science environment

He Led 3 Republican Walkouts. Now He's Calling It Quits.

By Lauren Dake (OPB)
March 9, 2020 11:58 p.m.

The top Republican in the Oregon Senate, who led his colleagues on three walkouts, does not plan to seek re-election.

Sen. Herman Baertschiger, Jr., R-Grants Pass, was elected leader of the Republicans before the 2019 legislative session, taking over the role from Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem. He was first elected to the Senate in 2012.

State Sen. Herman E. Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, in the Oregon Senate on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Salem, Ore.

State Sen. Herman E. Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, in the Oregon Senate on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Salem, Ore.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

Baertschiger, a small business owner with a background in forestry issues, was instrumental in leading his caucus to leave the state to block plans to fight global warming by charging polluters and capping emissions.

The most recent walkout to prevent a vote on the policy known as cap and trade effectively ended the 2020 legislative session before any significant legislation could pass.

Last week, Baertschiger said he worried denying quorum — essentially ensuring there are not enough members present to vote — could set a dangerous precedent and prevent the Legislature from functioning in the future.

At a press conference last week, he was asked whether he would support a Democratic effort to change the quorum rules so only a simple majority is required to do business:


“I would have to give that some considerable thought because when you have a supermajority or when you have a party that is that powerful it almost turns into mob rule,” he said. “And the only thing the minority has is to deny quorum, but I would have to give it some more thought because I do really, really, really worry people are going to use this every time they don’t get their way… This is not a good way to run a state, I can tell you that very much right now.”

Related: Oregon Lawmakers Approve $5 Million For Coronavirus Response

Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, said Baertschiger told colleagues on Sunday he will not seek re-election.

“Frankly, anymore, I’m not shocked when anyone who does this is tired and they are ready to hang it up,” Heard said.

“Because it’s just an intense battle all the time, and if you care about your constituents and the way this state is going, this stuff really gets to you.”

Heard said he knew the drive from Grants Pass to Salem was grueling and Baertschiger had been doing it for years. Heard said Baertschiger never pushed his caucus to walkout.

“We are very independent-minded, just like the constituents who vote for us,” Heard said of Republican lawmakers. “And that was reflected in our leadership style.”

Shaun Jillions, a powerful Salem lobbyist who worked to kill the cap-and-trade bill, said Baertschiger did a “tremendous job in difficult times protecting rural Oregon and his district.”

This post may be updated.