Oregon voters did a remarkable thing last week. They elected a Republican to statewide office for the first time in 14 years — and they did it by rejecting the bid of a notorious state bureaucrat to become secretary of state.
The bureaucrat in question is Democrat Brad Avakian. He is currently the state Commissioner of Labor and Industries, heading BOLI — the Bureau of Labor and Industries — which hit the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery with $144,000 in fines and penalties after Melissa and Aaron Klein declined to decorate a cake for a same-sex union ceremony. (At the time they made the refusal, Oregon did not recognize same-sex “marriage.”) Although the Kleins’ business was in and out of operation since 2013, Sweet Cakes had to close down for good earlier this year.
Avakian has two years left in his BOLI term. Oregon won’t be rid of him just yet. But Independent Journal Review quotes an Oregon political observer who thinks voters were turned off by Avakian’s promise to expand the scope of the secretary of state’s charter in order to pursue his markedly progressive agenda.
Oregon political analyst, Rob Kremer, told Independent Journal Review that Avakian campaigned on the idea that he would use the Secretary of State’s office to further his progressive political agenda and — surprisingly — that turned off a lot of Oregon’s liberal voters:
“I think people in Oregon were uncomfortable with Avakian’s stated objective of expanding the scope of the Secretary of State’s office to broaden a progressive agenda.
While I don’t think the Sweetcakes by Melissa case was the only thing that turned off voters, it was certainly an example people could point to to show that he was abusing his authority.”
Voters weren’t the only ones turned off. Avakian didn’t receive one major state newspaper endorsement during the race.
Another Oregon columnist put it this way:
Avakian sought to take the office “to the next level.” In his vision, the office would scrutinize private companies doing business with the state, combat global warming, help shape education policy and create green jobs. As another candidate might say, Avakian sought to make the office’s scope “yuge,” adding functions tailor-made to excite select interest groups and issue-driven voters.
Even for Oregonians, those aspirations were apparently too much. Republican lawmaker Dennis Richardson, who will take office as the new secretary of state, has more modest plans to execute the job’s existing requirements.
IJR’s Victoria Taft spoke with the Kleins for her report:
[Aaron] Klein says he’s working as a garbage truck driver to make ends meet, though he was recently injured on the job so is temporarily collecting disability.
Klein says that they’re still appealing their case to the Oregon Supreme Court and believes that the religious liberties case will ultimately make it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
There is still a crowdfunding site for the Kleins at Continue to Give. (Alert readers will remember that left-wing activists got GoFundMe to drop the Kleins’ fundraising page in 2015.) The Kleins’ court case is an important one: it’s not about whether the U.S. Constitution sees same-sex marriage as a “right,” but about whether it sees freedom of religious conscience as one.
With a Donald Trump presidency and Supreme Court appointment(s), there is actually hope that the issue will be reviewed with a constitutional perspective, as opposed to a vengeful, narrow-mindedly political activist perspective.
Meanwhile, the alert voters of Oregon have arranged to dodge a bullet.