Anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore said Monday he wants to be tried quickly on tax evasion charges so he can run for governor next year.
Sizemore, a Republican, made the statement after he and his wife made their first court appearance on three charges each of failing to file tax returns.
The couple did not enter pleas, but Bill Sizemore later said he plans to plead not guilty at a Dec. 29 hearing. He also intends to seek a speedy trial so he can get on with his campaign for the May 2010 primary.
"The voters of Oregon _ especially Republican voters in the primary _ have a right to know whether this guy who is asking for their vote is going to be a convicted felon or whether he is just a victim of political persecution," Sizemore told reporters outside court.
Don Hamilton, a spokesman for Secretary of State's office, said there was nothing in Oregon election law that would prohibit Sizemore from running for governor, even if he was convicted of a felony.
Sizemore has sponsored dozens of ballot initiatives to limit taxes and curb public employee unions.
On Monday, he again claimed his indictment amounts to a political attack by unions and state Attorney General John Kroger, a Democrat with union support.
"The unions are playing hardball. They are serious about getting me out of politics," he said.
Kroger spokesman Tony Green said politics had nothing to do with it.
"When the state Department of Justice comes across evidence of criminal wrongdoing, it is obliged to pursue it," Green said.
The grand jury indictments against Sizemore, 58, and his wife, Cindy Sizemore, 49, were unsealed last week. Lawyers for the state allege the Sizemores failed to file tax returns for 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Bill Sizemore has said he has not yet filed the returns but insisted he intends to submit them.
For each count of tax evasion, he could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $125,000, if convicted.
The criminal allegations were the latest in a series of legal woes for Sizemore dating back to 2002, when two Oregon-based teachers unions sued the initiative activist.
A Multnomah County jury found that Sizemore's former political action committee had engaged in a pattern of racketeering by filing false financial reports and using forged signatures to qualify anti-union measures for the ballot.
Since then, he's been found in contempt of court three times for violating restrictions on his political activities.