Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Oregon: New debate over who would actually replace Governor in case of recall removal

Oregon is now having a debate about its gubernatorial replacement law. Bill Currier, the chairman of the State Republican Party, has filed recall papers against Governor Kate Brown (D). Another petition was also filed by a local resident, focusing on homeless issues.

What is perhaps most noteworthy is that Oregon's recall law does not provide for the immediate election of a replacement. Replacements are instead "filed immediately in the manner provided by law for filing a vacancy in that office arising from any other cause." A special election replacement race would take place on Election Day, 2020.

For Oregon, that would seem to mean that Secretary of State Beverly Clarno (R), an 83-year old former Speaker of the State House of Representatives, who was recently appointed after the death of her predecessor, would  automatically become Governor. Clarno was appointed by Brown herself.

However, Oregon law also appears to disallow the replacement by an appointed official. Under this interpretation, which is supported by Clarno, the replacement would be State Treasurer Tobias Read (D). The recall backers claim this is incorrect, though this article seems to be basing it on a tortured understanding of the use of the term "acting Secretary." Regardless, Clarno could herself resign, resulting in Read taking the position.

This no-vote provision is fairly common on the local level. However, it is relatively rare on the state level. I believe Idaho has a similar provision. State lawmakers appointed for a vacancy must be of the same party. In the wake of a 2011 state House recall and the 2012 Wisconsin recalls next door, Michigan changed its law so that the Governor  would be replaced by the next in line (i.e., the Lieutenant Governor), thereby short circuiting any recall push.

The recall was filed on the first possible day (after Brown had been in office six months). Petitioners would need 280,050 in 90 days. 

Oregon, the first state to adopt the recall for state-level officials way back in 1908, has had recalls against three state legislators, but never a Governor. Brown actually got the job when her predecessor John Kitzhaber face a recall threat.

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