Editorial: Recall efforts against legislators misguided

Editorial: Recall efforts against legislators misguided

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Word came last week from state elections officials that the campaign to recall state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, who led legislative efforts to require background checks on private gun transactions, had failed.

The petition campaign against the Eugene Democrat fell a couple of hundred valid signatures short of the 8,415 required to force a recall election, said state Elections Director Jim Williams.

If you’re keeping score, Prozanski is the fourth state lawmaker targeted for recall efforts by gun-rights advocates. None of those efforts made it to a recall election, although one of the efforts was dropped when the legislator in question, Rep. Val Hoyle of Eugene, resigned her post to explore a campaign for secretary of state.

And that’s the way it should be. Regardless of what you think about the background-check legislation (and we still are not convinced it will do anything to make any Oregonian any safer), all four of the targeted lawmakers were operating well within the scope of their duties by working on the bill. They were doing their jobs. If pursuing misguided legislation were sufficient grounds for recall, we’d be seeing recall efforts filed against all 90 legislators at one point or another during the course of a session.

The organizers of the campaign against Prozanski said it wasn’t just his work on behalf of the background-check bill that prompted the recall effort: They also pointed to his votes on a range of issues, including crime bills and health-care measures — in other words, exactly the sort of things you’d expect a legislator to be dealing with on a routine basis.

So the argument against Prozanski and the other legislators boiled down to the general claim that they were out of sync with the views of the majority of voters in their districts. In the case of Prozanski and the Eugene district he serves, that claim almost certainly is not true, as a recall election would have shown.

But that’s beside the point: The time to pursue a claim that a legislator is not a good fit for the district is not in a recall election, but in a regular election, where candidates can make the case that they’re the best fit for their districts and that their opponents are out of touch. To base a recall campaign simply around the claim that you don’t like the positions taken by a legislator amounts to a misuse of the procedures in place to recall an office-holder.

Again, don’t misunderstand us: We still think that the background-check bill that so enraged Prozanski’s opponents will turn out to be an ineffective piece of legislation.

But, again, that’s not the point. It would have been a better use of time for Prozanski’s opponents to recruit and groom credible candidates to run against the senator in the next election, and to make sure those opponents had the money necessary to run strong campaigns.

Is that harder than just trying to mount a recall campaign that borders on harassment? You bet. But it’s the way our system works. (mm)

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