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Campaign to recall Sen. Peter Courtney fails to collect enough signatures

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COURTESY PHOTO - Senate President Peter CourtneyA campaign to recall State Sen. Peter Courtney has been called off, since the required number of signatures due to the Secretary of State’s Office were not turned in.

Monday was the deadline for the campaigners, led by Woodburn businessman Matt Geiger, to collect 4,533 signatures from active registered voters to trigger a recall election in Senate District 11, which includes Woodburn and Gervais, as well as part of Salem.

“This means that this potential recall effort has failed and we now consider this recall campaign to be closed,” said Molly Woon, communications officer for the Secretary of State’s Office.

“We were close but we knew it wasn’t going to be enough,” Geiger said. “We made a good final push, but it’s really tough to get that together in 90 days.”

But the intent of the recall petition, Geiger said, is to make Courtney pay attention to his own constituents.

“We put Sen. Courtney on notice,” Geiger said. “He can no longer skate by and ignore us. He likes to deal with Portland elites and not the Woodburn/Salem group. Going into 2017, we’re going to be very vigilant. We might not have gathered enough (signatures) this time, but we’ve built a strong network of people.”

He said that network is bipartisan and includes individuals who are interested in running against Courtney in 2018.

When asked for a response, Courtney released this statement through Oregon Senate Democrats: “I’ve worked hard to be a good public servant, always have, always will. It’s the only way I know how to serve.”

The original notice of a recall campaign came in March, when Geiger withdrew from the House District 22 race to focus on being chief petitioner. Geiger ran for Rep. Betty Komp’s seat in 2014 with the GOP but had filed as an Independent this time around.

In a press release sent out in March, petitioners blasted Courtney for being “tone-deaf to his community’s needs” and presented four reasons for wanting to recall the state senator: his support of raising the state minimum wage, his push to help eliminate coal power in Oregon by 2030, his proposal that would allow mass transit districts to impose a tax on employees if their employer is located in that district, and his failure to urge voters to approve a diversion of 2 percent of lottery tax revenues to help veterans.

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.

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 state’s last successful recall election was eight years ago, when District Attorney Thomas Cutsforth was voted out of office in Wheeler County.