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Capital Chatter: Brown won't face recall

The recall efforts might have galvanized some Republican voters, but they are a sign of the demographic times.

Did you notice? Kate Brown is still governor.

No surprise. Petition drives to recall Gov. Brown did not collect nearly enough signatures to force an election. Monday was the deadline for those competing – or complementary, depending on your perspective — efforts to submit their signatures to the state Elections Division.

I turned to longtime Oregon political analyst Jim Moore of Pacific University for his interpretation of what unfolded.

The recall efforts might have galvanized some Republican voters, but they are a sign of the demographic times.

Democrat Brown handily won re-election in 2018, as Moore and others on the Oregon scene expected even though some national pundits looked for an upset by Republican Knute Buehler. And today, Moore said, the people who liked Brown then, still do. Those who didn't, still don't.

Consider the numbers. Oregon had just over 2.8 million registered voters as of September. They included about 972,000 Democrats and 703,000 Republicans.

I'm not good at arithmetic, even using a calculator. But by my count, that means each of those parties is outnumbered by the remaining 1.3 million registered voters, who either are affiliated with no party or with one of the smaller parties.

The challenge for any party is to get those voters to side with them in an election. The Oregon House Republicans recently ousted their leader to try to get something going in preparation for the 2020 elections. The Oregon Republican Party launched its recall campaign to try to get something going.

If you don't know what to do, at least do something.

The Oregon GOP's drive netted 258,000 signatures. That's certainly not bad for an all-volunteer effort that had only 90 days. But 280,000 absolutely valid signatures were needed, so even more than that were necessary to cover any that were deemed invalid for whatever reasons.

By the way, the state Secretary of State's Office said Michael Cross, chief sponsor of the separate "Flush Down Kate Brown" petition drive to recall Brown, did not come close to submitting its required number of petition sheets.

Brown is a fascinating, polarizing figure in Oregon politics. There are not as many holes in her political Teflon coating as one might expect given the controversies that have hit her administration.

"Things really haven't changed much," Moore said. "She still has the majority of the voters behind her."

Though Brown remains secure in her position, she has not been a governor who has brought the state or the Legislature together.

For example, folks in Eastern Oregon noticed that she did not attend the Pendleton Round-Up this year. Her staff said it was because of a scheduling conflict and noted that she visited Baker City and Ontario earlier in the year. ("Scheduling conflicts" can be real or convenient.)

As a Democrat in the Legislature, Brown served in both the minority and the majority. That experience could have prepared her as governor to find common ground on issues such as carbon cap and trade — which is expected to dominate the 2020 Legislature. Brown plays things close to the vest, so we don't know what actual roles she has played, although publicly she has sided with liberal, environmentalist Democrats on that issue.

Speaking of carbon reduction: Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, chastised Brown this week for taking a private jet to Sunriver, which he represents. In a letter to Brown, Zika wrote:

"The report is deeply concerning. Private jets produce, per passenger, a very large amount of carbon dioxide, which as you know is a greenhouse gas. Some private jets burn approximately 210 gallons of fuel per hour of use. In any event, a trip from Salem to Sunriver via private jet would bum considerably more fuel than a trip via almost any other means , including passenger cars, let alone electric vehicles, which the state has invested significant sums to support.

"This would be particularly troubling due to your support for a cap and trade scheme that would have dramatically increased fuel and home heating costs for Oregonians. After the legislature failed to pass the cap and trade bill, you threatened to enact portions of it via executive action. You have indicated that cap and trade is one of your top priorities for the upcoming 2020 legislative session. Given the urgency you have publicly attached to the issue of carbon emissions, and the degree to which you are willing to push the cost of carbon reduction onto working families , the elderly and others struggling with Oregon's high cost of living, the decision to fly on a private jet to Sunriver would be hypocritical. …"

Zika also asked for details about the trip.

I asked Brown's office about this and received this response late Wednesday: "The Governor went to Sunriver on Monday as a guest and speaker at the Oregon Forest & Industries Council annual meeting. In order to be able to attend and participate as a representative of the state, she took a flight that was arranged by the event hosts. She does not frequently use private plane travel. The transportation arrangements for Monday were decided upon through the same lens as other scheduled events and travel plans, by balancing the need to get as much done as possible with the needs of doing so as efficiently as possible.

"The Governor is pleased to hear that Rep. Zika shares her concerns about climate change and looks forward to working with him on legislation to tackle lowering Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions in the future. The Governor will be responding directly to Rep. Zika as well, although she has not yet done so since the letter just arrived today."

Side note: By the way, I know that Zika and Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, carpool to and from Central Oregon to the Capitol when their schedules match up.

Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Facebook.com/Hughesisms, YouTube.com/DickHughes or Twitter.com/DickHughes.