Preliminary returns show 70 percent of the voters in Harney County, Ore., opposed the recall of Harney County judge Steve Grasty, who publicly called the occupation illegal and urged Bundy and his militia supporters to go home.
“I have to believe this wasn’t just about Steve Grasty,” the judge told the Oregonian after County Clerk Derrin ‘Dag’ Robinson announced the results of Tuesday’s recall election.
Grasty, who also serves as county commissioner, told the newspaper that the public vote “reflected circumstances of dealing with the refuge occupation.”
“I think it’s an affirmation that we did a lot of things right, and I mean the community when I say ‘we,’” Grasty said.
Kim Rollins, a Burns general contractor, spearheaded the recall petition effort, claiming Grasty violated Bundy’s right to assembly and free speech by denying him use of a county fairgrounds building for a meeting during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns.
Grasty said he took the action because Bundy and his militia supporters brought firearms to other public meetings in Burns during the 41-day occupation.
It ended shortly after Bundy and other occupation leaders were arrested Jan. 26 at an FBI roadblock away from the refuge. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum of Arizona was fatally shot by Oregon State Police troopers as he attempted to evade the road block.
Rollins declined comment after only 30 percent of the county’s voters supported the recall effort.
The issue of the refuge occupation will linger on through the November general election in Harney County, located in eastern Oregon.
There, appointed sheriff David Ward is seeking election to the spot. He is being challenged by Alan Johnson, a retired state trooper, who received the public endorsement from Richard Mack, who heads the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA).
After Tuesday’s recall results were known, Johnson told the Portland newspaper that he doesn’t need support from Mack or his constitutional sheriffs group.
“I don’t want his endorsement,” Johnson told the newspaper.
Mack, who also has supported Bundy’s father, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, first offered his endorsement of Johnson at a Feb. 12 public gathering at the county fairgrounds building. Johnson was in attendance, smiling broadly as he received Mack’s endorsement.
Without mentioning Ward by name, Mack accused the “local sheriff” of failing to do his job by refusing to be an “interposer” between “overly aggressive and corrupt” federal officials and local ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond.
Ward received high praise from many residents and other elected officials, even called a hero by some, for his handling of the occupation. The FBI chief who handled the occupation praised Ward, saying “never met a man who cares more about the people he serves, who cares more for the community in which he lives.”
A Jan. 2 demonstration in Burns, led by Bundy and assorted militia and so-called III Percent groups, to support the Hammonds preceded the illegal occupation of the wildlife refuge headquarters buildings.