Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

By Janie Har September 17, 2011

Max Williams, Rob Patridge, Ben Westlund, Lynn Lundquist, Lane Shetterly: Which three Republicans later became Democrats?

The Oregon Republican Party recently voted to strip anti-gay language from its party platform, prompting one popular online blogger to muse that platforms aren’t super relevant. In a follow-up comment, Ted Piccolo, who posts as "I am Coyote," wrote:

"You had folks like Ben Westlund, Rob Patridge, Max Williams, Lane Shetterly, Lynn Lundquist all get elected. All of them were opposed to the (social-conservative) portion of the ‘platform.' And guess what? They ended up folding like a lawn chair on the fiscal battles as well. Heck three of them ended up becoming Democrats later."

PolitiFact Oregon knows Salem well enough to identify the late Ben Westlund as a former Republican turned independent turned Democrat. But the other four? We were pretty sure they were still firmly in the Republican camp -- and would rather be lawn chairs than give up their GOP affiliation. (OK, we’re not positive on that last part.)

Lundquist was Republican Speaker of the Oregon House in 1997. He ran a cattle and mint ranch outside of Powell Butte in Central Oregon. And as of Sept. 15, he was still registered Republican in Crook County.

The same goes for Patridge, who serves on the staff of Oregon’s only Republican U.S. representative and is running for district attorney in Jackson County; Williams, who oversees the state Department of Corrections; and Shetterly, a former director of the Department of Land Conservation and Development who now practices law. All three served in the Oregon House, as Republicans.

So, what gives? Piccolo owned up to using "a little blog short hand." (PolitiFact Oregon can’t resist pointing this out as a lesson in always checking what you read, especially on the Internet.) He said he is much more careful about language in official blog posts than comments -- but he stands by his assertion that Westlund, Williams and Shetterly are really Democrats.

"... Westlund left the party entirely to run as a Democrat, Williams and Shetterly caved so much that they were appointed by and went to work for a Democratic administration. Whether those two changed parties entirely I'm not sure. But the policies they began supporting after they moved on to their appointments in the State government were pretty much anathema to those of the party."

Williams said through a spokeswoman that he has been a Republican for as long as he’s been registered to vote. Shetterly said he, too, has stayed one.

In any case, Piccolo is not alone in complaining about the GOP credibility of Shetterly, Williams and Patridge. In 2003, the trio defied House GOP leadership to push a revenue raising plan so hairy that legislators were lobbied day and night over the vote and threatened with tough primaries. Williams and Shetterly left to take state jobs offered by then Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat. Patridge decided against running for re-election.

(Lundquist went on to head the Oregon Business Association, which has been slammed by some conservatives for pushing more government spending.)

Piccolo was gracious enough to talk to us about a throwaway comment posted online. He acknowledged he could have explained what he meant more fully. Generally, we think people should be able to criticize elected officials and opine freely without worrying about the raters at PolitiFact.

But we have to call this one out, if only to set the party record straight. Shetterly and Williams may not be Republicans in Coyote’s eyes, but according to registration records, they remain Republican voters. He could have called them RINOs, Republican in name only, but he chose to call them Democrats -- for him a more derogatory term. We rate the claim False, knowing full well that others would rate this anywhere from True to a Pants on Fire, depending on their political views.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

NW Republican, "ORGOP Platform Language Change: Statement from MultCo GOP Chair," Sept. 13, 2011
The Oregonian, "The scene: Onslaught of calls, e-mails and chats keeps the outcome in doubt until a switched vote carries the day," Aug. 21, 2003
The Oregonian, "Fed-up legislators electing to leave," March 9, 2004
E-mail from and interview with Ted Piccolo, Sept. 15, 2011
E-mail from Chane Griggs, Sept. 16, 2011
E-mail from Lane Shetterly, Sept. 16, 2011
Polk County Elections, Sept. 15, 2011
Jackson County Elections, Sept. 15, 2011
Crook County Elections, Sept. 15, 2011
Washington County Elections, Sept. 15, 2011

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Janie Har

Max Williams, Rob Patridge, Ben Westlund, Lynn Lundquist, Lane Shetterly: Which three Republicans later became Democrats?

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up