Wheeler recall sues for 90 more days to collect signatures
The petition drive to recall Mayor Ted Wheeler is going to court after failing to collect the required number of Portland voter signatures by the Oct. 6 deadline.
Instead of turning in at least 48,000 petition signatures on Wednesday, Total Recall PDX filed a suit in U.S. District Court on Monday, Oct. 4, arguing the 90-day in state law limit is unconstitutional.
The campaign had hinted at the suit when it admitted only collecting around 40% of the required signatures last week. The suit was first reported by The Oregonian/Oregonlive.com.
That statutory deadline "is so brief, so unrealistic and so burdens the recall power that it impermissibly infringes on peoples' right to recall their elected officials," a right which is spelled out in the Oregon constitution, the suit filed by attorneys Juan Chavez and Alan Kessler claimed.
The suit also alleged that COVID-19 restrictions and the summer's heat waves as interfering with the signature-gathering process.
The City Attorney's Office declined to comment.
The suit was filed against the city of Portland, City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero and Elections Director Louise Hansen. The campaign had asked the city for a 90-day extension last week.
"Logistically, collecting that number of signatures is impossible, given the novel barriers we face," campaign treasurer Seth Woolley said at the time.
The request was denied by Hansen, who noted most COVID-19 restrictions had been lifted and the heat waves had passed when the campaign first began circulating petitions.
A U.S. District Court judge lowered the minimum signature requirements for an initiative measure to create an independent redistricting commission in 2020. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed that order at the request of Oregon U.S. Attorney Ellen Rosenblum, however.
Wheeler was reelected with 46% of the vote at the 2020 general election, defeating progressive urban planning advocate Sarah Iannarone, who received 41%. The remaining 13% went to write-in candidates. That plurality, though not a majority, was enough for Wheeler to win the election.
The recall campaign director is Kessler, who was Iannarone's campaign lawyer. The committee was filed with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office by Woolley less than three weeks after Wheeler was reelected. A campaign finance reform activist, Woolley finished fifth with just 4% of the vote in May 2020 primary race to replace former Commissioner Chloe Eudaly.
The committee reports raising $142,325 and spending $60,197 by late last week. Contributions range from $60 for items sold at a fair to $6,600 from software engineer Josh Spector.
A previous Portland Tribune story on the recall can be found here.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.