Oregon voters give big vote of confidence to county official who stood up to Ammon Bundy
Oregon voters soundly rejected a recall measure aimed at punishing a county official who stood up to Ammon Bundy and the armed militants who took over a national wildlife preserve in their community.
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty angered the militants with his critical comments throughout the six-week-long occupation, and the recall petition filed by general contractor Kim Rollins was triggered by his decision to bar Bundy from using a county fairgrounds building for a meeting, reported OregonLive.
But the recall measure failed by a resounding 70-30 vote, according to the Harney County clerk.
“I have to believe this wasn’t just about Steve Grasty,” the judge told the newspaper. “I think it’s an affirmation that we did a lot of things right, and I mean the community when I say ‘we.'”
Grasty, who has served since 1999 as a county judge, will step down when his current term ends in January.
But he will be succeeded by Pete Runnels, a county commissioner who had also been critical of the militants and their goals.
Runnels was elected from a field of four candidates last month, when a state-high 72 percent of voters rejected candidates who expressed the occupiers or echoed their anti-government rhetoric.
Sheriff David Ward, who also stood up to the militants who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve, faces his first election in November.
Ward, who was appointed in January 2015 to finish the term of his retiring predecessor, faces Alan Johnson, a retired state trooper from Burns.
But Johnson is quick to distance himself from the Bundy militants, saying he decided to run for sheriff two years ago and was not specifically challenging Ward.
Johnson also denied reports that he was supported by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, whose founder Richard Mack took part in the related 2014 standoff at Bundy ranch.
“I don’t want his endorsement,” said Johnson, who added that he voted against recalling Grasty.