November 14, 2018
Since the last presidential election, folks across the nation have been organizing for the midterms and rural Oregon has been no exception. From ballot measures that threaten democracy to emerging progressive candidates, rural Oregonians rolled up our shirtsleeves and dug in. We connected with our neighbors and communities by knocking on doors and organizing community events, we met new people and grew our networks, and through our tireless organizing we defeated Measures 103, 104, 105, and 106. Together we went against the tide of fear-mongering and division and declared Oregon to be a place where shared values of democracy, safety, and compassion will not be compromised. This was accomplished through the hard work, passion, and commitment from so many rural freedom fighters!
As the nation grappled with immigration policies that made headlines around the globe, a couple of Oregon policy-makers, along with Oregonians for Immigration Reform, got Measure 105 on the ballot, threatening Oregon’s statewide sanctuary law that prevents local resources from going to enforce federal immigration policies. Rural Oregonians hit the ground running, knocking on doors, making calls, hosting ballot parties, and sharing information in conversations with our neighbors at school picking up our kids and in the lines at grocery stores and at post offices in counties across the state.
Oregon’s victory on Measure 105 comes out of a long history of local, grassroots organizing. Human dignity groups have created space in rural counties throughout Oregon to bring our neighbors into a conversation about immigration, democracy and human dignity. From tireless work on Ballot Measure 88 in 2014 (to provide drivers’ cards to all residents of the state regardless of documentation status), to actions that challenge police collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to Welcoming Communities resolutions, the Measure 105 victory builds from decades of dedicated organizing. Congratulations to all.
Here are just a few examples of work and election results this year in rural Oregon:
In Josephine County, local human dignity group Josephine Social Justice Alliance (JSJA) found themselves one of the only groups campaigning against Measure 105. With STAND Guides in hand, JSJA hit the streets, canvassing outside of farmers markets, asking business to display a No on 105 poster, and launching a Letter to the Editor campaign that resulted in 13 published letters. “We reached people who didn’t yet know about 105. After we explained it to them, most said they’d vote no,” reports Gail from JSJA. While Josephine County did vote to pass Measure 105, over 18,000 people voted against it!
Josephine County also faced a sheriff’s race where the incumbent, Dave Daniels, was opposed by Jonathan Knapp, a former deputy of Sheriff Arpaio of Arizona, notorious for his horrible practices of racial profiling and illegal anti-immigrant policies. Josephine County overwhelmingly rejected this anti-immigrant sheriff and voted in support of their current sheriff who has increased deputies, restored 24 hour 911 service throughout the county, and ended their jail’s contract with ICE this year.
In Lincoln County folks built off their history of organizing for immigrant rights, including a strong campaign in 2014 to pass Measure 88 to provide driver’s cards to all residents of the state regardless of documentation status. While Measure 88 did not pass in 2014 (31% in favor, 69% opposed); Lincoln County saw a huge victory for immigrant rights this election! Through neighborly conversations, community discussions, presentations, postcard parties (1,000 postcards sent at just one party!), and Letters to the Editor Lincoln County practically flipped the 2014 election numbers and overwhelmingly denied Measure 105 (36% in favor of repealing Oregon’s Sanctuary law, 64% against).
Polk County is home to Representative Mike Nearman, vice chair of Oregonians for Immigration Reform (the backers of Measure 105) and author of the original initiative that became Measure 105. Polk Rapid Response Team and Polk Community for Human Equality joined with Causa, Mano a Mano, and the Oregon United campaign to distribute yard signs, talk to neighbors, and connect with sympathetic voters across the county. They doorknocked, phonebanked, and handed out STAND election guides and yard signs. Their Measure 105 work not only shared information on the measure and why it is a bad idea for Oregon but also invited folks to critically think about who is representing them and what values they represent. Polk County voted against Measure 105 by 54% No to 46% yes!
These victories call for celebration and reflection. While many rural counties wholeheartedly defeated Measure 105, others only won by a narrow margin and still others lost. However, when you look at the results of Measure 105 in comparison to Ballot Measure 88 in 2014, every single county gained ground. We recruited more supporters, sometimes in the hundreds and thousands.
These victories also call on us to make plans to use this momentum to bolster our organizing for human dignity and democracy – not just to beat back attacks but to gain ground!
Oregon’s sanctuary law has been retained, but now it is time to dig deeper, and address ongoing needs, including reversing anti-immigrant policies, getting ICE out of our communities and returning drivers’ licenses to our neighbors. Let’s remember all the people we met while canvassing and throwing voter parties, get them back together, and strategize. How can we use the Measure 105 victory to appeal to our local sheriffs to uphold the values of our communities? How can we get our communities to support the good sense and fairness pro-immigrant policy in the legislature this year and beyond?
What are some of the ways your group is building on this momentum? Let us know what you are thinking! Or give us a call and ROP can set up a strategy session with your local group (and new supporters!) to develop next steps.
Congratulations again to all of the rural freedom fighters across Oregon for the incredible workto advance justice and democracy this year!
Rindy, Caroline, Cara, Cathy, Jess and the ROP team