Another shake-up is in the works for what is shaping up to be a very intriguing and Woodburn-centric election cycle in races for several key state government offices.
Already, three local contenders had emerged to vie for the House seat being vacated by former Woodburn School District teacher and administrator Betty Komp: City Councilor Teresa Alonso Leon, a Democrat, former state Rep. and Marion County Commissioner Patti Milne, a Republican, and Matt Geiger, who ran for Komps seat in 2014 with the GOP but filed as an Independent this time around.
However, last week, Geiger announced he was withdrawing from the House race to launch a recall campaign against state Senate President Peter Courtney, whose district includes Woodburn, Gervais and Brooks, as well as part of Salem.
In a press release, Geiger, a local businessman who also coaches high school football and serves as president of the board of directors for the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce, listed four actions during the Legislatures February session that he said will serve as the basis for his recall campaign.
One was the centerpiece achievement of the session (for Democrats, anyway): the passage of Senate Bill 1532, which will eventually give Oregon the highest minimum wage rates in the nation after it is signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown. Courtney voted for the measure, as did virtually every other Democrat in both houses of the Legislature.
Geiger cited concerns with the content of the proposal (it sets forth a three-tiered regional system of minimum wage standards, which he said will ultimately create economic segregation in the state), and that it did not contain any exemptions for agriculture.
Our agricultural sector in the community keeps hundreds of people employed, Geiger said. Farmers are now looking for more ways to automate as a result of this proposal, and the ill-conceived minimum wage law is going to have negative effects on the smallest businesses in our area.
Geiger also took issue with the proposal to eliminate coal power in Oregon by 2030 and force two major utilities Portland General Electric and Pacific Power to use more wind and solar energy. He said the proposed legislation, which has not been passed as of press time, would drive up utility costs for seniors and other residents living on a fixed income.
The third proposed measure about which Geiger expressed concerns was actually sponsored by Courtney, though it has yet to leave committee, with the end of session just a few days away. The bill (SB 1521) would have allowed mass transit districts to impose a tax on employees of employers within the district, if the district imposed an excise tax on those employers.
Finally, Geiger criticized Courtney for failing to shepherd a joint resolution that would have asked voters in the November general election to approve a diversion of 2 percent of lottery tax revenues to help veterans. The resolution was passed out of the House 58-0 but appeared to have stalled out in the Senate, before being called up for a hearing late last week.
Its time we remove from office someone who is clearly out of touch with the needs of his community and who only seems to care about which special interest is writing him a check, Geiger charged in his press release.
Geiger said he would withdraw his candidacy for the House District 22 seat before the March 8 filing deadline and endorsed Milne for the position. He also said he anticipated filing the recall petition by the middle of next week.
According to the Oregon secretary of states office, the petition would need 4,533 valid signatures to initiate a recall election in Senate District 11.
Courtney, who has served in the Senate since 1999 and as its president since 2003, was most recently re-elected to a four-year term in 2014. Two attempts have been made to recall him in the past, according to state records: once, in 1993, when he was serving in the House, and again in 2007.
Neither attempt produced enough signatures to trigger a recall vote.
Reached for comment about Geigers announcement last week, Courtneys response, delivered through a spokesman for his campaign, was brief:
Im focused on working as hard as I can for the people of Woodburn, Gervais and Salem, who re-elected me to this position 16 months ago.
The last 10 recall petitions in Oregon failed to collect enough valid signatures. A validated petition was submitted in 2012 for Lake County District Attorney David Schutt, but he resigned from office before an election was held.
The states last successful recall election was eight years ago, when District Attorney Thomas Cutsforth was voted out of office in Wheeler County.
As of Monday morning, officials with the secretary of states office said they had heard about Geigers announcement but had not yet received any formal notice of intent to file a recall petition in Senate District 11.