Republican Sen. Brian Boquist, barred from running for Senate, seeks state treasurer job

State Sen. Brian Boquist entered the race for state treasurer Tuesday morning, and for a few hours was the second Republican in the race.

Boquist, R-Dallas, filed hours before the Tuesday evening deadline. In the afternoon, his sole competetor, Nathan Sandvig, an Army veteran and renewable energy developer, dropped out. Sandvig, who said he filed on Sunday after being asked to do so by Republican leaders, was surprised by Boquist’s decision to run. Sandviz told the Capital Chronicle in a text message he withdrew “to be done with it,” adding, “I wasn’t prepared for a primary fight.”

In an email, Boquist said the decision to run was not made last minute, and that he had talked with several other Republican lawmakers about who should run for offices lacking a Republican nominee to give voters a choice.

“Wanted to wait until after session to avoid internal legislative reactions. Retribution is quite common in the state Capitol,” he wrote. 

He is barred from running for reelection to the Senate under a voter-approved law that punishes lawmakers who miss 10 or more days of work. He and nine Republican senators staged a record six-week-long walkout during the legislative session last year in opposition to bills on abortion access, gun control and transgender health care. He’s also been involved in several other high-profile Republican walkouts over the years, including one in 2019 over climate legislation when he told Oregon State Police to “send bachelors and come heavily armed” if they wanted to drag him back to the Capitol. He later won a First Amendment lawsuit over retaliation by the Senate Conduct Committee. 

Boquist, also an Army veteran, has served in the Oregon Legislature for nearly 20 years as a Republican though he registered as an Independent in January of 2021. Last September, he filed to run again for his Senate seat as a Republican.

Among other occupations listed on his candidate filing are farmer, forester and small business owner. He is a graduate of Tillamook High School; Western Oregon University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business and social science; and Oregon State University, where he earned a master’s degree in business administration. Boquist lives in Dallas, west of Salem.

Boquist said in his email that he has a deep understanding of state finances and revenue after years in the Legislature.

“I have honed the ability to speak bluntly and truthfully to Oregonians about where their hard earned money is going and how the government machine spends it. I want to provide voters a choice in the primary, and as state treasurer, I would invest in all Oregonians, not just New Yorkers and Wall Street barons,” he said.

Oregon’s state treasurer oversees state investments, including the $94 billion Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, or PERS, and manages public banking and savings programs, including the Oregon College Savings Plan and OregonSaves, a retirement plan for self-employed workers. In the future, the Treasury is likely to be selling many of its fossil fuel investments. The Legislature just passed the COAL Act directing the agency to unload coal-related holdings, and the current treasurer, Tobias Read, has launched a plan to make PERS’ investments carbon neutral by 2050.

Two candidates are running for the Democratic nomination: state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner of Portland and Jeff Gudman, a former city councilman from Lake Oswego who previously ran as a Republican. Steiner, a family physician and instructor at Oregon Health & Science University, has served as co-chair of the powerful budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee in the Legislature for the last five years and is considered a frontrunner

Read, who has been treasurer for nearly eight years, is running for secretary of state.

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Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.