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Stories about Oregon

New Oregon Secretary of State sworn in; state becomes Democratic triplex

On January 4, Shemia Fagan (D) took her oath of office as Oregon Secretary of State. This gives Democrats triplex control of the state because Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum are both Democrats. A triplex occurs when one party controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. There are 20 Republican triplexes and 18 Democratic triplexes.

Oregon already had a Democratic trifecta, where one party controls the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature.

In 32 states, the same political party has both a trifecta and a triplex. Republicans hold such positions in 19 states, while Democrats hold it in 13. Of the 18 states without both a trifecta and a triplex of the same party, six have only a trifecta, six have only a triplex, and six have neither.

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Oregon ballot measure campaigns raised over $25.3 million

Support and opposition campaigns for Oregon’s four ballot measures reported raising over $25.3 million according to the latest campaign finance reports filed November 10. 

Yes for a Healthy Future, the campaign behind Oregon Measure 108, received the most contributions with over $13.7 million. The top donor to the committee with $3.3 million was Providence Health and Services, a Washington-based Catholic nonprofit hospital system. The opposition campaign—No on 108—reported $8,000 in contributions. Measure 108 was approved and will enact increased taxes on tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes).

Supporters of Oregon Measure 110, which decriminalized the possession of controlled substances, reported nearly $6 million in contributions with More Treatment for a Better Oregon receiving the bulk of the contributions. The top donor to the support committees was the Drug Policy Alliance with $5 million in contributions. Drug Policy Alliance is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has funded marijuana legalization and drug decriminalization efforts in other states. More Treatment for a Better Oregon also received $500,000 from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The No on Measure 110 campaign reported receiving $167,740.00 in contributions with the bulk of that being in loans.

Yes for Psilocybin Therapy, the campaign in support of Measure 109, reported receiving $3.9 million in contributions. The top donor to the campaign was New Approach PAC with $3.5 million. New Approach is a 527 nonprofit organization founded in 2014 and based in Washington, D.C. The organization has supported other ballot initiatives to legalize medical and recreational marijuana. No campaigns registered in opposition to Measure 109, which was approved.

There were two campaigns registered in support of Measure 107: Yes for Fair and Honest Elections and Honest Elections Oregon. Together, they reported receiving $171,397.00 in contributions. The measure was approved. It will authorize the state legislature and local governments to enact certain campaign finance restrictions and requirements. The top donors to the support campaign were End Citizen’s United ($25,200), Kate Brown Committee ($27,833.00), and AFSCME Council 75 (20,000.00).

From 1985 to 2020, the average number of measures appearing on even-numbered year Oregon ballots was 14. The four measures in 2020 were the fewest number of measures to appear on even-numbered year ballots.

In 2020, committees registered to support or oppose statewide ballot measures reported a combined total of $1.19 billion in contributions. The following five states had the most ballot measure campaign contributions reported:

  • California – $739.0 million in contributions
  • Illinois – $121.2 million in contributions
  • Massachusetts – $61.6 million in contributions
  • Colorado – $59.2 million in contributions
  • Arizona – $33.6 million in contributions

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Incumbent Mayor Ted Wheeler wins re-election in Portland, Oregon

Image of City Hall in Portland, Oregon.

Incumbent Ted Wheeler defeated Sarah Iannarone and write-in candidate Teressa Raiford in the general election for mayor of Portland, Oregon. Wheeler was first elected in 2016.

Nineteen candidates ran in the May 19 primary. Wheeler received 49.1%, Iannarone received 24%, and Raiford received 8.5%. In 2016, Wheeler won during the primary with 55% of the vote.

This race drew media attention following protests in Portland over law enforcement’s use of force and the death of George Floyd. During his campaign, Wheeler said he led on police reform and the city’s COVID-19 response.



Fagan wins Oregon Secretary of State election

Shemia Fagan (D) defeated Kim Thatcher (R), Kyle Markley (L), and Nathalie Paravicini (Pacific Green Party) in the election for Oregon secretary of state. Incumbent Bev Clarno (R) did not run for re-election, which Governor Kate Brown (D) made a condition of her appointment after the death of former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson (R).

In Oregon, the secretary of state is first in line for the governor’s office in the event of a vacancy. Brown was the secretary of state before Richardson and became governor after John Kitzhaber (D) resigned in 2015. Democrats held the secretary of state seat from 1985 to 2017. Richardson defeated Brad Avakian (D) 47% to 43% in 2016. 

If the Oregon state legislature fails to establish a redistricting plan for state legislative districts, the secretary of state intervenes to draw the boundaries. In 2011, the legislature redrew congressional and legislative districts without changes from the secretary of state or the courts. It was the first time this had happened since 1911. Oregon’s next round of redistricting is scheduled for 2021, following the 2020 census.

The results of Oregon’s secretary of state and attorney general elections transitioned the state from divided triplex control to Democratic triplex control, meaning those two offices and the governor’s office will be held by Democrats. In 2020, the governor and attorney general are Democrats while the secretary of state is Republican. The state did not hold a gubernatorial election this year.



