State Sen. Fred Girod, whose Oregon Senate district stretches into Linn County, says he isn’t too concerned over the recall petition that was filed on Monday by a Molalla resident. The petition states that Girod should lose his Senate seat because he failed to lead his fellow Republicans in walking out of the Oregon Capitol to deny Democrats the quorum they needed to pass a bill banning guns in state buildings.
The senator, who’s held his seat since 2008, is also the Senate minority leader. It falls to him to coordinate Republicans’ efforts in that chamber in order to push the party’s agenda. In a Senate that favors Democrats by an 18-12 margin, that’s no small task.
It’s that math of Senate seats that ultimately led Girod to discourage a walkout, a tactic Republicans used twice in 2019 to deny a 20-member quorum on a tax proposal and a cap-and-trade emissions bill.
“The short version is that I’m in charge of campaigns, and walking out is not very popular in swing districts,” Girod said. “My role as minority leader is to fix the problem we have, which is that there are 18 Democrats and only 12 Republicans.”
Girod said that polling showed the walkouts in May and June 2019 were unpopular with voters in Salem, Gresham, Hood River and some districts along the coast. All of these are considered swing districts, where Republicans cannot rely on a firm majority of voters to keep those seats red. Losing two of these seats would give Democrats a supermajority that would require no Republican senators to meet a quorum.
Girod and five other Republicans chose to show up on the Senate floor to oppose Senate Bill 554, which banned firearms in state buildings. While all of them opposed the legislation, their presence allowed the matter to go to a vote, and their six votes weren’t enough to overcome the unanimous Democratic support.
The other factor that contributed to the decision not to orchestrate another walkout was how long it would have had to be in order to be successful this year. In 2019, there were just weeks left in the legislative session when Senate Republicans walked out, meaning they could more easily weather the storm of having to leave the state and potentially incur fines of $500 per day imposed by Gov. Kate Brown.
A successful walkout this year, with months left in the session, would have required senators to be absent for far longer.
“Could most individuals leave the state for three and a half months?” Girod asked. “Could they leave their homes, their families and their businesses for that long? I don’t think the reality of walking out … was ever a part of the conversation for the people who wanted it.”
Girod says he’s not too concerned with the recall effort.
For one thing, he doesn’t expect the petition to garner the necessary signatures. Roughly 9,000 people within Girod’s district would have to sign in order for the recall question to go to the ballot. Girod won reelection last year, in a three-way race, with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
For another, Girod says he needs to give his attention to the pressing matters affecting his district, which includes Gates, Detroit, Lyons and other communities that were ravaged by the Labor Day wildfires last year. Girod himself lost his Stayton home to the blazes.
“My whole focus right now is to the people of Gates, Detroit and Idanha, Lyons and Mill City,” the senator said. “That’s where my real focus is, on getting those people the money to rebuild.”