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Chuck Thomsen, left, talks with fellow Republican Rep. Daniel Bonham, The Dalles, at a recent Salem event. At press time, both had left the state.

Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River) is subject to a possible recall, in the wake of the Oregon Republican House and Senate members’ decision to walk out of the Oregon Legislature’s 2020 short session last month and leave the state.
The GOP members have taken issue with procedural disagrements connected to the Democrat-sponsored cap and trade bill, and Democrats’ resistance to putting it on the ballot.
On March 4, Thomsen was emailed a letter from the Secretary of State’s director of elections, Steven Trout, telling him that a petition to recall him has been filed. The author is Hood River resident Lara Dunn, who is an elected member of the Hood River Valley Transportation District Board.
Thomsen defended the GOP’s walkout and stated that what he called “the other side” was to blame for compelling the Republicans to leave the state.
 
“I am deeply saddened by the current Republican walkout,” said fellow Hood River legislator Rep. Anna Williams.
“I pride myself on being able to bring people together, work across the aisle, and find consensus. That’s a huge part of this job and something I’ve done in my first term,” said Willams, a Democrat serving House Dist. 52.
Thomsen hinted at a return by GOP but did not elaborate. “That’s for the leadership to say,” he said.
“If and when we do (return) but I can’t be sure,” Thomsen said.
(On Thursday, the GOP leadership issued a short statement declaring their “willingness to return.” GOP officials could not be reached by press time to elaborate on timeline, conditions for return, or other questions. By law, the short session must conclude by March 8. Democratic leaders announced Wednesday that cap and trade was officially dead for this session.)
“It’s a short session,” Thomsen said when asked about the likelihood of remaining legislation being taken care of between now and Sunday. “We’ve seen most of the bills and have staff that are looking at the bills and will prep us and the lobby is there to explain it all.”
Thomsen was reached by phone from a family home in Arizona Wednesday, which he revealed when pressed for details about where he had gone. He and all but two GOP legislators have departed the state, just as most GOP members did in 2019, also in protest of the cap and trade proposal.
 
Thomsen and his fellow GOP members have support. According to a press release from the Mt. Hood First, the Political Action Committee headed by Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, “and a coalition of local residents showed solidarity for Sen. Thomsen amid the current Senate and House GOP boycott of cap and trade.”
Field and yard signs with the words “I stand with Chuck Thomsen” have been appearing throughout Senate District 26. Mount Hood First also created a Facebook profile frame for individuals to use to show their support.
Dunn has until June 2 to collect and submit at least 9,025 valid signatures form active elecgors in Dist. 52.
In a Thursday email, Dunn said, “I’m going to start collecting signatures and reaching out to friends, family and supporters about why I believe that Sen. Thomsen has broken his promise to voters and deserves to be recalled. I know others agree with me, and will work with me to gather the signatures necessary to recall him.”
Thomsen argued that the GOP walked out over Democrats’ insistence on moving the cap and trade bill higher up the session calendar.
“The other side made that movement, they forced it,” he said. “We boycotted the cap and trade bill last session and it didn’t pass and we came back and finished 150 bills in one day, but didn’t pass the cap and trade when we went into short session this time.
“Everything was supposed to be fixing budgets and doing little things, not big things, yet the majority party continued to bring cap and trade in and it had some changes such as delaying some of the effects for rural Oregon, but after two years, it would be set up to be the same, and so it would still be harmful to rural farming and logging and things of that nature. There are unknowns about what the bill would do and who would run it.”
Williams added, “Another part of the job, like it or not, is occasionally finding yourself on the losing side of an issue. I’ve been there, and I understand it’s frustrating, but I made a commitment to my district to show up at the Capitol and represent them. One of the issues I ran on in 2018 was responding to the climate crisis, and voters elected me to go to Salem and take action to protect our planet,” Williams said. “By failing to show up and do their jobs, my colleagues aren’t just blocking climate action, they are blocking progress on dozens of other important bills that would benefit the rural Oregonians they say they’re protecting — from flood relief for Eastern Oregon to my bill to improve services for child abuse victims in rural areas. I hope the Republicans will come back to Salem so we can get back to work and deliver results for Oregonians. Voters had their say in 2018. Every Senator and Representative should respect those voters by showing up, doing their jobs, and voting their consciences on the bills that come before them, rather than walking out on their constituents and their duties.”
Sandy Mayor Pulliam, and Chair of Mt. Hood First, helped organize the sign effort. “A few went up on Saturday, then our phones just kept ringing as more folks wanted signs,” said Pulliam.
“The grassroots campaign started shortly after Thomsen joined the rest of the Oregon Republican Senate and House caucus members and decided to stand up for working families all throughout our state in order to stop this cap and trade bill being pushed forward by the extreme left,” Pulliam stated in the press release.
Hood River County Commissioner Bob Benton, a member of Mount Hood First, said in the release, “When they stopped cap and trade last time, groups ran kind of a smear campaign on Chuck. They had to leave the state and it took a lot of guts. This is the least we can do.” 
Pulliam said, “Gov. Brown and the super majorities in Salem are clearly out of touch with families and businesses in our area and don’t understand how harmful cap and trade would be to them. It’s disappointing to see any local representatives stand with Kate Brown and the Salem crowd rather than their hard-working constituents in the Mount Hood community.”
Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan said in a statement this week that the legislative walkout has an impact both on critical programs and the broader democratic process.
“At Oregon Food Bank, our mission is to eliminate hunger and its root causes. We pursue this goal in two key ways: We connect people across the state with the nutritious food they need today, and we work to address public policies that drive hunger and poverty. The Republican walkout places both aspects of our mission squarely at risk.
“If the full legislature doesn’t show up to do its job, critical services don’t receive necessary support. Without a functional and inclusive democracy, more people face hunger and houselessness. There is no other venue to bring these issues or solutions to the table — and walking away from that table over isolated policy differences is an abdication of responsibility to our communities. 
“Our statewide network of food banks is incredibly fortunate and proud to have earned the support of a broad, bi-partisan coalition of elected leaders. But we have no hope of achieving our shared mission to end hunger when half that coalition refuses to show up to work. No discussion or decision-making takes place when lawmakers don’t show up to make laws. 
“Simply put, the Republican walkout jeopardizes critical anti-hunger initiatives — and our democracy. Oregon families deserve better, and it’s time for Republicans to return to the work we elected them to do.”

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