State Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, plans to retire at the end of his term. (Julia Shumway/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
Updated at 3:40 p.m. Monday with comments from Mike McLane.
A former House Republican leader is eyeing a legislative comeback after Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, announced his retirement Wednesday.
Findley, one of 10 Republican senators who missed more than 10 floor sessions during a protest that shut down the Senate for six weeks, is ineligible to serve another term because of a new state law intended to punish lawmakers who participate in quorum-denying walkouts – though Findley and four other Republican senators are fighting the law in the state Supreme Court.
But on Wednesday morning, he made his court arguments moot, announcing that he will step down at the end of his term in January 2025. A few hours later, former state Rep. Mike McLane announced that he plans to run for Findley’s seat in the sprawling 30th House District, and that he had Findley’s support.
“When I went into the House six and a half years ago, Mike was the leader,” Findley told the Capital Chronicle. “Mike was my mentor. He’s an incredible legislator and incredible guy and he really cares about Eastern Oregon and agriculture. He has my overwhelming support.”
Findley, a retired Bureau of Land Management fire and aviation employee and former Vale city manager, was twice appointed to the state Legislature to replace now-U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz. In January 2018, eastern Oregon county commissioners picked him to succeed Bentz in the state House when Bentz moved to the Senate. Two years later, when Bentz resigned to run for Congress, he took Bentz’s Senate seat. Findley won election to the House in 2018 and in 2020 to the Senate.
The district covers a vast swath of Oregon, including all of Baker, Crook, Grant, Harney, Lake and Malheur counties and portions of Deschutes and Jefferson counties. Findley has the longest commute of any senator – a 377-mile, seven-hour drive he makes every couple weeks during the legislative session.
Findley plans to continue working on revenue issues during his final session, including reviving a measure he worked on last year to exempt health care providers from paying the state’s corporate activity tax for administering medication outside of a hospital setting for patients who receive medical assistance. Most health care spending is already exempt from the tax.
“I’m going to work just as hard for the next 13 months as I’ve worked for the last however many months it’s been in my tenure here,” Findley said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make good policies for the state of Oregon and make this a good place to live.”
Earlier this year, he was one of the lead supporters of the state’s new AgriStress Helpline, a dedicated crisis support and suicide prevention for Oregonians who work in agriculture.
He also joined most Senate Republicans in walking out in protest for six weeks, preventing the chamber from passing any bills. Senators gave a variety of reasons for their walkout, but Findley consistently maintained his protest was over the Senate failing to follow a constitutional mandate that bill summaries be written at a middle school reading level.
Findley was one of two senators who filed workplace harassment complaints against Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, for refusing to approve his requests for excused absences to protest and attend church services. The Senate Conduct Committee dismissed his complaint and cleared Wagner last month, and Findley said that process, which he called “humiliating” at the time, helped solidify his decision not to run for office.
McLane starts with advantage
Along with Findley’s backing, McLane announced that Oregon’s two Republicans in Congress, Bentz and Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, endorsed his campaign.
“I am honored to say that Mike McLane, family man, successful businessman, former state representative, former circuit court judge, and now accomplished central Oregon attorney, is a good, true and trusted friend,” Bentz said in a statement. “We spent many years in the Oregon Legislature working closely together on too many difficult issues to count. In my opinion, there is no better person than Mike to be the state senator for Oregon Senate District 30.”
McLane served in the House from 2011 to 2019, serving as House Republican leader from 2013 to 2019. The Powell Butte resident stepped down when former Gov. Kate Brown appointed him as a circuit court judge for Crook and Jefferson counties.
McLane told the Capital Chronicle he thinks his prior experience will help him hit the ground running and advocate effectively for central and eastern Oregon. He anticipates the state budget will be under stress during the next few years as Oregon grapples with inflation and the loss of a flood of federal money that came in during the COVID pandemic.
“There’s going to be a lot of stress going forward and it’s an opportunity for those of us who are used to finding some common ground and working toward solutions,” he said. “Hopefully that’ll be invited by the majority party.”
McLane was the Republican leader during much of Gov. Tina Kotek’s tenure as speaker of the House, and he said they worked well together on some shared priorities, including lowering heating bills.
“Her and I always found common ground, and it’s not to say that we didn’t have our share of struggles and different views,” he said. “Should the voters of District 30 send me to Salem, I look forward to working with her again for the benefit of our rural communities and, and rural families.”
McLane has stayed involved in politics since leaving the Legislature, including preparing a legal memo for Senate Republicans about the readability issue when they began their walkout.
Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson, a Prineville Republican who stepped down as minority leader earlier this fall, and newly elected House Republican Deputy Leader Mark Owens, R-Crane, also live in the district. Owens has filed for reelection and told the Capital Chronicle he plans to stay in the House. Breese-Iverson, who hasn’t yet filed for reelection, didn’t return a call or text Wednesday morning about whether Findley’s decision changed her plans.
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