After three months, the fate of efforts to bounce Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will be sealed Monday.
Two campaigns hoping to force a recall election on Brown have until 5 p.m. to submit at least 280,050 valid signatures. If either succeeds, Oregonians will vote in early December on whether to keep the Democratic governor, who comfortably won reelection last year.
The efforts — which have veered between being bitter rivals and tenuous allies — began in July, when two people filed recall petitions against Brown on the first day allowed under state law.
One petition was filed by Bill Currier, chair of the Oregon Republican Party, who promised to marshal all of the party’s resources for the effort. That includes a signature-vetting process that theoretically allows the campaign to weed out duplicate signatures, decreasing the number of signatures that will be deemed invalid by state elections officials.
The other petition was filed by Michael Cross, a Turner resident who’s been active in the Marion County branch of the Republican Party.
Cross and adherents to his “Flush Down Kate Brown” campaign have crisscrossed the state collecting signatures, but have apparently been unable to attract financial support. Despite claims of raising thousands of dollars, a political action campaign committee for the recall campaign has reported just $100 in cash contributions, and hasn’t logged a donation or expenditure in months.
Both recall campaigns offer similar reasons for wanting Brown out of office. Those include the governor’s support for a bill to grant undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses, the state’s pension and foster care woes, and an effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.
But while those issues have clearly resonated with a segment of voters in the state, it remained unclear last week whether either campaign would have enough momentum to corral the 300,000-plus signatures many believe will be necessary to force a recall.
In an Oct. 10 video posted to Facebook, Cross told his followers that he did not have enough signatures, pleading with supporters to continue gathering. In late September, he told conservative radio host Lars Larson his campaign had roughly 200,000 signatures.
Currier, meanwhile, has been unwilling to provide detailed numbers. Neither he nor a Oregon GOP spokesman returned numerous calls for comment, but Currier offered an optimistic message in an Oct. 1 appearance on Larson’s show.
“We are close enough that in this last two-week drive we could still hit the target,” Currier said. He added that his campaign would be successful if existing signatures were mailed in, setting an artificial deadline of Oct. 7 so the GOP could work to verify all signatures.
As of late last week, though, the Republicans’ signature-gathering effort was still in high gear. The campaign hosted a joint appearance with Larson outside of a Milwaukie gun store in order to attract interest on Oct. 10. Campaign finance records show that the campaign spent more than $8,000 with Alpha Media, which runs Larson’s show.
If one or both campaigns turn in signatures on Monday, it might not be clear for some time whether they’ve succeeded. The secretary of state’s office has 10 calendar days to verify whether enough valid signatures exist, meaning a verdict might not be rendered until Oct. 24.
Should either effort be successful, Brown would have five days to either resign or issue a justification for remaining in office. Assuming she did the latter, an unprecedented gubernatorial recall election would be held on Dec. 3 and could spur a hugely expensive fight for control of the governor’s office.
Even if Brown were to lose that fight, however, Oregon would still have a Democratic governor. State Treasurer Tobias Read is next in line for the job.