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Newsom isn’t the only California politician to be recalled

After nearly 20 years on the Ventura County Board of Directors, Linda Parks believed her last political campaign was behind her. But Parks, a politically independent Republican who will be stripped of her post at the end of next year, has once again found herself ready to fight politically.

In late February, opponents officially launched a campaign to dismiss the five-term supervisor amid a maelstrom of denigration.

The simmering rage over the coronavirus shutdowns – and Ventura County’s decision to take legal action against a number of businesses that have repeatedly violated shutdown orders – is boosting the recall effort.

“I’ve never seen a worse time to be a local elected official,” Parks said, describing a level of vitriol unlike anything she had encountered before. “I’m sorry for the school boards. I apologize for my fellow supervisors. I’m sorry for the members of the city council.

For months, attention has focused on the high-profile campaign to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office. But he is far from the only Californian politician to repel a popular revolt. Local recall attempts have erupted in almost every corner of the state in recent months, from rural Northern California to the southern border.

Think of the reminder as a kind of emergency exit button from direct democracy. For over a century every California voter has had the right to try to push it, but very few ever do. Even fewer do it successfully.

In the first five months of 2021, active recall efforts – those in which official action has been taken – have targeted at least 68 local officials in California, according to a Times analysis. The total has already exceeded the number of local recall attempts seen in four of the past five years in California, according to Ballotpedia, a non-partisan website that tracks US politics and elections.

Santa Clara County typically processes one or two recall attempts per year. So far this year, eight local officials – all school board members – have been targeted.

Documents for five recall attempts were filed this year in San Francisco – the same number had been filed there in the previous 15 years. The two dueling campaigns to recall Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin and the recall campaigns of three San Francisco school board members have all generated a lot of ink.

In the small industrial town of Vernon, south of downtown Los Angeles, two city council members were ousted earlier this month in the city’s first recall election in modern memory. In September, Vernon’s 120 registered voters will decide the fate of two other council members in a second recall election on September 14.

On that day, voters in Sonoma County will decide whether to recall their district attorney.

The latest official offer came forward on Wednesday, when LA City Councilor Nithya Raman received a recall notice outside her Silver Lake home. (A campaign to recall LA city councilor Mike Bonin, not to be confused with the 2017 campaign to recall, has yet to file official documents.)

Local election officials and experts cited publicity surrounding Newsom’s recall, along with the fallout from the pandemic and an increasingly combative national political atmosphere, as likely factors behind the local recalls frenzy. of this year.

“This is another way for the public to say, ‘We’re watching you and we’re going to hold you to account,'” Sacramento County Chief Electoral Officer Courtney Bailey-Kanelos said.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva signs a large version of the LA County recall petition. Atty. George Gascon.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Bailey-Kanelos office is now responding to around three times as many callback requests as in the past.

The flood of calls and emails started pouring into his office in the weeks following the November election – in the same month that a now infamous dinner at the French Laundry sparked a long-running campaign. to bring the governor back to the forefront of state policy.

The increase in recall attempts targeting local school board members has been “unprecedented,” said California School Boards Assn. spokesperson Troy Flint. School board members make up two-thirds of local officials targeted for the recall this year, with many campaigns targeting multiple members of the same board.

It is too early to say whether the resumption of tabled recall attempts will actually lead to more special elections later this year. More than a few of these 68 attempts have already failed. Several stuck from the start with files that did not meet electoral code standards, while others failed to collect enough signatures within the required timeframe.

Local recall supporters have between 40 and 160 days to collect petition signatures, depending on the number of voters in a district. (Recall petitions must be signed in person.) This strict timeline is one of the biggest obstacles to qualifying a successful recall attempt, and it is generally believed that a pandemic-related extension of collection time of signatures made Newsom’s recall possible.

Recalls have generally increased nationally since the 1980s, according to Joshua Spivak, a senior researcher at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College and one of the nation’s leading experts on recalls. Amid that wider tide, Spivak said the recall of California Governor Gray Davis in 2003 helped solidify the recall’s place in public consciousness.

“It’s in people’s minds that you could do this,” Spivak said, citing pop culture references such as a 2005 episode of “The Simpsons” and a 2013 episode of “Parks and Recreation”. focused on recall elections. “So once you know you can do it, why not do it?” ”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been listed as a factor in more than half of recalls tracked by Ballotpedia this year, the vast majority of which stemmed from anger over COVID-related closures or restrictions.

“People were sitting at home and feeling helpless,” said Karen Meyer, longtime Thousand Oaks resident and retired high school receptionist. Meyer now often spends weekends at a small folding table in the parking lot of a local target or DMV, asking passers-by if they would like to sign petitions to recall Ventura County parks.

The recall organizer slammed his county supervisor for following Newsom’s pandemic guidelines too closely and not doing enough to save local businesses, such as a now closed Thousand Oaks donut store who would customize special flavors for Meyer’s husband after brain surgery in 2019 diminished his sense of taste.

People felt like they had no control over what happened during the pandemic, Meyer said, with choices made that they did not vote for and did not approve of.

But Parks said she believes she has applied the necessary restrictions in times of crisis. “If I am called back for doing all I can to prevent people from contracting COVID and dying, so be it,” she said. “I don’t regret it at all. “

As recall attempts proliferate in an increasingly turbulent political atmosphere, several election experts and officials have expressed concern about the potential pressure on already overburdened and understaffed local electoral services.

Sonoma County Election Officer Deva Marie Proto said she was concerned about staff exhaustion and the overall resource toll.

Newsom isn’t the only California politician to be recalled

Radio talk show host Carl DeMaio announces his intention to recall Carlsbad city councilor Cori Schumacher.

(Phil Diehl / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Along with the long-scheduled district election in November, Sonoma County will be juggling Newsom’s recall, which has yet to be scheduled, and a September 14 special election to recall the Sonoma County district. Atty. Jill Ravitch, an effort that qualified for the poll in May.

This recall was funded by a wealthy developer whose company was investigated by Ravitch and the state attorney general’s office for allegedly leaving residents of the elderly care homes without means of evacuate during a forest fire in 2017, resulting in a settlement of $ 500,000 and a five-year injunction.

The special election, which will take place less than a year before a regular election that Ravitch does not intend to run for, will cost the county around $ 600,000 to $ 900,000.

This all follows 2020, which Proto described as “an absolutely extraordinary year” in terms of the extra work and stress placed on local election offices. “And it’s not slowing down,” she said.

Echoing the words of several other organizers, San Francisco School Board co-chair Siva Raj described the recall policy as something he and his partner, Autumn Looijen, never expected to come into their lives. But both said they felt they had exhausted all other options and still hadn’t been heard.

“They were absolutely unwilling to listen to parents,” Raj said. “So we said, ‘Maybe we need to do something a little more drastic to get them to listen to us. “”

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