Last week I predicted that the Attorney General would move quickly to repair Secretary of State Kate Brown's bungling of the Labor Commissioner Election, and that the Avakian-Starr election would appear on the May ballot, as it should. I was half-right: Willamette Week reports that the office of Legislative Counsel (the agency of the Legislature that actually drafts bills and resolutions for the legislators to consider) opined on March 21 that the law requires the Labor Commissioner race to be on the May ballot. Counsel's opinion comes too late to return the election to its proper place, however.
Secretary Brown believes that an obscure amendment to the election laws, passed in 2009, requires the Labor Commissioner to be elected in November and not in May, and therefore because only two candidates filed, they must face each other in November.
Allowing that the question is now of only academic interest, here's another reason why she's wrong. Imagine that three candidates had filed: let's call them Avakian, Laquedem, and Starr. Secretary Brown told Willamette Week that if more than two candidates had filed, she would have placed them on the May ballot. So all three of us would have been on the May ballot.
So far so good . . . unless one of us won a majority in May. To be extreme about it, let's say that Mr. Starr draws 1%, Mr. Avakian 2%, and the other 97% vote for Isaac. (One can always dream.)
Under Secretary Brown's theory, the law prohibits me from being elected in May, and Mr. Avakian and I would have been in a runoff in November even though I'd won 97% of the vote in May.
That is not the law. That cannot be the law. Ms. Brown bungled this one badly.