Aide to expelled Oregon lawmaker appointed to fill his seat

SALEM, Ore. — Commissioners from four Oregon counties have appointed an aide to former state Rep. Mike Nearman to fill the seat left open after the Republican lawmaker was expelled from the Legislature for letting protesters into the closed state Capitol last year.

Republican Anna Scharf will serve House District 23 for the remainder of Nearman’s term, which lasts until January 2023. Scharf, a farmer and former lobbyist, worked as a legislative policy analyst for Nearman the past two sessions.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that nine out of 11 commissioners from Polk, Marion, Yamhill and Benton counties, which make up the district south of Portland, voted for her.

Nearman himself was among the five candidates who were nominated by local Republican party officials.

“If you want someone to go to Salem and bring home the bacon for House District 23 and be in the speaker’s office wheeling and dealing, I’m maybe not your guy. I don’t have a good track record in doing that,” Nearman said during his brief opening remarks Tuesday. “But if you want someone who is willing to stand up to powerful people there, I am willing to do that for you.”

Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett cast the sole vote for Nearman, saying she’d made up her mind to vote for whomever local Republicans had offered as their first choice. Voting for anyone else would be “taking the voice away from the people,” she said.

Polk Commissioner Mike Ainsworth said that when local Republican Party officials selected Nearman as one of the nominees to fill the vacancy, it was a “slap in the face to the Legislature.”

“Any one of the other four (candidates) would do a wonderful job,” said Ainsworth, who voted for Scharf.

Scharf, of Amity, offered no words of support for her former boss, but instead spoke about her relationships with other lawmakers and her continuous work at the Capitol.

“When (Nearman) was expelled from the Legislature, I stayed behind,” she said. “His chief of staff and I were still there every single day. I felt that that was really important.”

The Statesman Journal reported that in the hours leading up to Nearman’s expulsion, Scharf asked the lawmaker to resign out of concern of what the vote might do to party unity. He declined to do so.

During a special legislative session in December, a group of people — some toting guns — gathered outside Oregon’s Capitol to protest the building’s closure to the public and other ongoing statewide coronavirus-related restrictions.

At one point, Nearman left the Capitol, letting in protesters who had planned to occupy the Statehouse.

In June, the Oregon House voted 59-1 to remove Nearman, marking the first time a member has been expelled by the chamber in its 160-year history. The only vote against the expulsion resolution was Nearman’s own.

Nearman still faces two misdemeanor charges in the Statehouse breach. He has not yet entered a plea.