Various political mailers from groups supporting and groups opposing the recall. Photo: Chas Hundley

ASTORIA - An effort by a political action committee (PAC) to recall Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell (D-Astoria) failed to obtain the necessary signatures required -- 4,883 -- to move forward with the effort and force a recall election in north coast House District 32.

The PAC did not indicate how close it came to collecting 4,882 signatures.

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Darren Mead, chief petitioner for the Recall Tiffiny Mitchell PAC, said that on September 2 the fledgling PAC filed the recall election “in response to Rep. Mitchell’s votes in support of House Bill 2020 (HB 2020),” which would establish a climate policy office within the Oregon Department of Administrative services, and put into effect a cap-and-trade program for corporations that emit greenhouse gases.

The cap-and-trade legislation never came to a vote in the legislature, although the PACs claimed they did. However, according to published reports Democrats have said they plan on taking up the issue in the coming 2020 legislative session.

A group calling itself #TimberUnity, run by House District 32 residents Andrew Miller and Carol Russell, also filed a recall petition, although the final number of signatures have yet to be released as of press time. 

#TimberUnity, in a lengthy Facebook post, wrote that HB 2020 would result in $2.8 billion “in new sales taxes,” and would steal “108 million dollars of kicker tax rebate money.” 

“Rep. Mitchell also voted to cut public employee pensions, voted no on a property tax freeze for seniors, and voted no on providing a tax break for families with student loan debt,” and also voted for a new sales tax, #TimberUnity’s Facebook page said. 

Mitchell wasn’t having it.

“From my perspective, what’s happening is some folks are not happy with (the last) election and they are trying to replace me in a way that would make them happy,” Mitchell said. “If I did get replaced it would most likely be by another Democrat because that’s what the majority of our district is comprised of. The thing is, in a recall effort voters don’t get to choose who (the replacement politician is) and we end up wasting tens of thousands of taxpayers dollars trying to push the recall through.”

Republican senators walked out of the legislative session last June to prevent a quorum vote on HB 2020 in the Oregon Senate. 

“When Timber Unity folks rose up to challenge politicians in Salem this past June, it sparked the attention of Oregonians who had given up on politics,” Mead said in a written statement. “We realized that the agenda in Salem wasn’t just hostile to the timber and farming communities, [sic] it was devastating to all middle-class families.”

In a prepared statement, Mead wrote that “up here on the north coast” -- a district that has about 3,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans -- “we were shocked to learn how Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell voted against her constituents. She hasn’t been elected more than a year yet proved she will put Portland’s agenda over our working-class families and small businesses.”

“We are not ‘well-connected’ people, and we responded in one of the only ways we knew how,” Mead wrote. “I think we underestimated how many voters in this district feel left behind, so much so that (for instance) they don’t feel their vote or signature matters. We will continue to work on changing that.”

Mitchell responded to the Banks Post & Gales Creek Journal regarding the allegations made against her by #TimberUnity and Mead. 

“A cap and invest strategy has not been brought to Oregon voters or rejected by Oregon voters,” Mitchell said. “In checking (the #TimberUnity) website, I think the allegation made by Timber Unity [sic] is that there actually is a majority of people in the district (and the state and country) that would like to see governments take action in regulating carbon (emissions).”

Mitchell invited the public to read the questions proposed by #TimberUnity and Recall Tiffiny Mitchell on their respective websites and in published news reports, and to take note that (the PACs) even asked whether or not regulating carbon was acceptable -- even in the event of a local fuel-cost increase. 

Mitchell pointed to a Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication that has a website showing a map of the estimated number of adults in 2018 who believe global warming is happening, and that politicians need to do something about it. That website can be viewed here.

The Daily Astorian newspaper in October said that three House District 32 electors said materials they received via the U.S. mail and other information posted on Facebook regarding Mitchell’s voting reports false claims -- two of the bills mentioned by #TimberUnity said Mitchell voted in favor of them but neither ever made it to a vote in the Legislature. 

The Oregon Secretary of State’s recall manual says that such falsities constitute a violation of state election law because all statements appearing in official recall materials must be 100 percent accurate and true, according to an online version of the manual

Meanwhile, in a recent press release the Democratic Party of Oregon outlined that the #TimberUnity PAC hasn’t reported expenses it incurred when purchasing Facebook advertisements that urged voters to sign the recall petition. 

The party’s statement also says #TimberUnity directed circulators of the petition to gather signatures whether or not the individuals were voters from Mitchell’s district -- a violation of state law and the secretary of state’s recall manual. 

KC Hanson, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon, stated publicly that both PACs,  #TimberUnity and Recall Tiffiny Mitchell, abused the recall process by filing a petition simply because some constituents aren’t happy with their representative’s party affiliation. 

“It’s a waste of taxpayer money.” Mitchell said. 

A complaint filed by a House District 32 voter, whose name was redacted from the Democratic Party of Oregon website, requests the Oregon Secretary of State’s office to “refer the matter to the Attorney General as appropriate.”

Mead claimed in his written statement that Mitchell’s own group, “Reject the Reckless Recall”, [sic} “has yet to file or report a single expenditure with the Secretary of State [sic], and has triggered official complaints filed by voters in House District 32.” 

“Now Timber Unity [sic] members are stepping up to get involved on city and county levels too,” Mead continued. “We have Tiffiny Mitchell’s awful vote record to thank for that.”

Mitchell said that during her campaign she ran on, among other issues, regulating greenhouse emissions and taxing those businesses that release greenhouse gases in order to generate new revenue to pay for schools. 

“It’s pretty well documented that those are the issues I ran on,” Mitchell said. “The recall effort seems to be an attempt by a group of people who simply don’t like being represented by a Democrat, but our district is made up primarily of democratic voters.”

Mitchell won election in 2018 with 49 percent of the vote. Prior to Mitchell, House District 32 was represented by former Rep. Deborah Boone, also a Democrat, from 2004 to 2019, according to Ballotpedia.com.

Mitchell filed to run for re-election on November 20.