For the first time in history, Oregon state lawmakers voted 59-1 on Thursday to eject a fellow colleague, former Rep. Mike Nearman (R), for assisting a far-right crowd in breaching the State Capitol last December.
Calls for Nearman’s expulsion increased after a video from Dec. 2020 was recently released, showing him coaching constituents on how to break into the Capitol in what he dubbed “Operation Hall Pass.”
“There might be some person’s number which might be [Nearman’s cell phone number], but that is just random numbers… that’s not anybody’s actual cell phone,” said Nearman in the new video. “And if you say ‘I’m at the West entrance’ during the session and text to that number there, that somebody might exit that door while you are standing there.”
The video footage indicates Nearman “unlawfully and knowingly” performed the act, according to a court filing by the Marion County District Attorney. In April of this year, Nearman was criminally charged with two misdemeanors: first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass, according to court records. This facilitated his removal from all committee assignments.
“The Oregon House of Representatives has taken the unprecedented step of expelling one of its members,” stated Speaker of the House Tina Kotek (D–N/NE Portland) in a recent press release. “The facts are clear that Mr. Nearman unapologetically coordinated and planned a breach of the Oregon State Capitol.”
Hours before the June 10 vote on the resolution, a six-person special committee convened to determine whether Nearman’s expulsion should be considered. The committee, comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats, voted 6-0 in favor of bringing the resolution before the House.
Days before, Nearman received a letter from his Republican colleagues in the House calling on him to resign.
“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 for you to step down from office,” stated an excerpt of the letter.
Republicans had been silent on the matter of Nearman’s conduct as of late but came together in solidarity against Nearman when it came time to vote on his removal.
The sole “No” vote to expel the Polk County Republican was Nearman himself, who was allowed to vote on his own removal from the House. He was permitted to speak on the floor the night of the vote for as long as he wanted, though according to reports, he kept it brief.
“You’re considering expelling a member, for the first time in history, because he thinks that people should have access to their Capitol, especially during session,” Nearman said.
This was not the first time there were calls for Nearman’s removal from office, nor the first time he has faced public scrutiny for a belief or support of a given organization.
In early Jan. of this year, Nearman had to confront calls for his resignation, after OPB reported he had assisted far-right protesters in breaching the closed-off Capitol building. Video of the Capitol’s interior, clearly showing Nearman opening the door for the crowd, surfaced soon thereafter.
Nearman was also formerly a board member for the Oregonians for Immigration Reform, an institution chided by progressives and which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a “hate group.“ He also was among 11 sitting legislators in Salem to sign a petition in support of a lawsuit challenging the results of the 2020 election.
More recently, fellow Republicans contributed to the public conversation regarding Nearman’s behavior, and House Republican leadership parted ways with Nearman altogether after the new video came to light on June 4. Nearman has, on advice of counsel, not answered any questions regarding his upcoming legal proceedings.
Oregon is not the only state of late that has dealt with indicted elected officials. Ohio state lawmakers removed former Ohio House Speaker Rep. Larry Householder, who is under federal indictment after being arrested in July in connection to nuclear bailout funds and bribery schemes.
These actions come after the U.S. Senate’s vote not to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters and right-wing extremists.