WASHINGTON ― She’s pushing for bold action on climate change. She signed a law allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. And as the Democratic governor of Oregon, Kate Brown has the authority to take executive action on those fronts and many more.
In response, the GOP is trying to remove her from office.
The chair of the Oregon Republican Party is leading an effort to recall Brown because, simply put, she and Democratic legislators are advancing policies the GOP doesn’t like.
“The people of Oregon deserve and expect a Governor that honors the will of the voters and works for the good of all citizens, not just special interests and politically-motivated agendas,” party chair Bill Currier says in his recall petition, which he filed last month.
He lists Brown’s support for a cap-and-trade climate bill and granting undocumented immigrants driving privileges among his reasons for launching the recall effort. Currier also complains about Brown’s willingness to use executive powers to advance her policies, saying she has “threatened to usurp legislative power with executive orders to implement her failed legislation, deciding single-handedly what is best for Oregon.”
If this sounds bizarre, that’s because it is. Brown has another word for it.
“Crazy,” she said in a recent sit-down with HuffPost.
“Not only have I had one election in the last three years, I’ve had two. And I won both of them handily,” Brown said. “So what part of the will of the voters are they ignoring?”
A spokesperson for the Oregon Republican Party did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
To be sure, it’s very unlikely the GOP’s recall effort will work; organizers would have to collect 280,000 valid signatures by mid-October, and Brown just won reelection in November with more than 50% of the vote. If anything, it’s more of a stunt to boost Republican engagement and fundraising.
There’s a similar recall effort underway in Colorado aimed another Democratic governor, Jared Polis. As one Colorado GOP strategist put it to The Associated Press, it’s “recall season” for Republicans seeking a do-over of election results.
But it’s just the latest tactic Republicans in Oregon are using to try to undermine the Democratic stronghold in their state’s government. In June, GOP state senators fled the state to prevent a vote on a cap-and-trade climate bill that would have dramatically reduced carbon emissions by 2050. Brown dispatched the state police to round them up, which triggered safety threats from a far-right militia group that forced Democrats to cancel a Saturday Senate session. The climate bill died as a result.
Brown called the GOP senators’ actions “a subversion of democracy.”
“They are in the minority, way in the minority. It’s like, ‘You lost,’” she said. “They didn’t have any other tool, so they left. They literally shut down the legislative branch.”
The drama over the climate bill came at the end of an otherwise productive legislative session for Democrats. They passed two criminal justice reform bills, one that reduces the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and another that gives juveniles the chance to be tried in juvenile court if charged with a major crime. They passed a sweeping paid family leave bill that Brown called “the best policy in the country right now.” They passed a $2 billion school spending bill. And Brown signed a law that prepays postage on all mail ballots, which will make voting even more convenient in a state where most residents vote by mail.
Senate Republicans killed some of Brown’s other priority legislation, though. They threatened to leave town again if Democrats brought up a gun safety bill and a bill boosting student vaccinations, so neither got a vote.
“It was unfortunate. I saw the Republicans leaving as D.C. politics coming to Oregon,” said the governor. “But by the same token, we were able to actually get shit done.”
Brown isn’t done trying to push through a climate change bill. The legislature comes back into session in February and she’s already focused on preparing a bill for then. She said she prefers passing legislation to taking executive action to get it done, but hinted that if that won’t work, she’s prepared to use her authority to act unilaterally.
“We are focused on all of our options right now,” she said.