A sign on a desk in the House at the Oregon state Capitol on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
Oregon’s largest private-sector union has gathered enough signatures to force a recall of one of the state’s top legislative Democrats.
A spokesman for the secretary of state confirmed late Thursday the office had verified that United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 collected more than 5,000 valid signatures from voters in Rep. Paul Holvey’s Eugene-based district, more than the 4,598 needed to force a fall election. Holvey now has five days to decide whether to resign or appear on the ballot in October.
He has served nearly 20 years in the Legislature, is a Democratic leader and represents a district with a majority of registered Democrats. The vote would be the first of its type against an Oregon lawmaker in 35 years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Holvey did not immediately respond to questions from the Capital Chronicle on Thursday evening.
The grocery workers union targeted Holvey, a former carpenters union representative known in Salem for labor-friendly politics, over his choice as chair of the House Committee on Business and Labor to table a bill backed by UFCW Local 555 that would have cleared the way for cannabis workers to unionize.
Legislative lawyers advised him that the proposal conflicted with federal law. The union accused him of nixing the measure because of pressure from La Mota, a marijuana business that was a major donor to Democratic candidates – a charge Holvey denies.
“Oregonians deserve better representation than Paul Holvey provides; this applies especially to working Oregonians who have been left behind by Holvey and the Democratic Party’s Caucus leadership,” union communications coordinator Miles Eshaia said Thursday in a statement. “Paul Holvey knows how to advance or kill legislation on behalf of corporations like La Mota that are owned by rich people; he’s just forgotten how to do it for regular people, like La Mota’s employees.”
A political action committee funded by the union has spent more than $180,000 on the recall, most to pay petition circulator Osprey Field Services. Holvey has spent less than $20,000 since the recall campaign began in May, including paying for polling and ads in the local Eugene Weekly alternative newspaper.
If Holvey chooses not to resign, an election will be held Oct. 3, less than a year after his most recent re-election. Holvey has served in the state House since 2004.
Recall petitions are common, but recall elections, especially in state races, are extremely rare. Voters last year recalled two Morrow County commissioners and city councilors in Eugene, Drain and Turner. Oregon voters have recalled three legislators in the past century: one in 1935, one in 1985 and one in 1988.
Nathan Erne, a Eugene resident and Holvey constituent who worked on the recall, said in a statement that thousands of constituents demanded accountability from Holvey.
“For the first time in his career, Rep. Holvey will have a serious challenge at the ballot: his own record,” Erne said.
If Holvey is recalled or resigns, Democrats in his district will nominate three to five candidates for the Lane County Commissioners to appoint to finish his term, which expires in January 2025.
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