Howard Dean, the former presidential candidate and Democratic national chairman, doesnt pay much attention to Oregon politics.
But there he was on Twitter this week, urging Oregon voters to dump veteran Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson after she cast the deciding vote that killed a voter registration bill sought by fellow Democrats.
Deans attack was only the most visible sign of frustration from Democrats and their allies after Johnson joined with Republicans on several key votes to deep-six the majority's bills.
Johnson, 62, has long been known as a business-friendly Democrat who is not afraid to cross party lines. The daughter of Sam Johnson, a well-known Oregon lumberman who was a Republican state representative, she owns an aviation company and is known for her blunt demeanor.
Because Democrats hold only a slim 16-14 majority in the state Senate, the Scappoose lawmaker was a swing vote this session on issue after issue. She joined with Republicans to defeat bills sought by gun-control activists, environmentalists and labor unions, among others.
Depending on whom you talk to, Johnson was either a frequent barrier to progressive legislation or a brave check on the Democratic majority. Her opposition doomed legislation that would have expanded background checks on gun sales and preserved collective bargaining rights for higher-ranking fire, police and corrections employees.
Johnson said she thinks she fits well with the voters of her district, which stretches along the lower Columbia River.
They've always known I have a somewhat independent streak, she said in a phone interview Tuesday.
What made the session tough, she said, was that she spent most of the time in a wheelchair and in considerable pain as she slowly recovered from an automobile crash.
Throughout the session, she was heavily lobbied.
I heard from everybody on both sides of every issue, she said, to the point that people were calling me while I was still up at OHSU in a hospital bed after the accident.
Johnson's opposition to the voter registration bill particularly irked Democratic groups. They saw the bill, which called for using driver's license data to register voters automatically, as a way to remove barriers to voting while also minting hundreds of thousands of potential Democratic voters.
Johnson countered that people who want to vote ought to take the personal responsibility to register.
Dean directed his Twitter followers to a liberal blog that attacked Johnson for that vote and said: We need a new senator.
Neil Sroka, a spokesman for a political group founded by Dean, Democracy for America, said Dean could well aid a primary challenge against Johnson.
Nothing is outside the realm of possibility, he said in a statement, especially if it means taking down a legislator who forgets that real Democrats believe that every American deserves convenient and easy access to the ballot box.
Greg Leo, a former chief of staff to the Republican Party and a Salem lobbyist who fought the voter registration bill, said Johnson cast a courageous vote against something the Democrats wanted in the worst way.
She was consistently kind of a balance point on a number of different bills, said Leo, adding that he didn't think Republicans would recruit a strong candidate to run against her next year.
If Johnson faces trouble, it's from Democratic-leaning groups.
The Oregon League of Conservation Voters criticized her for voting against several environmental bills. In particular, the group said she played the decisive role in killing bills aimed at reducing the carbon content in fuel and in cracking down on potentially toxic chemicals in children's products.
It's extremely frustrating to be honest, said Doug Moore, the group's executive director. None of this is a big ask.
He said it's far too early to know what the league might do in the 2014 election. But he noted that his group helped oust then-Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Clackamas, in the 2012 primary.
Johnson said she's not worried about a primary opponent and it's easy to find Democrats who say she would easily rebuff any challenge.
I think she does a good job representing the district, said Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, who represents half her district, and she is absolutely beloved by her constituents.
Johnson said she begins her next round of recovery next month when she begins re-learning how to walk after fracturing her pelvis in the crash. She hopes to graduate to a walker, a cane and then full ambulation.
She said there's one thing she doesn't have any doubt about.
Oh, I'm absolutely running again, she said.