Earlier this year, gun rights supporters launched a recall attempt against state Sen. Lynn Findley because he showed up to work, voting against a controversial gun control bill.
It appears Findley, R-Vale, will be able to keep showing up.
With a deadline to collect 8,289 valid signatures fast approaching Monday afternoon, the chief petitioner behind the recall told OPB the effort had failed.
“I think we’re going to fall just a smidge short,” said Patrick Kopke-Hales, the Mount Vernon veteran who initiated the petition.
Kopke-Hales declined repeatedly to offer an estimate of how many signatures he and other recall supporters collected, but said that the vastness of Findley’s Senate district combined with a resurging COVID-19 pandemic had doomed the petition.
“Everybody went back to having to wear masks,” he said. “It just made life harder all the way around.”
Findley on Monday expressed doubts the recall effort nearly succeeded, saying he knew no one within his district who had even seen a recall petition.
“I find that hard to imagine,” he said. “I’d not heard of any efforts to even gather signatures.”
The movement to bounce Findley arose after the Eastern Oregon lawmaker attended a March floor session, in which Democrats passed the session’s signature gun-control bill out of the Senate. That bill, Senate Bill 554, created new requirements for gun owners to secure their weapons when not in use, and banned firearms from the state Capitol and Portland International Airport. It also allowed schools to create their own firearm bans.
Gun rights supporters, including the hardline Oregon Firearms Federation, had pressed Republicans to walk out over the bill, which would have denied Democrats a quorum needed to conduct business. That’s a tactic Republicans used repeatedly in 2019 and 2020 to block climate change legislation.
But while some GOP senators did refuse to attend the SB 554 vote, Findley and five other Republican senators showed up to argue strenuously against the proposal, allowing Democrats to pass it. The bill is currently scheduled to take effect on Sept. 24, though a referendum campaign is underway that could allow voters to have final say next year.
“Whether he chooses to believe that he was fighting for us, the best way would have been denying the Senate Democrats quorum on this bill,” Kopke-Hales, the chief petitioner, wrote in a statement in July. “He knew he was fighting a losing battle.”
Also involved in the recall push was a Milton-Freewater woman named HollyJo Beers, whom the Eastern Oregonian has reported is affiliated with the Umatilla County chapter of the Three Percenters, a militia-style group that promotes gun rights. A political action committee affiliated with the recall petition had not reported raising any money as of Monday afternoon.
Findley is the second Senate Republican to face a recall threat in connection with the gun control bill. In July, a similar campaign targeting Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod, R-Lyons, failed when supporters did not turn in any signatures by the deadline.
The recall push against Findley was also partially tied to another bill. Senate Bill 865, introduced by Findley and a colleague, would have forced Sens. Dallas Heard, R-Myrtle Creek, and Dennis Linthicum, R-Beatty, to end their senior leadership roles within the Oregon Republican Party.
The bill was a pointed outward sign of the internal disagreements among Senate Republicans during this year’s legislative session, but didn’t go anywhere. Findley ultimately pulled his support for the idea. He said Monday that none of his actions merited a recall.
“I chose to stand and do the job I was elected to do as opposed to run and hide,” he said. “I don’t think that’s really a viable recallable effort.”
Kopke-Hales had a different takeaway for Findley, who doesn’t need to run for reelection until 2024.
“The fact that we got close is enough to say he needs to change his ways,” he said. “If he decides to run again, I will be putting every ounce of information I’ve got against him.”