In the last five years, California has seen such a flurry of recall activity that no other state even comes close. In 2018, State Senator Josh Newman was recalled over his vote in Sacramento over the gas tax, while Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky was recalled over his decision in the Brock Turner rape case. For the latter, the recall was so bad that Persky was fired as a high schools tennis coach after only a brief time on the job as a result.
Two Santa Cruz Councilmen were recalled in 2020 for workplace misconduct, and last year San Francisco saw a huge progressive backlash with School Board Members Gabriela Lopez, Faauuga Moliga, and Alison Collins being ousted in February with over 70% of the vote each, and District Attorney Chesa Boudin being tossed in June. And that’s not even counting the close calls. Governor Gavin Newsom managed to avoid being recalled in 2021, and LA County DA George Gascon barely missed out on facing his own recall election last year. Many, many more recall efforts in the past 5 years managed to reach the signature gathering phase and give some lawmakers quite the scare.
Now, in 2023, major efforts are still in the works across the state. Most notably, LA City Councilman Kevin de Leon, who had just about the worst last three months of 2022 possible and whose hijinks would be far more suitable for tv shows like Veep or Parks and Recreation, is currently undergoing the signature gathering phase in his district. Should enough signatures be collected, and he ultimately be ousted, it would cap one of the steepest downfalls in Californian political history. De Leon, back in 2018 when the recent recall wave started, he was President pro tempore of the State Senate and, if not for over a million Republicans in the state choosing to abstain from voting rather than vote for him in the Senate election over Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) would have possibly been elected as a U.S. Senator.
Now, five years later, de Leon is on the City Council, only elected in because the previous district Councilman had to resign. He lost in the Mayoral primary last year, coming in a distant third. And, because of the racist recording scandal, few lawmakers in LA want to work with him. He’s been censured. And he is gone from pretty much every Council committee, including the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which he used to chair.
While others, like Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, are currently facing the threat of a recall, it’s de Leon that this years recall crop will be remembered for barring some major effort or scandal that can get something on the November ballot in time. And for many political watchers in the state, it’s continued evidence that Californians will continue to challenge lawmakers through recall action.
“It’s something every elected official in California is well aware of,” Chuck Bradley, a political analyst at a think tank in Washington, told the Globe Monday. “It’s that voters, is sufficiently angry with something you’ve done, can basically hold a new election to cut your term short and get you out. It happens elsewhere. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Oregon have had a bunch in recent years. 10 Wisconsin State Senators faced recall election in 2010 alone, a few successfully. Put the pace, and perhaps even more importantly, the high number of successful recalls, puts California over any other state. Lawmakers there keep trying to make it harder to do, but the voters, they keep finding ways.”
“For de Leon in LA, he has a lot to worry about with this recall effort. He’s being protested everywhere he goes, and he is such a pariah that no one wants to work with him and he’s been basically stripped of anything important. His wings have been clipped. Going for him is a strong base of supporters, in particular Latino voters who remember what he has done for him in the past. But others have found what he has done in the last several months unforgiveable. He’s said some very racist things and even got into a fight. Right now, it’s not known if the recall election will come to be just yet. What is clear is that de Leon is making it more easier for voters to turn against him because of his recent actions.”
Signature collection for the de Leon recall is expected to continue through March.
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