There is news, more or less, to report about the various recall campaigns currently being waged against Oregon state Democrats.
For starters, those of you who have been concerned that the existence of two separate efforts to recall Gov. Kate Brown might suck the life out of both have no need to worry: A joint statement last week from the two campaigns urged people to support both recall campaigns and attempted to downplay earlier media reports of friction between the two.
Said Michael Cross, the chief petitioner for the “Flush Down Kate Brown” recall campaign: “We want to make it as easy as possible for voters to support both recall efforts, so I am urging our great grassroots volunteers to carry and offer both recall petitions.”
Said Bill Currier, the Adair Village man who is the chairman of the Oregon Republican Party: “Voters will have the final say at the ballot box on Kate Brown’s future and that of so many of the state’s abused and ignored citizens.”
So the advice from both of these campaigns is that voters angry with Brown’s actions as governor should sign both petitions. But they should be careful not to sign the same petition twice — that would invalidate both signatures when it comes time for the Secretary of State’s Office to verify the two recall petitions.
Both efforts need to collect more than 280,000 valid signatures by Oct. 14 to force a recall election against Brown, and that’s a big hurdle for both of them.
But it’s not completely out of the question: The dramatic end of this year’s legislative session, during which rural Oregon communities helped galvanize opposition to a controversial cap-and-trade carbon proposal (and a walkout by 11 GOP state senators brought the Senate to a standstill), may have helped to spark the GOP faithful: Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that state officials noted a surge in July in the number of voters registering as Republican.
Here’s the deal, though: Republicans still face a substantial (and slowly growing) gap in terms of the overall number of registered voters in Oregon. As of August, Democrats held an advantage of nearly 267,000 registered voters over Republicans.
That’s a little bit more than in August 2018, when the gap was about 258,000 voters. (The numbers for last month showed 969,455 registered Democrats in Oregon and 702,757 registered Republicans. It won’t be long until the number of nonaffiliated voters surpasses the Democrats; as of August, 932,614 voters were not affiliated with any political party.)
So the math suggests that, even if one (or both) of the recall campaigns manages to get onto the ballot later this year, the odds against an election booting the governor from office are long indeed. As former GOP legislator Julie Parrish noted, “Multnomah County still gets to vote. I think it’s a big hurdle.”
And if Brown were to be recalled, the next governor likely would not be GOP Secretary of State Bev Clarno — she believes that, as an appointee, the state constitution bars her from taking over for Brown. If that’s the case, then Treasurer Tobias Read, a Democrat, would be the next governor.
It’s possible, though, that winning a recall election is not the point of the campaigns. It could be that the efforts seek instead to rally the party after a dispiriting performance in the 2018 elections and to generate enthusiasm for the 2020 campaigns.
To that end, though, Republicans might be better off working now to recruit strong candidates for the Legislature and other state offices. If the recall efforts turn out to be distractions from that work, it’s hard to see how the state GOP will be strengthened in the long run.
In the meantime, expect more recall efforts: Oregon’s new Timber Unity group has filed to recall state Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell, a freshman Democratic legislator from Astoria.