Voters will need to get out the parka and the mittens because the 2018 election season is getting a blast of winter political heat.

The Secretary of State on Monday certified that backers of Referendum 301 had turned in 70,230 valid signatures — far above what was needed. The referendum will be numbered as Measure 101 on the ballot.

The bill that backers say will provide more than $530 million to help low-income Oregonians pay for health care was passed by the Legislature last summer and signed by Gov. Kate Brown.

The contentious law will now be put on hold until a special election on Jan. 23 decides its fate. It’s shaping up as a largely partisan battle, with the state Democratic Party on Monday endorsing the “assessment” on health care providers as necessary to protect the state’s neediest residents. Opponents are already calling it a “sales tax,” a tactic used last year in the successful effort to defeat Measure 97, the corporate tax.

In the upside-down world of referendums, here’s a quick primer on the “Stop Healthcare Taxes” measure:

A yes vote means you want the taxes to go into effect.

A no vote means you want portions of the tax targeted by opponents to be blocked.

Don’t worry — there’s plenty of time for figuring this out. It’s coming to a yard sign near you very shortly. Beyond the bleary-eyed signature counters at the Secretary of State’s Office, here’s the political news from in and around Exit 256 on Interstate 5.

Turning blue in Sunriver

The Democratic Party of Oregon is holding its Oregon Summit this weekend at Sunriver Resort. The biggest political planning event for the Democrats will feature a line-up of speakers including Gov. Kate Brown, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Treasurer Tobias Read, Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian, and gaggles of congresspeople, legislators, local politicos and activists. The keynote speech on Saturday will be given by Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, a rising star in the party known for his acerbic tweets against the Trump administration.

Meet the CD-2 blue crew

The Democrats’ event requires tickets. An exception is the 11:15 a.m. Sunday “Meet and Greet” with Democrats seeking to run against Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River. Walden usually wins by 70 percent in Congressional District 2. Bend is considered the moderate metropolis of the largely rural and overwhelmingly Republican district that includes most of East and Central Oregon, along with a chunk of the south end of the state.

Running against Walden is considered akin to Don Quixote tilting against windmills, but some Democrats believe Walden’s support has been eroded by his close association with the policies of President Trump. The party, for its part, has called a workshop focused on Walden, “Building a Bench in CD2 and Beyond.” That could be taken as a sign that Democrats are hoping their chances will increase in the future, particularly after reapportionment for the 2022 election.

Three-way racing

Potential supporters and donors of political candidates from Bend should be aware of the official electoral status of those whom they support or oppose. In Oregon, there are three key steps to becoming a candidate: Announcing, filing and creating a campaign committee. Many candidates do it in reverse order or a mix. In Bend, Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, has done all three in his race for governor. So has Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie, a Democrat running for the state House seat Buehler will vacate. Former GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sam Carpenter has created a campaign committee for governor — what is sometimes called an “exploratory committee” — that allows him to raise and spend money. But he has neither filed for office or announced.

It becomes even more confusing when the office is Congress. Candidates must file for office with the Oregon Secretary of State, but their campaign finance statements are handled by the Federal Election Commission. Ross Wordhouse of Bend has filed for the 2nd Congressional District with the state and created a campaign finance committee with the feds. Timothy White of Bend has an FEC finance committee and made at least one campaign appearance, but is not listed as filed for office with the state. It’s still early. Candidates have until March 6 to file for office and the primary isn’t until May 15.

You’re super — go away!

Every political watcher knows there is a battle in the GOP between traditional Republicans and populists who voted for Donald Trump. Getting less attention, but no less real, is a struggle between traditional Democrats and populists who voted for Bernie Sanders. One of the issues separating the camps is superdelegates. Some party members are pushing to require that Oregon elected officials who serve as superdelegates (“automatic unpledged delegates” is the official party term) cast their votes in proportion to the Oregon statewide primary results.

Superdelegates are usually the party’s membership in the Senate and U.S. House, along with top state party officials. In the May 2016 Democratic primary in Oregon, Sen. Bernie Sanders beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 56 percent to 44 percent. Sanders won 35 of 36 counties — Clinton won Gilliam County by one vote. Sanders received 36 regular delegates and Clinton 25. But the state also had 13 superdelegates. At the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, the roll call of votes had the Oregon delegation casting 38 votes for Sanders, 34 for Clinton and 2 abstentions. The superdelegates who overwhelmingly favored Clinton turned Sanders’ electoral rout in Oregon into a squeaker at the convention.

Quotable:

“Now we’re shifting gears to what will be a David and Goliath campaign.”

— Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, a leader of the “Stop Healthcare Taxes” group, claiming the “No on 301” group could be outspent.

— Reporter: 541-525-5280, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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