Poll Results Suggest Oregonians Favor Political Consequences for Republican Walkout Tactics

Public sector unions says they'll file a measure as soon as next week to remove legislators who have 10 or more unexcused absences.

Logging truck. (Oregon Department of Transportation)

A new poll, paid for by a group of the state's public-sector unions, suggests voters are supportive of political consequences for senators who stage a walkout, like the one that blocked last year's carbon-cap bill.

"Fully 63% of these voters say they are less likely to vote for an incumbent senator who participated in the walkouts—and more than two in five (42%) say they are 'much less likely' to do so," according to a memo provided to WW on the poll by FM3, which sampled 750 likely November voters.

That's significant as the Oregon Legislature is expected to reconsider the issue of carbon caps next month—the issue that caused last year's second Republican walkout to prevent Democrats from having a quorum in the state Senate.

The polling suggests a further walkout might cause trouble for Republicans in swing districts—and provide an incentive not to opt for the tactic this session.

Joe Baessler, associate director of AFSCME Council 75, says the poll, paid for by the public-employee union-backed group Our Oregon, showed similar results in those two Senate districts—those held by state Sens. Tim Knopp (R-Bend) and Denyc Boles (R-Salem)—where Democrats are looking to upset Republican incumbents. (Disclosure: This reporter's husband works for AFSCME.)

But the poll also suggests there is support for a more systemic approach to political consequences for legislators not showing up to work.

In all, 65 percent of respondents to the poll voiced support for a measure that would "remove a state legislator from office if they didn't show up for the job and had 10 unexcused absences within a year."

Baessler says public employee unions or their allies plan to files such a measure as soon as next week after seeing these results.

"The walkout can't be a tactic that happens all the time," says Baessler. "Government will cease to function in the state."

According to the FM3 memo, "three in five (59%) Oregon voters oppose the walkouts, with nearly half (47%) 'strongly opposed.'" And surprising number of voters—84 percent—were aware of last year's walkout.

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