Secretary Of State Kate Brown Makes A Decision. She Should Have Kept The Training Wheels On.

Posted on March 19, 2012 by

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Late on Monday afternoon, Nigel Jaquiss of Portland’s weekly alternative journal dropped a bomb on Oregon politics:

Bombshell: Labor Commissioner Race Pushed to November

State Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) received what he calls “stunning” news late Friday. Starr is challenging incumbent Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian in a nonpartisan, statewide contest that both men expected to appear on the May 15 primary ballot.

But when a Starr aide called the state Elections Division late Friday to confirm receipt of Starr’s check and  statement for the Voters’ Pamphlet, that aide received a shock.

“The certified May ballot does not have my name on it, nor Brad’s,” Starr told WW. “They said,

‘We are sending back your check and statement—the election is in November.’ My reaction was disbelief. I said, ‘You are kidding me—how can this be?'”

Evidently, while the Democrats had a supermajority in both houses of legislature in 2009, they got the bright idea that the election for Labor Commissioner needed a facelift. Having 6 statewide races on one ballot was deemed, somehow, to be unacceptable, so three of them were shifted to alternate election cycles. It may or may not have been the intent to move them to November instead of may. But that’s how it’s written into the new law:

SECTION 22a.  { + Notwithstanding section 22 of this 2009 Act
and ORS 651.030, the term of office of the Commissioner of the
Bureau of Labor and Industries elected at the general election
held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2012
shall be two years. + }

Both Starr, the Republican, and Avakian, the Democrat, were unaware of the change, as evidenced by statements on both campaign websites urging supporters to help them win in May. Starr states that he believes the statute was in error, as all nonpartisan races are intended to be on the ballot in May. He has appealed to the Oregon Department of Justice for assistance in clarifying the decision by the Secretary of State to leave this election off the May ballot: “It’s very clear that nonpartisan races should be on the ballot in May,” Starr says. “Precedent is on our side and I think the law is on our side.”

Later in the article, Jacquiss speculates that this change hurts Bruce Starr:

Pushing the election from May to November could affect the outcome of what many expect to be a close race. Both candidates are from Washington County and have run in numerous cycles before, but recent elections history suggests there could be a large voter turnout in November in support of President Barack Obama. That favors Avakian.

It seems that Secretary of State Kate Brown, darling of George Soros’ www.sosproject.org, was negligent in notifying the public, affected candidates and the major political parties of this rather major change. Failure to make a public announcement prior to the final ballot approval process leaves a bad smell, and only fuels speculation that this was a deliberate decision on her part to keep the candidates in the dark as long as possible.

Let’s clarify here: ballots are to be mailed to voters in five weeks. Both candidates have been campaigning for months. The public is actually becoming aware of this race. The rug has been pulled out from under the entire voting public.

It seems obvious that Ms. Brown, at the very least, should have requested legal clarification from the office of the AG prior to interpreting the statute on her own. Nonpartisan races have ALWAYS been on the May ballot in Oregon.

Given Kate Brown’s long, consistent track record of highly partisan decisions, it would be hard to conclude that this decision was anything less than deliberate.

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