The efforts to put a recall of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on the ballot is a visible sign of the rural-urban divide.
There are two separate efforts underway — one sponsored by the Oregon Republican Party, the other by a self-proclaimed grassroots organization that goes by the descriptive moniker “Flush down Kate Brown.”
To get a recall on the ballot, either group needs to collect 280,050 valid signatures from registered voters by Oct. 14. Realistically, either effort will need well over 300,000 signatures to survive challenges.
Our colleagues at the Oregon Capital Bureau talked with people signing the petitions at the Oregon State Fair.
The majority of those interviewed at the fair struggled to specify why they wanted to recall Brown, and seemed to be doing so based on a gut feeling. Most commonly, people brought up cap and trade — a failed effort by the Legislature that Brown backed to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“My understanding is that a lot of people just don’t think Salem cares about them right now,” said Linn County GOP Chair Adam Keaton.
Indeed. Many Oregonians feel that political leaders such as Brown have not only abandoned them but are actively working against their interests.
Kate Brown is not a wildly popular governor. As secretary of state, she ascended to office when John Kitzhaber resigned in 2015. She barely won a majority of votes in the special election to fulfill Kitzhaber’s remaining term in 2016 and won just 50% of the vote in 2018 when she was elected for her own four-year term. A recent poll found her to be one of the least popular governors in the country.
Recall efforts are a long shot, even with officials of marginal popularity. In the absence of actual corruption or malfeasance, we question the wisdom of trying to overturn legitimate elections either by recall or impeachment. It’s a clumsy way to reconcile policy differences.
Still, we understand the frustration that farmers, ranchers, loggers, truckers, fishermen and other working Oregonians — rural and urban — are feeling. They think they have no other options left but to replace Kate Brown with the next officer in the line of succession — state Treasurer Tobias Read, a Democrat who is at least as liberal as Brown.
What they really want is for Brown and other urban leaders to hear their concerns and take them seriously.
Do they have her attention now? We can only hope.