An attempt to recall a Republican state senator for walking away from the Capitol with his colleagues this year has failed.
Despite strong financial backing from labor unions and other groups, the campaign targeting Sen. Chuck Thomsen fell short of the necessary signatures to force a recall election, the chief petitioner behind the effort told OPB Friday.
The campaign had until Tuesday, June 2, to submit at least 9,025 valid signatures from voters in Thomsen’s district. But petitioner Lara Dunn said that goal became unobtainable amid social distancing guidelines meant to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“The recall effort will come up short in gathering the required number of signatures to qualify for the ballot,” Dunn, a Hood River speech pathologist, said via email. “Our efforts were really hampered by having to stop in-person signature gathering due to the pandemic.”
Thomsen could not immediately be reached for comment.
Dunn’s statement marks the end of a well-funded campaign that she believes would have been successful under normal circumstances. The political action committee affiliated with the recall effort raised more than $130,750 in recent months, far more than other recent recall attempts have fetched.
Most of that money came from labor-backed progressive group Our Oregon. The group’s executive director, Becca Uherbelau, referred inquiries to Dunn.
In contrast, a rival political action committee formed to defend Thomsen has reported raising $28,570.
The recall campaign slammed Thomsen for walking away from the Capitol with other Republicans in February, in order to block climate change legislation that was a top priority for Democrats.
A Hood River orchardist, Thomsen was targeted because he represents a swing district where Democrats have a registration advantage. He'd also told reporters of his plans to travel somewhere warm during the legislative walkout, describing a suitcase packed with shorts and polo shirts.
"State Sen. Chuck Thomsen skipped town rather than vote on important legislation," a website for the campaign said. "We elected Chuck Thomsen to work for us, but he broke his promise to our community."
Dunn said Friday that her campaign had been well on its way toward forcing a recall election before the pandemic arrived in Oregon. The effort quickly collected more than 2,600 signatures after being filed in early March, she said, but was forced to stop in-person signature gathering as worries about the coronavirus increased.
“It became impossible to maintain our pace,” Dunn said in a statement. “I am certain that had we not been held back by social distancing measures, Sen. Chuck Thomsen would be subject to a recall vote right now.”
She did not say how many signatures the campaign ultimately collected.
Thomsen is now the third Oregon politician to elude a recall attempt in the last year. In 2019, conservative group Timber Unity attempted to recall Democratic state Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell of Astoria.
Earlier in the year, two sometimes-dueling campaigns — including one run by the Oregon Republican Party — sought to force a recall election on Gov. Kate Brown, but failed. Neither group was dissuaded, however, and Brown is likely to once again face multiple recall attempts this year.