Ousted Oregon Rep. Nearman pens news website on lawmakers
Expelled state Rep. Mike Nearman has been in the news plenty this year.
Turns out, he wants to write it, too.
The Independence, Oregon-based Republican has been quietly publishing the web-only Northwest Observer since July of last year.
With roughly 1,000 followers each on Facebook and Twitter, it's not a general circulation news source for the state. But it's certainly attracted the attention of those refreshing the #Orpol and #Orleg internet hashtags that insiders use to track the back and forth in Salem.
State Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie, first noted that state business records listed her then-colleague as the owner of the Observer, prompting Nearman to publish a one-off describing the digital paper as "outed" and admitting he does some writing for the site. The Observer doesn't have a staff page listing that information elsewhere.
Exactly how often Nearman turns his pen on state lawmakers depends on who you ask.
Observer contributor Donna Bleiler said Nearman writes "most" of the articles with the anonymous byline "staff reports," which populate much of the site's daily coverage.
"I'm sure others have written a few, too. But I think Mike is the only one that can tell you for sure," said Bleiler, who has written about 200 articles for the site on an unpaid basis.
But associate editor Ben Fisher described Nearman as an "occasional" writer for the site and downplayed his significance.
"Everybody — they try to focus on who's writing. I think what's more important is our content, rather than who it might be," he said. "By all means it's not just him or only him. I'm largely responsible for it."
Fisher said the site — which was built by Nearman, a former computer programmer — isn't a money-making venture, describing it as a calling. The 42-year-old said anonymity was necessary due to safety concerns.
"You won't see my name on a lot of articles. I've been a target. I've gotten some masked phone calls from antifa," said Fisher.
"We put a conservative view to the facts the same as the left does putting their spin on facts," added Bleiler. "We are all volunteers."
Nearman first took office in 2014 after primarying a fellow Republican. He came to international attention for opening a side door of the Oregon State Capitol during a special session on Dec. 21 of last year — spurring a scuffle between armed protesters and state troopers enforcing a COVID-related closure of the building. He now faces criminal charges in the matter.
In a first for Oregon history, state lawmakers voted 59-1 to expel Nearman in June, though he could be back sooner than later. According to OPB, Nearman has filed paperwork indicating his willingness to be appointed to his old seat, though it's unclear if Republican party precinct officials and local county commissioners are actually willing to give him the nod.
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