The Oregon Capitol building in Salem. Photo: Chas Hundley
Rep. Mike Nearman (R-Independence) became the first House member expelled in state history for his role in the Dec. 21, 2020 breach of the Oregon Capitol on Thursday.
A bipartisan House Special Committee on Dec. 12, 2020, established Monday by Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), unanimously passed House Resolution 3 Thursday afternoon, which found Nearman “engaged in disorderly behavior,” and recommended his expulsion the Oregon House of Representatives. The resolution, which required a two-thirds majority to pass, passed a full house vote by a margin of 59 votes in favor, to one vote opposed.
No republicans spoke on the resolution, aside from Nearman.
Nearman, whose tenure started in 2015, began facing calls from his own party to resign after footage of him instructing far-right protesters on how to breach the Oregon statehouse with his assistance in December surfaced last week. Nearman correctly told a conservative radio host Monday that he believed the motion to expel him would pass, the same day every House Republican, save for Nearman, signed a letter calling on him to resign.
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“Given the newest evidence that has come to light regarding the events of December 21, 2020, 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,” the letter said.
The new footage, first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting last Friday, showed Nearman instructing attendees of a Dec. 16, 2020 gathering where to be on Dec. 21, 2020, and how to contact him when they were in position, including providing his cellular phone number to attendees on multiple occassions. The meeting was livestreamed on Youtube.
In the video, Nearman referred to the planned incursion as “Operation Hall Pass.”
Democrats began calling for Nearman to resign or face expulsion in January immediately after the release of surveillance footage showed him opening a door to the Capitol for armed far-right protesters during a special session on COVID-19 relief. Multiple protesters were arrested after illegally entering the building with Nearman’s assistance. Police officers who kept the protesters away from the House chamber could be seen being sprayed by protesters with chemical agents on the surveillance footage.
The new footage from Dec. 16, 2020 suggests the act was premeditated.
Nearman was charged in Marion County with first-degree official misconduct, a class A misdemeanor, and second-degree criminal tresspass, a class C misdemeanor, in connection with the Oregon Capitol breach.
Nearman, one of the most conservative members in Oregon’s House of Representatives, compared his actions to civil disobedience in his interview with the conservative radio host Monday. He further pursued the angle Thursday afternoon when he read a prepared statement for the House Special Committee on Dec. 12, 2020, calling COVID-19 restrictions at the statehouse “unconstitutional.” The building was closed during the special session due to the coronavirus pandemic, though livestreamed proceedings and public comment were available online.
“While many of us were working across the aisle to deliver relief for Oregonians who were most impacted by the pandemic and wildfires, it really was upsetting to learn that Rep. Nearman was planning and coordinating an attack on our Capitol,” Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), said during the committee meeting Thursday. “He not only put our safety in jeopardy, he put all of this work to help Oregonians at risk. The trauma of that day will not leave with Rep. Nearman, especially … for many of our BIPOC legislators and staff in the Capitol.”
Nearman was a plaintiff in a failed lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown over COVID-19 restrictions and vocally opposed public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 596,000 people in the U.S., and more than 3.7 million people worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization.
Nearman was also the only elected official in Oregon to endorse Jo Rae Perkins, a vocal supporter of the discredited QAnon conspiracy theory from Albany, during her failed bid for U.S. Senate in 2020. Nearman told The Oregonian in May 2020 he believed in portions of the QAnon theory himself, specifically that the “deep state” was conspiring against then-President Donald Trump.
Nearman was not able to be reached at the time of publishing.