SALEM, Oregon—The Oregon House of Representatives expelled Republican Rep. Mike Nearman Thursday night was the first in state history to evict a sitting Oregon legislator.
The score was 59-1, with Nearman’s only dissenting vote. He showed no remorse during brief remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Nearman was removed for disorderly conduct of allowing rioters into the closed Capitol during a special legislative session on December 21, 2020.
His actions led to dozens of people – some armed and in body armor – access the Capitol, thousands of dollars in damage and six injured Salem and Oregon State officers.
“Colleagues, it couldn’t be clearer. Representative Mike Nearman deliberately allowed armed protesters, occupiers, to illegally enter the building during the peak of the pandemic,” Representative Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, said on the floor of the House. “He coordinated with his supporters and extremist groups and then opened a door to let them in.”
Lawmakers said the day was “sad” and “gloomy”, but said the lawmaker had a responsibility to evict Nearman after he endangered his colleagues and staff and rejected bipartisan calls for his resignation.
“Eviction is the only reasonable course of action,” said D-Lake Oswego Representative Andrea Salinas.
Article IV Section 15 of the Oregon Constitution gives any chamber the right to punish its members for “disorderly conduct”, and punishment may include expulsion.
Several dozen protesters — many of whom were also present at the December 21 riots — gathered outside the Capitol during the eviction vote in support of Nearman. There were chants of “let us in” and banging on an outside door, both audible from the room of the house.
Cheers erupted as Nearman spoke and appeared through large TV screens set up outside, a staple of a mid-pandemic legislature.
Nearman issued a brief statement denouncing that the building will remain closed to the public and what he sees as a lack of due process for his eviction.
“There’s no reason to hear both sides and at least have something that resembles a fair trial,” he said sarcastically. ‘The party in power doesn’t have to be honest – maybe it will make up for it. So if that’s what you want, let’s do what the people sent us here for. Let’s decide.’
No other Republicans spoke during the floor debate.
Nearman left after all the voices were in, leaving the House room, taking off his facemask on the way. His supporters gathered outside the exit of the Capitol parking lot and denounced lawmakers as they drove away.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, had introduced House Resolution 3 on Monday and created the bipartisan special committee that voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to move the resolution to the full House.
The House has suspended certain rules for the legislative process so lawmakers can vote on the resolution immediately.
“The facts are clear that Mr. Nearman unapologetically coordinated and planned a breach of the Oregon State Capitol,” Kotek said in a statement after the vote. “His actions were blatant and deliberate, and he showed no regrets for endangering the safety of everyone in the Capitol that day.”
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2 videos tell the story
Republicans had remained largely silent on Nearman’s actions until last week, after a video surfaced in which Nearman suggested to a crowd days before the riots that if protesters text him, he might let them into the Capitol.
The other 22 members of the House Republican caucus called on Nearman via letter Monday to resign from the legislature.
“It is our belief as friends and colleagues that it is in the best interests of your caucus, your family, yourself and the State of Oregon to resign from office,” the letter read in part.
Democrats have been calling for Nearman to resign or evict for months, with many doubling down on those calls in the wake of the video that became widely known.
The video — streamed live on YouTube on Dec. 16 — was of him speaking to the Oregon Citizens Lobby, a right-wing political engagement group he described as legislative geeks and mostly “blue-haired old ladies.”
“There might be a person’s number (his cell phone number), but those are just random numbers…that’s not someone’s real cell phone,” Nearman said in the video. “And if you say, ‘I’m at the west entrance’ during the session and text that number over there that someone could exit that door while you’re standing there.”
Nearman is also facing criminal charges as a result of the incident. He was arraigned on May 11. They are crimes, but can be punished with imprisonment.
Before the second video was discovered a impartial legislative inquiry concluded that Nearman “more likely than not” deliberately let protesters into the building.
That investigation was largely based on video evidence from Capitol security cameras.
Video footage shows Nearman exiting the Capitol on December 21 at 8:29 a.m. from the entrance to the vestibule on the side of the house.
At the time, only one protester was standing at the door. As Nearman left, he stepped around the protester and the man ran inside. A second quickly followed and they both waved to others to join them while holding the outer door open.
Three others did so before the police officers arrived and pushed them out again. But by then the door was being held open from the outside and the four officers were unable to close it.
The police eventually had to withdraw because a chemical irritant was released.
In the end, at least 50 people had access to the Capitol vestibule. Six Salem and Oregon State agents were pepper sprayed in the ensuing clashes.
Contributors: Brian Hayes, Salem Statesman Journal
Follow Connor Radnovich on Twitter: @CDRadnovich.