The Republican and Democratic nominees for Oregon governor can agree on at least one thing: that Betsy Johnson, their unaffiliated rival, should not have tried to pass on the costs of a car accident to taxpayers or tried to shield herself from a lawsuit by pleading legislative immunity.
In 2013, Johnson, then a Democratic state senator from Scappoose, rear-ended another car that had stopped for a traffic light, and was subsequently sued by Melissa Gallentine, the driver of that car.
As WW reported July 6, Johnson’s attorneys tried to get her (and her insurance company) out of paying damages for Gallentine’s injuries by claiming the senator could not be served with a lawsuit while the Legislature was in session. (A provision of the state constitution allows for legislative immunity—exempting lawmakers from civil procedures during session.) Her attorneys also tried to argue that if anyone should pay, it should be the state, because Johnson was driving to the state Capitol in Salem at the time.
Today, Democratic nominee and former House Speaker Tina Kotek criticized Johnson for those legal maneuvers.
“I am utterly appalled by so many parts of this story,” she said in a statement. “First, Sen. Johnson certainly suffered a serious injury, but her callous indifference to Ms. Gallentine’s injuries and her weaponizing of legislative immunity to bully an Oregonian is truly shocking. Then, attempting to pass off the costs of her mistake to Oregon taxpayers—that’s atrocious. Finally, characterizing legitimate public scrutiny of her gubernatorial campaign as ‘ambulance chasing’ is insulting. She owes Ms. Gallentine an apology. Oregonians deserve elected officials who take accountability for their actions.”
Yesterday Republican nominee Christine Drazan, the former House minority leader, took issue with Johnson as well.
Johnson’s campaign declined to comment on Kotek’s and Drazan’s remarks.