Image for Knopp of Bend Tapped to Lead Fractious Senate Caucus

Tim Knopp was chosen last week to lead the fractious GOP Senate caucus heading into the short 2022 legislative session and next year’s post-redistricting elections. He replaces Senator Fred Girod, R-Lyons, who stepped down as Senate Minority Leader for health reasons after a session when several Republican senators stopped attending caucus meetings.

However, Knopp, a Republican from Bend and a veteran lawmaker, identified his biggest challenge in his new job as electing more Republican senators. “The biggest goal is to add numbers to the caucus. To create more balance in Oregon. Right now, the legislature is way out of balance and one view is over-represented based on where Oregonians are really at.”

Knopp personally understands the challenge Republicans face to grow their current 11-member caucus. He survived a stiff re-election challenge in 2020 by winning with a slim 50.7 percent of the vote. Knopp won re-election in 2016 with more than 60 percent of the vote. His newly redrawn Senate District 27 includes Bend, Redmond and rural areas of Deschutes County

Like Girod, Knopp will be under pressure to use delay tactics, such as requiring all bills to be read in full before floor votes and walkouts to deny quorums, to combat Democratic legislative priorities. When Girod chose to attend a floor session in the 2021 session to oppose a bill strengthening gun laws rather than boycott, he was subjected to a recall effort, which ultimately fizzled, but left scars.

Knopp stayed in the state Capitol during the first of two nationally publicized GOP walkouts in the 2019 session that eventually led to the defeat of cap-and-trade legislation intended to combat climate change. He joined his GOP colleagues in the second walkout, saying, “I feel no constitutional obligation to stand around so [Democrats] can pass their leftist progressive agenda.”

No one would question Knopp’s conservative credentials. However, he has a reputation for putting a higher premium on policy than politics. Knopp played a role in creating Oregon’s family medical leave program, cosponsored legislation to address workplace sexual discrimination, pushed affordable housing initiatives and rejected claims the January 6 attack on the US Capitol was staged by anti-Trump groups. He has defended Oregon’s income tax kicker, supported the right of Oregonians to refuse vaccination and questioned the scientific consensus on climate change.

The biggest goal is to add numbers to the caucus to create more balance in Oregon. Right now, the legislature is way out of balance and one view is over-represented.

Knopp was elected to the Oregon House in 1998. Knopp stepped away from elective office after three terms to concentrate on his job as executive vice president of the Central Oregon Builders Association. He is married and has four children. He returned to politics by capturing the Bend-area Senate district in 2012.

In many ways, Knopp is the obvious choice to lead the Senate Republican caucus. He is well-spoken, thoughtful and mindful his constituency may have more Democrats than Republicans. There was a reason Governor Brown called to congratulate him on his new role.

Knopp will need to find a way to work with his Republican counterpart in the House – Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby. Drazan drew ire, including from her own caucus, for filing a censure motion against Speaker Tina Kotek after Democrats pushed through their congressional redistricting map that heavily favored Democrats, including for the new Sixth Congressional District. Drazan orchestrated a walkout that delayed the original date for the floor vote.

On the other side of the Capitol, Knopp sat on the Senate Redistricting Committee and successfully persuaded Democrats to adopt several changes to the legislative redistricting map. While critical of the congressional map, Knopp told reporters the legislative redistricting map was fair. The changes he negotiated may have persuaded House Republicans to return and give Democrats a quorum to pass both redistricting maps. If the legislature failed to pass legislative redistricting, the task would have fallen to Democratic Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.

Ironically, Drazan’s House District 39 no longer includes Canby and will likely be captured in the next election by Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, a frontrunner for Speaker to succeed Kotek who is running for governor. Drazan will run for re-election in House District 51, which Bynum currently represents. Both districts include suburban areas in Clackamas County.