UPDATE (5:21 p.m. PT) —Two efforts to force a recall election against Oregon Gov. Kate Brown are over, but another attempt is already in the offing.
With a 5 p.m. Monday deadline approaching for turning in more than 280,000 valid signatures, Oregon Republican Party chair Bill Currier announced his three-month campaign had failed. Currier told conservative talk radio host Lars Larson that the statewide effort had fallen less than 10% short of collecting the minimum number of signatures needed to force a vote.
“We did come up short,” Currier said on the program. “Not by a lot, but we did come up short.”
Another sometimes-competing campaign to recall Brown also failed, according to the Oregon Secretary of State.
Michael Cross, the chief petitioner behind that campaign, estimated Monday he'd collected 290,000 signatures — more than the 280,050 required to trigger the signature verification process. But within hours, elections officials determined Cross turned in no more than 239,260 signatures, and possibly far fewer.
"The total number of sheets submitted was 23,926," a release from the secretary of state's office said. "Since each sheet cannot contain more than 10 signatures, the submission fell short of the 280,050 signatures necessary to trigger a recall vote."
The two campaigns began on July 15, the first day a recall petition could be filed against Brown in her current term. Organizers had 90 days to collect 280,050 valid signatures, a high hurdle that observers in both parties viewed as insurmountable.
Brown’s office largely ignored the matter, though the governor did tell the website HuffPost the recall attempt was “crazy.” The governor won election to a second term last year, besting Republican challenger Knute Buehler.
A campaign spokesman for Brown, Thomas Wheatley, issued a statement Monday deriding the recall efforts.
"The extremists pushing reckless recalls want to overturn the will of the voters who elected Democrats by wide margins," Wheatley wrote. "In rejecting this recall, the public has sent a clear message: Oregonians don't want to waste their tax dollars on a reckless recall against Democratic lawmakers who are moving our state forward."
But Currier suggested his effort had not been rejected at all. He believes it might have succeeded if not for the other recall campaign. Currier told Larson that the Oregon Republican Party had identified “about 100,000” voters who had either signed one petition but not the other, or who had made a correctable error when signing a petition.
“There were enough signatures collected … they just cannot be combined,” Currier said, vowing to take another shot at a recall in coming months. “This fight is definitely not over.”
A governor has never faced a recall election in Oregon, though three state lawmakers have been successfully recalled.
Cross, a Turner resident, said Monday afternoon that he received a "bunch" of petition sheets over the weekend, and was not able to number them all. He estimated he might have turned in 290,000 signatures, but could not vouch for that number's accuracy.
Even if the estimate were correct, it would have left the effort in a precarious position. Signatures are invariably deemed ineligible in the verification process.
"That doesn't leave much of a margin for error," Cross said of his signature estimate. "It’s gonna be an uphill battle."