Culture Fail: Betsy Close, Oregon’s Newest Senator

Betsy Close


At the time we ran this story we had information that Close had made statements as a witness in a divorce case, but recently we obtained the audio recording of her testimony which left some of us believing she said one thing and others of us another.  So, we contacted Senator Close to ask if she believed someone should stay in a violent marriage and she replied, “Personally, I would be long gone after the first attack. I would not stay one day in a marriage like that.  In that hearing I had no idea that physical abuse was being alleged because I was not allowed in the courtroom until I had testified.  I testified I had seen no physical abuse in the 10 years I knew them and that is the truth.”


At the Advocate, we generally try to remain non-partisan when it comes to local politics. But sometimes a situation arises that makes you shake your head and wonder what those involved are thinking… in any case, it at least requires comment.

Last month, Oregon’s Republican Senator for District 8, Frank Morse, surprised colleagues by resigning with two years remaining on his term.

When Benton County Commissioner incumbent Annabelle Jaramillo’s deciding vote catapulted Betsy Close into Morse’s vacated seat, Jaramillo likely removed her primary opponent from the County Commissioner race—although on the way to her 4th term, she did already boast a sizeable lead over Close.

But it still seems an odd decision by Jaramillo to vote in the first place, given her obvious conflict of interest.  Worse, she voted in a candidate whose personal inclinations and biases make her a scary choice for more liberal-minded Oregonians, including fans of Morse. Close’s predecessor was a much more moderate Republican, called the “last of his breed” and a “pragmatic public servant.” He was respected by Democrats and Republicans alike. So, even given Close’s relevant political experience, why choose someone now who is obviously so far to the right? Interestingly, had Jaramillo not voted, the seat would have gone to Larry Mullins, the CEO of Samaritan Health Services.

Close and Jaramillo’s political viewpoints are in stark contrast to one another. As a legislator, Close drafted a bill attempting to force Oregon voters to present proof of U.S. citizenship before registering to vote. While similar prejudiced and misaligned requirements have stuck in some states, voter laws that require proof of citizenship have been struck down many times due to the potential for “disproportionate harm” to black and Hispanic voters. But apparently our newest Republican Senator strongly supports such requirements.

In 2004, as State Representative, Close was a featured speaker at a Halsey church meeting in support of a state ballot measure proposed by the blatantly bigoted Defense of Marriage Coalition that would ban gay marriage in the state of Oregon. She’s also staunchly pro-life.

And there have been some potentially disturbing not-so-political complaints about Close, even going to far as to suggest that her extreme religious views support ending a marriage only if one’s spouse is unfaithful—rape, and emotional and physical abuse be-damned.

So did the three Democratic County Commissioners, in a shrewd judgment call, choose the weakest Republican nominee in order to secure the District for themselves again in 2014? We’ll see what political and personal ideologies our new Republican Senator for District 8 actually brings to the table—and we’ll answer that question in two years.

By Genevieve Weber



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