Oregon official who targeted Christian bakers loses election
Brad Avakian’s progressive politics might have been too much, even for Oregonians
The Oregon labor commissioner who went after bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein for their refusal to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple lost his race for Oregon secretary of state to a Republican last week.
Brad Avakian fined the Christian owners of Sweetcakes by Melissa $135,000 in 2015 and waged an all-out war to elevate sexual orientation over religious liberty. He carried his progressive politics into a heated race for secretary of state, a position held by Democrats since 1984.
Avakian lost to Republican Dennis Richardson, a trial lawyer who piloted combat helicopters in Vietnam.
A Republican win is rare, with Democrats deeply embedded in Oregon politics. The northwest state is one of six with a Democratic trifecta—control of the governor’s seat as well as the state House and Senate. But Richardson’s basic platform of government transparency, promoting voter activity, and making Oregon more attractive to new businesses won out over Avakian’s smear tactics.
One of Avakian’s television ads insinuated Richardson compared gays and lesbians to drug addicts and alcoholics, and “believes a woman loses the right to her own body when she becomes pregnant.”
Aaron Klein told the Independent Journal Review that Avakian’s extreme agenda was unsavory even to Oregon’s progressive voters: “He used his office to execute a personal bias and I think people thought he’d do the same with secretary of state.”
Not a single Oregonian newspaper endorsed Avakian, and he lost to Richardson by more than 4 percentage points.
But his downfall may have been due to more than extremely progressive politics.
Last month, Forbes wrote that Avakian “acts as if rules are only for other people.” He used his job as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) to promote his secretary of state campaign, gave bonuses to employees from his campaign fund, and redacted hundreds of events from his official calendar, breaking state law. He also gave himself and other BOLI employees significant raises.
Avakian will continue serving his second four-year term as Oregon’s labor commissioner until 2018.
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