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Recall Effort Against Leading Oregon Republican Fizzles

Democratic members of the Oregon Senate stand in the mostly empty Senate chambers at the Oregon Capitol in June 2019, after a walkout by Senate Republicans.
Bryan M. Vance
Democratic members of the Oregon Senate stand in the mostly empty Senate chambers at the Oregon Capitol in June 2019, after a walkout by Senate Republicans.

Gun rights advocates had targeted Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod for not walking out on 2021's signature gun-control bill.

A push by gun rights supporters to eject one of Oregon’s top Republicans has misfired.

As of the 5 p.m. deadline on Tuesday, a campaign to recall Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod had not turned in any signatures, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. The effort would have required 8,922 valid signatures from voters in Girod’s district to force a recall election.

The recall campaign emerged in April, not long after Girod and five other Senate Republicans took to the chamber floor to forcefully oppose a gun control bill. That opposition was not sufficient for gun rights groups that had grown accustomed to Republicans blocking controversial bills by refusing to show up to pivotal votes.

“In the face of an onslaught of dangerous and crippling legislation, Oregon’s Republican Senate Leader has refused to stand up to protect his constituents,” the chief petitioner, Molalla resident LaVaedra Newton, wrote in paperwork filed with the state. “Faced with legislation that threatens the safety and financial stability of Oregonians, Senator Fred Girod had refused to use the single tool available to defend the people who elected him. He needs to be replaced with a real leader.”

Newton has not responded to requests to discuss the effort. Nor has Rob Taylor, a Bandon-based conservative talk radio host who is listed as an “authorized agent” for the effort.

Exactly how widespread the attempt to recall Girod became is unclear. Campaign finance records show a gun-rights group, the Oregon Firearms Federation, spent nearly $14,000 on the effort, including mailing petitions to registered voters and creating a website. That website contains a link for visitors to print out a copy of the petition and accuses Girod of being a “turncoat” who supports the “extreme leftwing agenda” of Oregon Democrats.

OFF Executive Director Kevin Starrett did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the effort.

For Girod, a longtime lawmaker who helps control the flow of resources for Senate campaigns, the recall effort had not presented much worry.

“If they want to spend a bunch of money trying to take me out, they’re welcome to do it,” he told OPB in April. “I don’t think they’ll be successful.”

But the dynamics behind the recall revealed a larger disagreement among Senate Republicans, who had presented a largely united front in repeated walkouts in 2019 and 2020. While Girod and five other Republicans attended a vote on the gun control bill earlier this year — and so helped Democrats achieve the 20-person quorum needed to conduct business — five other Republican lawmakers chose not to attend.

Girod said the caucus had discussed a unified walkout over the gun bill, but that staying away from Salem until the session ended in late June was “not doable.”

The failure of the campaign targeting Girod marks at least the eighth time a petition to recall a state official has fizzled since 2019. Five of those were focused on Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, while others targeted Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, and former state Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell, D-Astoria.

The latest defeat is likely welcome news to another Senate Republican. A similar recall effort against Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, emerged last month.

As of the latest filings with the Secretary of State, that campaign had reported no financial transactions.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Dirk VanderHart is JPR's Salem correspondent reporting from the Oregon State Capitol. His reporting is funded through a collaboration between public radio stations around the Northwest called the Northwest News Network.