Gavin Newsom speaking against recall effort in 2021

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a No on the Recall campaign event on September 08, 2021 in San Leandro, California.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Recall Madness in California

The expensive spectacle undermining democracy in the Golden State.

$700,000 dollars.

That’s how much the recall election of Mayor Pro Tem Jessie Lopez cost Santa Ana taxpayers.

That’s nearly a million dollars that could have gone towards playgrounds, job training and yes, even public safety efforts – public services that the working families of a historically poor community of color like Santa Ana rely on, from public parks to youth sports.

California's recall process, originally a mechanism for accountability, has become a wasteful spectacle; the toy of choice for sore losers and special interests to exploit when things don’t go their way.

The rules are skewed, allowing a challenger—or their monied backers—to seize power with a handful of votes, while the incumbent needs a majority to remain in office. The entire process undermines our democracy, ousting candidates who were fairly elected before they have a chance to complete their full term.

The entire process undermines our democracy, ousting candidates who were fairly elected before they have a chance to complete their full term.

It’s no coincidence that every successful recall effort in recent history has been bankrolled by deep-pocketed special interests. In Santa Ana’s case, the purse strings were pulled by corporate landlords and the police union to the tune of nearly $800,000 dollars. Even worse, errors in the Santa Ana process disenfranchised over a thousand voters, mostly Latinos.

Even in the Golden State voter suppression and political corruption are alive and well.

This perversion of our democracy has run rampant.

Last year’s unsuccessful recall election of Gavin Newsom cost taxpayers more than $200 million dollars. In 2022, San Francisco spent $12 million to fund two recall elections, one that targeted three school district board commissioners who had less than a year left in their terms and another to recall then-district attorney Chesa Boudin.

There have been countless attempted takedowns of our most progressive leaders: from Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon to Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price to Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin.

Even when recall attempts fail to qualify for the ballot, their consequences linger, casting doubt on the integrity of the democratic process, and shaking public trust and confidence in fair governance.

On the heels of the January 6th insurrection, California should be leading the charge in fortifying our democratic mechanisms amidst dangerous election denialism.

They undermine elected leadership, disrupting the mandate given by voters. Our democracy suffers when elected officials are constantly under the threat of removal, impeding their ability to govern effectively and fulfill their responsibilities to the electorate.

On the heels of the January 6th insurrection, California should be leading the charge in fortifying our democratic mechanisms amidst dangerous election denialism. Our state should set the standard, not become a breeding ground for antics that erode the trust in our electoral process.

As working families and immigrants continue to flock to regions like Santa Ana seeking refuge from unaffordable cities, their voices must be heard and their votes must count.

We need to reform the recall process in California and set an example for the rest of the nation. We can no longer allow special interests to buy our democracy from working families.

$700,000 dollars.

That's what it cost Santa Ana taxpayers to remind us that California’s democracy should never be a playground for special interests.

Reform the recall process.

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