U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley Responds to the Poisoning of Joe Gilliam: “Bring His Poisoner to Justice”

Adds Congressman Kurt Schrader; “My thoughts are with his loved ones, and I encourage anyone with information about this to contact law enforcement.”

News that Joe Gilliam, longtime president of the Northwest Grocery Association, was poisoned twice last year, first reported by WW on Nov. 3, is rippling through Oregon politics. Gilliam, 59, is lying in a skilled nursing facility under 24-hour care, unable to move or communicate, after an unknown person or persons tried to kill him twice last year with thallium, a toxic heavy metal that has been called “the poisoner’s poison.” Last week’s cover story (“Who Poisoned Joe Gilliam… Twice?”) astonished readers, from the dozens of lawmakers and lobbyists who knew Gilliam to the highest levels of power. Here is what they had to say.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), via email: “When I first heard that Joe Gilliam was lying paralyzed in a hospital bed, I immediately thought he must have been afflicted by the same horrific disease his brother Vic suffered from: ALS.

“But the story is even worse since his condition stems from a deliberate poisoning rather than a disease. Law enforcement should do everything possible to bring his poisoner to justice.”

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), via a public statement: “I’ve worked with Joe for many years, knowing him as a good guy with a disarming, big smile that gave him an edge in any negotiation. I read about the circumstances surrounding his illness, and I am shocked and saddened by what happened. My thoughts are with his loved ones, and I encourage anyone with information about this to contact law enforcement.”

Jeff Yocom, via Twitter: “This happened in Oregon (and Arizona)? Sounds like something straight out of Russia, or a le Carré novel. Unbelievable.”

SE PDXER, via wweek.com: “I had a long and challenging business relationship with Joe Gilliam. I worked as the lobbyist for [the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees], the union that represented [Oregon Liquor Control Commission] workers. I fought with Joe over selling liquor in grocery stores. I won twice!

“Joe was a worthy opponent and a fairly good loser. We had a mutual respect for the positions we were in. I considered him a good lobbyist back when you could fight nose to nose and still walk away feeling respected. We were not enemies, just two people on opposite sides of a battle.

“We respected and I think we actually ‘liked’ each other. I am just heartbroken to read of this horrible situation and his condition. I will always think of his smile, cocky gait and quick laugh.

“I cannot imagine the pain and anguish his family is experiencing. I want them to be assured that Joe and each of them are in my prayers.”

Martin, via wweek.com: “In general, what goes around comes around. Certainly a difficult situation, but when you take the story as a whole, and line up all the characters, this shouldn’t be considered a shocking development. Step on enough people, especially in politics and business, and someone is likely to decide they want to even the score.”

Jordan Bowen, via Twitter: “Incredible reporting by a fearless alt weekly.”

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