Voters in a rural Oregon town are receiving ballots in the mail for a recall election targeting a judge who opposed the armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge earlier this year. Harney County Judge Steve Grasty decided to fight the recall even though he is retiring this year. The recall has stirred passions in Burns, which held the national spotlight for weeks during the standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Ammon Bundy and others occupied the refuge this winter to protest federal land policy and the imprisonment of Dwight and Steven Hammond, two ranchers sent to prison for starting fires. The 41-day standoff ended Feb. 11 and included the fatal shooting by police of rancher and occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum.
The recall election is June 28. Though his title is judge, Grasty’s position is essentially chairman of the county commission.
He was outspoken in his opposition of the occupation and the ranchers holed up in the refuge. Their supporters blamed Grasty for not doing more to protect the Hammonds.
Some Burns residents are rallying around Grasty as the recall election draws near. About 100 people attended a rally for him last week and an ad running in the local newspaper this week will list the names of up to 150 supporters.