representative Gary Leif today. His dedication to community, to this body. And so many people spoke about how important his word was, how he led with integrity and how committed he was to it. What has just occurred is shameful and lacks any integrity, lacks the ability to keep your word. And if we don’t have that in this building, what the hell do we have?

Madam Speaker and colleagues: Nothing is more important. I don’t, I don’t believe, and please stand up, if you can, and remonstrance to me if I have ever broken my word to you.

Integrity is everything for our communities and to be able to have the privilege to stand in this body and represent our districts, but all Oregonians. I’m beside myself that we are circumventing the process, not only to get congressional maps that are the most gerrymandering joke nationally, when all I hear from my colleagues from the left is, ‘Look at what those Republicans are doing!’ But more importantly, you removed the equal representation and co-chair of the redistricting committee that currently exists for the legislative maps. I couldn’t be more disappointed. Madam Speaker.

[00:04:51] Rep. Tina Kotek: Thank you, Representative, for the remonstrances. Representative Boshart Davis.

[00:04:54] Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis: Thank you. Madam Speaker. Colleagues. I don’t know if anybody’s ever been (clears throat) in this particular position to get a gavel pulled, in front of everyone. I learned when you learned.

Abandoning leadership at a time like this, to do what’s been done in the last half hour, is egregious. The maps we’re looking at are unfair, and the only way they’re going through is by cheating. And that shouldn’t be okay with anyone here. With anyone here! You don’t cheat to win! We talk to our children, we say this to our children. You don’t cheat to win.

You can talk about communication, you can talk about relationships, you can talk about all of these things all you want. But at the end of the day, the only way you win is to change the rules? No one should stand for that. And we’ll see in this House, who does.

[00:05:53] Rep. Tina Kotek: Thank you, Representative, for the remonstrances. Representative Bonham.

[00:05:57] Rep. Daniel Bonham: During the legislative session we engaged in the most annoying habit of reading the bills. I don’t think any of us enjoy it. Yet, I think we’d all agree it’s within the rules. It’s something that can be done. It delays the process, it pushes up against deadlines, it could be seen as obstructive, but at the same time within the rules. Fair play. And I remember Leader Drazan gave a remonstrance about not facilitating an agenda, that using a tactical tool to delay a process was fair, and that it’s not our role to facilitate the majority’s agenda. By negotiating away that tool in exchange for equal representation in a redistricting committee, truly should have allowed us a voice at the table.

Having been behind the scenes at the table, I was amazed at the lack of influence that we had, despite the fact that there had to be a path through our committee. I suspected early on, a couple of weeks ago, I said, what’s going to happen? Surely there’s going to be gamesmanship. Surely there’s going to be a change of this committee because I don’t have any influence or impact at this table in terms of trying to drive towards fair maps, trying to drive away from gerrymandered maps.

And I will say the proof is always in the pudding, right? What’s the result of the map? The independent analysis of those maps is appalling. Every media outlet, anybody that’s looked at the congressional maps says the only way you can get to a five-one map is gerrymandering, but everyone agrees that that’s what we’re about to consider is a five-one map. The proof is in the pudding,

We said, we’re going to make a deal. We’re going to honor our agreement. The legislative session proceeded forward without our best tool, that we gave up, in a fair exchange and an honest exchange. And the proof now is in the pudding. We’ve been cheated. We’ve been had. And I don’t know if that makes me a sucker, but if it does, I will be a sucker with integrity and character.

Partisan gerrymandering is illegal. Incumbency protection is illegal. I hope you keep all those things in mind as we move forward. The people of Oregon deserve better. They oppose political gerrymandering. They oppose these maps. I guarantee if you gave them a chance, they’d vote accordingly.

[00:08:22] Rep. Tina Kotek: Thank you, Representative, for the remonstrances. Representative Cate.

[00:08:25] Rep. Jami Cate: Thank you. Madam Speaker. In the last governor’s election, just over 50% of Oregonians voted for current Governor Kate Brown. In the presidential election that we just had in November about 56% of Oregonians voted for President Biden. And I want to know how I’m supposed to tell Oregonians that a congressional map that would give 83% of representation to the Democrat Party is fair, that it represents their vote and their voice on behalf of Oregon. I want to know what I’m supposed to tell them, that this legislative body had to renege on an agreement to fairly represent both parties to make that possible. Oregonians deserve fair maps, maps that more accurately reflect their votes than a 50 or 56 versus 83. That’s a substantial gap. That is not fair. Oregonians deserve better.

[00:09:40] John Q: If the legislature misses its September 27th deadline, a panel of judges would draw the lines for Congressional districts, and the Secretary of State would take on the legislative map.

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