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Oregon's New Timber Unity Group Seeks To Recall Coastal Democrat

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
Sept. 6, 2019 8:35 p.m.
A man raises his fist in support of a speaker at a rally in Salem. Hundreds of people rallied at the Capitol to protest House Bill 2020.

A man raises his fist in support of a speaker at a rally in Salem. Hundreds of people rallied at the Capitol to protest House Bill 2020.

David Stuckey / OPB

Oregonians upset over Democratic dominance of state politics have launched a recall campaign against a second elected official.


Members of the group Timber Unity on Thursday filed a prospective petition to recall state Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell, D-Astoria, a freshman lawmaker who first won election in 2018. The effort is a test for the fledgling group, which emerged late in the legislative session to oppose House Bill 2020, a failed bill to charge large polluters for their greenhouse gas emissions.

Acting as chief petitioner in the effort is Darren Mead, an Astoria resident and sign-printing business owner who said he was recruited for the job.

In a filing with the Secretary of State’s office, Mead said Mitchell is beholden to “Portland special-interest agendas” and criticized her for voting on a raft of Democratic priorities during this year’s legislative session. That includes Mitchell’s support for HB 2020, for a new tax on businesses to fund schools and for a bill that reduced public-employee pensions.

Those stances are no different than most other Democratic lawmakers, but Mitchell represents a more-rural district than many other lawmakers in her party.

“TIFFINY threatened our jobs, overruled citizens’ votes, and rigged elections so we couldn’t overturn bad laws,” the filing document reads.

Related: 'OPB Politics Now:' The Demise Of HB 2020 And The Rise Of The Senate Republicans

A political action committee for the recall campaign was established Thursday, and has disclosed only a single financial transaction — an in-kind donation for a post-office box rental.

Mitchell on Friday stood by her legislative record.

"I don’t believe this is an appropriate use of the recall," the lawmaker said in a statement. "They should be used for situations where an elected official has committed a crime or a major ethical violation, not just because someone disagrees with their policy positions or the outcome of the election."


Ostensibly grassroots, Timber Unity is largely made up of loggers, farmers and truckers, but has support from veteran Republican operatives and well-heeled donors. While the group succeeded in rallying hundreds of people to the Capitol in June, its political potency remains uncertain.

In the last month, Timber Unity has placed Mitchell at the forefront of its Facebook page, taking her to task for a fundraising event in Wilsonville — outside of her coastal district — urging members to attend one of her town hall events and creating an event page for a luncheon to launch the recall effort.

Mead, who said he’s a registered Republican, said Friday the effort had nothing to do with political party and everything to do with representation.

“To me it doesn’t matter what letter is behind their name,” he said. “If they do a good job representing the people, that’s fine.”

Mead said he was approached about getting involved in a recall by a member of Timber Unity, and that he was convinced to sign on because he feared policies Mitchell supports would hamper business in Clatsop County — especially HB 2020.

“I had numerous trucking businesses and equipment contractors that flat out told me that if it goes through they are going to shut down,” he said.

A man holds a Timber Unity sign at a rally at the state Capitol in Salem in June.

A man holds a Timber Unity sign at a rally at the state Capitol in Salem in June.

David Stuckey / OPB

State elections officials said Friday the recall effort will need to collect 4,883 valid signatures in 90 days to force an election.

The new campaign marks the third launched against a Democrat this year. In July, two groups began separate attempts to recall Gov. Kate Brown. As with the campaign to remove Mitchell, those efforts take issues with Brown's legislative priorities rather than making any claims of lawbreaking.

Timber Unity has urged its members to sign the recall efforts against the governor, but has not taken an active role in either campaign to remove Brown from office. It is helming the effort against Mitchell.

Related: 2 Groups Want To Recall Gov. Kate Brown. Why Can’t They Get Along?

The effort could be difficult to pull off — and might not lead to much change even if it succeeds. Should petitioners gather enough signatures, they will still need to defeat Mitchell in a recall election in a district in which registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 3,000.

Should Mitchell lose that election, she would be the fourth lawmaker in state history to be successfully recalled.  Commissioners from Clatsop, Tillamook, Yamhill and Washington counties would choose a replacement. Under state law, they would have to choose a Democrat, like Mitchell.

"I understand it’s going to be an uphill fight,” Mead said. “They could appoint someone [similar] in her seat if this goes through and it could backfire.”