Candidates Who Backed the Oregon Militia Overwhelmingly Voted Out

Harney County saw the highest rate of voter participation in the state

LaVoy Finicum and Jon Ritzheimer at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Burns, Oregon, on January 15th. Credit: Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty

Voters in rural Harney County, Oregon, overwhelmingly rejected the ideology of right-wing militia members who made the local wildlife refuge famous with their ill-fated occupation earlier this year. Candidates sympathetic to Ammon Bundy and his fellow "patriots" were overwhelmingly voted down in Tuesday's election, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was temporarily "liberated" from government "tyranny" by the marauding band of misfits for three weeks in January. The militia members were protesting the harsh sentences a local rancher and his son were given after they were found guilty of arson. The stand-off ended with an FBI raid that left one occupier, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, dead.

Statewide, only a little more than half of Oregon's eligible voters turned out in Tuesday's primary — despite the fact that, as Rolling Stone reported, officials have made it quite easy to vote in the state.

Harney County, by contrast, saw 72 percent of eligible voters cast ballots — the highest rate of voter participation in the state.

During the occupation, militia members received support, in the form of food and supplies, from around the country, but Tuesday's election showed there was only tepid enthusiasm for the goal of returning federal land to local control.

Tom Schaefer, a candidate running for county judge who invoked the militia's pet issue in his stump speeches — saying things like, "I think we need to push back with every opportunity and every bit of leverage that we have against these federal agencies that are strangling us" — took third place in his race for county judge.

The winner of that race, former County Commissioner Pete Runnels, opposed the occupation. (The Pacific Patriot Network, an organization that supported the militia, called for Runnels' resignation back in January.)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Cuff, who campaigned on the issue of transferring federal lands to state control and who aligned himself with militia members by speaking at rallies protesting the shooting death of Finicum, came in third in Harney County behind Allen Alley and Bud Pierce, who won the statewide vote.