Oregon voters approve campaign finance law, tobacco tax measures

Oregon voters approved Measure 107, which authorizes the state legislature and local governments to pass certain campaign finance laws, by a vote of 77% to 23%. Voters also approved Measure 108 by a vote of 66% to 34% Measure 108 increases taxes on tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes) to fund the state’s Medical Assistance Program and other healthcare-related programs.



Oregon becomes the first state to legalize use of psilocybin mushrooms, decriminalize Schedule 1-IV drugs

Oregon became the first state to create a program for legal use of psilocybin mushrooms and to decriminalize all Schedule 1-IV drugs. 

Voters approved Measure 109 in a vote of 56% to 44%, according to unofficial election night results. It will permit licensed service providers to administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to individuals 21 years of age or older. 

Voters approved Measure 110 in a vote of 59% to 41%. It makes personal non-commercial possession of a controlled substance no more than a Class E violation (max fine of $100 fine). It also establishes a drug addiction treatment and recovery program funded in part by the state’s marijuana tax revenue and state prison savings.

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Wheeler, Iannarone face off in Portland, Oregon, mayoral election

Image of City Hall in Portland, Oregon.

Incumbent Ted Wheeler and Sarah Iannarone are running for mayor of Portland, Oregon on November 3. Teressa Raiford is a write-in candidate.

Nineteen candidates ran in the May 19 primary. Wheeler received 49.1%—short of the majority needed to win the election outright. Iannarone received 24%, and Raiford received 8.5%. As the top two vote-getters, Wheeler and Iannarone advanced to the general election.

Wheeler says he has led on police reform and the city’s COVID-19 response. He says the city needs continued leadership to get through these challenges. Iannarone says Wheeler hasn’t shown leadership and describes herself as the progressive alternative.

Wheeler has support from United for Portland, a group that formed in October and includes the Services Employees International Union, the Portland Business Alliance, the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, and the Portland NAACP. Iannarone’s endorsers include Our Revolution and the Oregon Progressive Party.

Before being elected mayor, Wheeler served as Oregon’s Democratic state treasurer from 2010 to 2017. Iannarone is an urban policy consultant and has served on several City of Portland committees. 

The mayoral race is nonpartisan. As of October 2020, 63 mayors in the largest 100 cities by population are affiliated with the Democratic Party, 29 are affiliated with the Republican Party, three are independents, and five identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated. While most mayoral elections in the 100 largest cities are nonpartisan, most officeholders are affiliated with a political party. 

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Oregon, Washington, D.C. to vote on ballot measures that address psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms

In November, Oregon could be the first state to approve a ballot initiative, Measure 109, that legalizes psilocybin. Washington, D.C., is also voting on a measure related to psilocybin and other entheogenic plants and fungi.

Currently, psilocybin, which is derived from certain species of fungi, is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. 

In Oregon, Measure 109 would create a program for administering psilocybin, such as psilocybin-producing mushrooms and fungi, to individuals aged 21 years or older. People would be allowed to purchase, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin service center and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator after undergoing a preparation session.

Measure 109 faces opposition from a Portland-based group that seeks to decriminalize psilocybin. Zave Forster of Decriminalize Nature Portland stated, “We are concerned about the implications of an elite group of beneficiaries putting a free medicine that grows naturally out of the ground behind a paywall.”

Washington, D.C. is voting on a ballot measure, Initiative 81, to declare that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi among the lowest law enforcement priorities. Initiative 81 would define entheogenic plants and fungi as species of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn. 

Denver, Colorado, was the first local jurisdiction to vote on, and approve, a ballot measure to declare that the adult use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms were of the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities. In California, the Oakland City Council and Santa Cruz City Council passed resolutions to de-prioritize law enforcement actions against entheogenic plants. Most recently, Ann Arbor, Michigan, became the fourth jurisdiction to declare entheogenic plants to be considered the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities.

Both Oregon Measure 109 and D.C. Initiative 81 share a common top funder—the New Approach PAC. The organization is based in Washington, D.C., and supported marijuana legalization measures in previous election cycles. Between 2014 and 2018, New Approach contributed at least $6.9 million to campaigns supporting recreational or medical marijuana measures. Tax filings from prior years show that New Approach received funding from the Van Ameringen Foundation and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. In both Oregon and D.C., no political action committees were organized to oppose the measures.

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Mayoral recall election to be held in Oregon City, Oregon

A recall election is taking place on November 10 against Mayor Dan Holladay in Oregon City, Oregon. Recall organizers started the effort to recall Holladay in June after he made social media posts about police violence.

Holladay also faced criticism in April for planning to go against the stay-at-home orders issued by Governor Kate Brown in response to the coronavirus pandemic by allowing businesses in Oregon City to reopen.

