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Posts published in “Day: February 1, 2008”

Mosman ruling: Two tracks

Two topics are worth following in the wake of today's federal court decision on the new Oregon domestic partnership law, a decision allowing it to go into effect more or less immediately.

It had been on hold (though scheduled for implementation January 2) because Federal Judge Michael Mosman had questions about the signatures gathered in an attempt to block the law. If enough valid signatures were properly gathered, the law would have been put on the November ballot as a referendum, to be voted up or down, and in the meantime would be suspended. The signatures gathered were approximated the necessary legal requirement, but after elections officials threw out those deemed invalid, the effort fell 96 signatures short. The referendum advocates went to court, and Mosman on December 28 ordered enjoined the law from taking effect until the signature issue was sorted out.

The sorting was what he did in court today, over about five hours. He concluded that the referendum backers indeed fell short, and the law should go into effect.

Two pieces of fallout.

One is that the political battle isn't yet over, though once the law is actually in force and in effect it will be increasingly hard to overturn. The court issue may go on, and could be appealed, though appellate courts usually are loathe to overturn lower court rules on matters of fact - which was key here - as opposed to matters of law interpretation. Or there could be legal challenges on the substance, and you never know what might happen there, The law's critics can try other avenues, such as an initiative, but odds of that succeeding aren't good; if there's not enough push to easily generate more than enough petition signatures, then odds of electoral success are less than even. Odds are that domestic partnerships are here to stay in Oregon.

The other aspect of this, a little troubling, is the variable and uneasily subjective standards that seem to be used in deciding the veracity of signatures. One report noted that "Mosman called out the SoS [secretary of state] for the not-very-well-articulated standards when it comes to signature verification." That would be well worth a closer look, since the battle over signature verification is likely far from over, and may go on longer than the political contest over the substance.

Metsger’s version

Rick Metsger

Rick Metsger

The run for Oregon secretary of state may slow just a bit next week with the opening of the Oregon Legislature, seeing as how all four of the candidates (all Democrats; no Republican yet) are state senators. But some of the contours of the race are coming clearer, thanks to talks we've had with two of the candidates so far, Vicki Walker early in January, and this week with Rick Metsger. (At some point we hope to chat as well with the other two contenders, Kate Brown and Brad Avakian.)

Metsger, deep-snowed out of his mountainside house at Welches, was in Salem on campaign and Senate activities, and waxing intense on his view of what the secretary of state's office ought to be. Walker had, too, but Metsger's approach was distinct from hers. Among these four candidates who aren't radically different in political ideology, those takes on how the office should be shaped may be some of the most useful defining differences between them.

Hadn't seen Metsger's tack on this coming, based on what we knew of his background and saw on his web site. The web centerpiece is Metsger's endorsement by Bill Walton, the Trailblazer of years back, who met Metsger back when Metsger was the sports anchor for Portland KOIN-TV. That media background and the big initial endorsement might suggest slick and light on substance, but Metsger's take on what the office should be and what he'd like to do with it takes his candidacy in a whole different direction.

It starts with something fairly ordinary for candidates - "as I listen to people about where Oregon is going, people want leadership" - but Metsger seems to have something specific in mind: "Confidence in government: Confidence by the electorate that the government is doing what it is supposed to do." (more…)