Recalls and Rhetoric

UFCW 555 president Dan Clay lays out why his union seeks to recall Rep. Paul Holvey

By Dan Clay

Whenever Donald Trump spews his documentable falsehoods, or awkwardly edits a weather map, or tells his supporters that up is down, more reasonable voters tend to take a step back, look at the facts, and lament that his adoring fans could be so willingly duped just because he shares a partisan affiliation with them.

Why, then, do so many progressive voters similarly take rhetoric from their own politicians to heart in much the same way?

Rep. Paul Holvey has been battling a spirited recall effort, and in his desperation to avoid being subject to an election, he has stretched the truth, perverted his record and simply lied about how we landed here.

Since he was appointed into his position in a safe Democratic seat in 2004, Holvey has never had to face a serious challenge, nor had to worry much about activating voters. His “District Updates” are lists of accomplishments that look very much like every other Democratic lawmaker’s “District Update” coming out of the Legislature; that’s not bad, but it’s not particularly remarkable, either.

A recall election, though, gives voters an opportunity to consider Holvey’s record apart from the noise and hubbub that comes with a presidential-year primary or general election. It offers both sides an opportunity to make their case to voters on a fair and level playing field without the advantage of incumbency, and let voters have the final say. And it provides an opportunity for Holvey to answer for the documentably false claims he’s made:

Holvey claims that his tanking of a bill to provide cannabis workers with organizing rights was due to his impulse to “ask questions” which brought up unanswered concerns. But anyone who watched the hearing for the bill (HB 3183) would note that Holvey did not in fact ask any questions, even to national labor experts who traveled from out of state to have that discourse.  He neither questioned nor even responded to supporters of the bill for months previous, despite the legislation being available to him. Instead, Holvey alludes to a memo from his Legislative Counsel’s office that even he seems to be confused as to the timeline on: In last week’s Eugene Weekly article, he is referred to as having both had the memo in hand while also still waiting for it when he diverted the bill to be killed!

Holvey has also grown accustomed to blaming Legislative Counsel for the death of HB 3183, stating: “Our Legislative Counsel confirmed twice that the proposed legislation was in fact preempted by federal law and would not be legal.” Except that’s a craven falsehood: Legislative Counsel was careful to admonish Holvey that they could only postulate about arguments against it: “… absent judicial guidance on this issue, we cannot predict with certainty how the NLRB or a court would ultimately decide.”

Of course, despite Holvey’s averring that “Asking questions is foundational to the job of being a state representative,” that seems only to be a hurdle when it’s pro-worker legislation. In fact, Holvey has a long and comfortable history of ignoring legal scrutiny when big business is on the line: In a day-long special session in 2012, he voted to allow the state to enter into 30-year contracts to cover certain liabilities of big corporations mere hours after the bill was introduced.  In 2013 he bucked Legislative Counsel guidance to support deep pension cuts for public employees, which was reversed after a costly legal battle. In 2019, he led the effort to slash pensions again, still against the available legal advice.

But these issues (and others) deserve more attention than on an editorial page or in a down-ticket race in a presidential primary. They should be thoroughly untangled, deliberated and placed before voters in a special recall election.

Whatever our vote may be in such an election, we should hopefully agree that our elected officials ought not to fear an examination of their performance. We should agree that taking an elected official’s record and placing it before voters — outside the distraction of up-ticket contests — is a tool that has its place in a democracy. And hopefully we should all agree that when a politician shakes his fist and declares any scrutiny against him to be “fake news” (or some equivalent term), we have a duty as voters to take a step back, look at the facts dispassionately, and say: “Is it?” 

Dan Clay is president of UFCW Local 555.