Recall organizers had until September 21 to submit 2,400 valid signatures to put the recall election on the ballot. Signatures were submitted in two batches, and the total came to 3,451 signatures. On October 1, City Recorder Kattie Riggs announced that 3,037 signatures had been verified. Holladay was then given the opportunity to resign or to submit a statement of justification by October 6. Holladay submitted a statement of justification, which read:

“STAND WITH DAN — NO RECKLESS RECALL

“SERVING YOU: I’ve served as your Oregon City Mayor and Commissioner one decade with YOU THE CITIZEN as my boss. OUR DIVERSE COMMUNITY AND RESIDENTS COME FIRST.

“SIX YEARS OF CITIZEN SUCCESS: NEW LIBRARY, POLICE AND COURTS FACILITY and VOTE NO ON RECALL and we will continue my leadership for new public works facility.

“PUBLIC SAFETY. I will always stand with our excellent police officers.

“KEEP OC WORKING: Oregon City has TOP RATED ROADS: Under me as your Mayor we have delivered the best services.

“KEEP OC ON BUDGET: We’ve won awards for our financial budgeting and audits annually.

“WE WON: Great American Main Street award in 2018(the only city in Oregon to have won this award.)

“RELATIONSHIPS FOR OC SUCCESS: I have built strong relationships with the local, county, state leaders.

“RULE OF LAW: I will always stand up for the rule of law and equal treatment for ALL citizens.

“FREE CITIZENS: We all have rights to believe and say what we believe and not be ridiculed, canceled or recalled for fighting for our citizens first.

“HELP ME HELP YOU KEEP OREGON CITY A GREAT PLACE:

“VOTE No on the RECKLESS RECALL”

On June 22, Adam Marl, the campaign manager for the Committee to Recall Dan Holladay, issued a statement on the recall effort. His statement read: “The mayor’s dismissive responses to current events have put the spotlight on his past actions in office that have not received the scrutiny they deserve. When the citizens voiced their concerns, he deliberately limited constructive dialogue between his colleagues and constituents. Since then, issues of corrupt business dealings and multi-million dollar lawsuits have come to light, which prompted his fellow commissioners to censure him on two counts and order an independent investigation. Mayor Holladay has lost the faith of the city that he is attempting to lead, with even his fellow commissioners calling for his resignation. His refusal to resign for the good of the city has prompted this nonpartisan grassroots campaign to lead the concerted efforts of those who believe in a better future for Oregon City. We will fight with resolve, and will fight to win.”

The number of valid signatures required to force a recall election in Oregon is 15% of the total number of votes cast in the public officer’s electoral district for all candidates for governor at the last election at which a candidate for governor was elected to a full term. Signatures are required to be turned in no later than 90 days after the petition is filed.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and a 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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Mark Zuckerberg donated $500,000 to campaign supporting Oregon Measure 110, the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative 

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), Mark Zuckerberg’s public advocacy fund, donated $500,000 to More Treatment for a Better Oregon: Yes on 110, the campaign sponsoring Measure 110.

Oregon Measure 110 would make personal non-commercial possession of a controlled substance no more than a Class E violation (max fine of $100 fine) and establish a drug addiction treatment and recovery program funded in part by the state’s marijuana tax revenue and state prison savings.

The initiative is the first ballot measure Zuckerberg has contributed to in Oregon. In 2020, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative contributed $6.3 million to support California Proposition 15, which would require commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on market value. CZI also contributed $1 million to the No on Proposition 20 campaign. California Proposition 20 would make changes to policies related to criminal sentencing charges, prison release, and DNA collection.

More Treatment for a Better Oregon reported $2 million in contributions according to the latest campaign finance reports filed on October 5.

There were three other committees registered in support of the measure—IP 44, A More Humane Approach – Yes on 110 Committee, and Washington County Justice Initiative PAC. Together, they reported $2.5 million in contributions. Drug Policy Action, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has funded marijuana legalization and drug decriminalization efforts in other states, contributed $3.4 million to the campaigns supporting the initiative.

Theshia Naidoo, the managing director of criminal justice law and policy at Drug Policy Action, said, “Oregonians have always been early adopters of drug policies that shift the emphasis towards health and away from punishment. The idea behind this groundbreaking effort is simple: people suffering from addiction need help, not criminal punishments. Instead of arresting and jailing people for using drugs, the measure would fund a range of services to help people get their lives back on track.”

The opposition campaign, No on Measure 110, reported over $55,000 in contributions. Oregon Council for Behavioral Health recently came out in opposition to the measure. They argued, “The measure provides no new funding, destroys pathways to treatment and recovery, and fails to address racial injustice in our systems by decriminalizing a narrow set of charges without resource for larger system innovation. … OCBH supports the supporters’ goal of correcting inherent injustice and decriminalizing drug charges, but this measure falls short of addressing the wide-ranging impacts on access to treatment and recovery.”

The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimated that Oregon spent $472 million on substance abuse treatment services and $1.95 billion on corrections from 2017 to 2019.

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