In ads and political mailers, Republican congressional hopeful Mike Erickson boasts of his support for police and pledges to vote against any bills that are “soft on crime.” (Campaign photo via Oregon Capital Chronicle)

In ads and political mailers, Republican congressional hopeful Mike Erickson boasts of his support for police and pledges to vote against any bills that are “soft on crime.”

He claims that his Democratic opponent in Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District, state Rep. Andrea Salinas, wants to make it harder for police to do their jobs and easier to get away with theft, dangerous driving and drug use. 

Left unmentioned: Erickson’s 2016 arrest and guilty plea for driving under the influence, and a felony charge for possessing oxycodone that wasn’t prescribed to him. The drug charges were dropped as a condition of his pleading guilty to the DUI, and he had the DUI dismissed by going through a one-year diversion program. 

Salinas highlighted Erickson’s DUI arrest and drug charges in a 30-second spot highlighting Erickson’s DUI arrest and drug charges, but details of the incident have not been fully reported. The Capital Chronicle obtained a DUI report detailing Erickson’s arrest.

In a statement to the Capital Chronicle, Erickson, 59, said he “made a mistake” in driving under the influence. He said the oxycodone was his wife’s, and that he was holding it for her along with a lipstick and a compact because she wasn’t carrying a purse.

“I have never used drugs, oxycodone, or even marijuana and have been extremely careful since,” he said. “The negative ads against me, run by Andrea Salinas, are full of lies and misleading images. She will say and do anything to get elected and distract from her record.”

This is Erickson’s third run for Congress, after losing to incumbent Democrat Darlene Hooley in 2006 and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, in 2008. His 2008 campaign imploded following reports about Erickson, who campaigned on family values, driving a girlfriend to an abortion clinic and giving her $300 to pay for the procedure.

The election is closer this year, though national political analysts give Salinas a slight edge in the new district that encompasses Polk and Yamhill counties, as well as the city of Salem and part of Beaverton. 

This time around, Erickson based his campaign around a “tough on crime” message. His ads and mailers prominently feature endorsements from retired law enforcement officials and describe him as the son of a career police officer. 

He also points to Salinas’ legislative record, including her vote for an unsuccessful 2021 bill that would have allowed people convicted of felonies to vote from prison, as well as for a 2022 law that prohibits police from stopping drivers for broken lights that don’t affect driving safety.

In response to questions from the Capital Chronicle, Erickson’s campaign sent three pages of notes about Salinas’ legislative record and her past comments about “reimagining” law enforcement.

Erickson has also called for repealing Measure 110, passed by voters in 2020, which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of hard drugs. The Legislature, not Congress, has the authority to amend the voter-approved law. 

“We’re a welcome mat to drug users, drug dealers, and rampant crime in this state,” he said during an interview on Portland-based TV station KOIN this spring. “Our DAs and everybody else does not prosecute them, they give them a slap on the wrist. That’s gotta change.” 

The DUI

Around 1:40 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2016, Oregon State Police trooper Jacob Ferrer was patrolling in Hood River when he saw a man stumble out of the Trillium Cafe and climb into the driver’s seat of a Ford truck across the street, according to court records and the DUI report.

Ferrer watched as the driver, later identified as Erickson, swerved in and out of a street parking area, causing the car behind him to brake, then turn left, roll through a stop sign, swerve into the opposite travel lane and make another left turn without signaling. 

The trooper turned on his lights to stop Erickson, and he pulled over in the driveway of a nearby house. Erickson opened his car door before fully parking, according to the report, and walked toward Ferrer. 

“Erickson stood abnormally close to me, which in my experience is quite common with subjects who are under the influence of intoxicants, especially alcohol,” the report said. “Immediately, I could detect an overwhelming odor of alcohol coming from Erickson’s breath as I was informing him of my name, my employer and that the conversation was recorded.”

Erickson’s speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and watery, but he denied being intoxicated or having a reason to have driven erratically, the report said. When Ferrer asked him to retrieve his driver’s license, Erickson’s wife climbed out of the truck and told him to “just get in the house,” according to the report. 

It took Erickson a long time to go through his wallet, and he eventually handed over his insurance card, but not his license. He finally produced the license after being reminded, the report said.

He told Ferrer that he had had two 16-ounce IPAs at a wedding, saying his last was an hour ago and the first was three hours earlier. He couldn’t remember what bar he had been at, but eventually recalled that his last drink was at the Trillium Cafe.

Failed sobriety tests

Erickson struggled through field sobriety tests, not responding to directions about where to stand and how to walk.

Officers ask people suspected of driving while impaired to take nine steps in a straight line, touching heel to toe, then turn on one foot and return in the opposite direction. If suspects start too soon, take the wrong number of steps, use their arms to balance, stop walking or step off the line on which they’re walking, it can be a sign of impairment.

Erickson took 11 steps out, stepping out of line on his third and fourth steps, stumbled as he turned and raised his left arm to balance on his way back, according to the report.

He also failed a balancing test in which he was supposed to stand on one foot with the other about 6 inches off the ground and his arms at his sides for 30 seconds. According to the report, Erickson immediately lifted both arms and held them out and began counting. 

“On Erickson’s count of nine, he put his foot down,” the report said. “I reminded Erickson that I would be telling him to stop the test and he told me that he thought he was only supposed to count to four. I reminded Erickson that he had put his foot down on his count of  ‘nine.’”

He started counting again, set his foot down again after two seconds and swayed. He then asked Ferrer “You said four?” 

The arrest

Ferrer handcuffed Erickson and informed him he was under arrest. At the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, Ferrer returned Erickson’s cell phone so he could call his attorney. He couldn’t find the number, asked to go outside to get better phone coverage and told Ferrer to “Google” his attorney, though Erickson didn’t think any of the results were his attorney. 

Erickson agreed to a breath test but didn’t follow instructions, blowing around the mouthpiece of the test. 

“Erickson was either so intoxicated he could not understand the simple instructions, or he was purposely trying to avoid providing a sample,” the report said. “He made multiple attempts before the machine registered a deficient sample. I warned Erickson that if the machine registered a deficient sample again, I would count it as a refusal.”

Refusing a breath, blood or urine test when suspected of driving under the influence carries a license suspension of one year. Erickson ultimately blew 0.12% – over the legal limit of .08%.

He insisted it was wrong and that he wanted to get his blood drawn. Ferrer took Erickson to the local emergency room, where he was told he would need to pay $90 within three days. 

“Erickson told me he had no cash and asked me to ‘bring him an ATM,’” the report said. 

Drug charges

While Erickson was being booked into Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities after his blood draw, deputies found an oxycodone blister pack with one 5 mg pill and another empty package in his wallet.

He told police he didn’t have a prescription, and that he received the drug from his wife, who is a nurse, according to the report. 

In December 2016, a Hood River deputy district attorney agreed to drop felony charges for possessing a controlled substance in exchange for Erickson’s guilty plea for driving under the influence, according to his plea agreement. 

The DUI charges were dismissed after Erickson completed a one-year diversion program. He had to attend a two-hour panel hearing from victims of intoxicated drivers and was barred from visiting bars or consuming alcohol, marijuana or other controlled substances. He also had an ignition interlock device, which confirms a driver has no alcohol on their breath before starting a vehicle, installed on his car for one year. 

Erickson did not attend the victim impact panel until January 2018, after receiving a warning from the judge that he was violating the terms of the diversion.


Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Julia Shumway, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.