OREGON — Could it be the year of the underdog? The presidential election wasn’t the only contest to see an upset.
Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who came to national attention for heftily fining a local bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, lost. Avakian, a champion of the LGBTQ community, was running for Secretary of State.
As labor commissioner since 2008, Avakian often made news for his tough calls against businesses discriminating against gay and transgender customers.
The most noteworthy was when Sweet Cakes by Melissa refused to make the wedding cake for the same-sex couple in 2013, citing the owners’ religious beliefs. Shop owners Melissa and Aaron Klein were ordered to pay $135,000 in emotional damages. They were also told they couldn’t refuse customers based on sexual orientation.
Melissa Klein claimed the ruling stripped the couple of their First Amendment rights. “According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech,” she said in a Facebook post at the time.
“Sweet Cakes by Melissa” eventually shut down completely, though their Facebook page remains active.
Avakian was also responsible for slamming a $400,000 fine on a Portland bar owner who refused service to transgender customers, according to the Oregon Live.
In his bid for Secretary of State, Avakian promised a push for “progressive values” like wage equality and reproductive freedoms. His conservative opponent promised to adhere to the position’s basic, more traditional roles, like auditing public records and officiating elections.
In the end, the opponent, Dennis Richardson won 48% of the popular vote, beating Avakian by nearly 100,000 votes. The victory makes Richardson the first Republican to win a statewide office in Oregon since 2002.