My View: Recalls Galore, but Will Any of Them Remove People from Office?

Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

By David Greenwald

This week a local group announced they were recalling four of the five school board members—basically everyone but Betsy Hyder, who evidently shares their view on school re-opening.

‘Tis the season.  The effort, which has not formally pulled papers when we asked the Elections Office on Thursday, joins efforts in San Francisco, Los Angeles and statewide with Gavin Newsom.

All of these appear to be spawned by more conservative forces which, in deep blue areas, makes you wonder how successful they will actually be.

Locally, a group argued “79% of K-12 Parents Support In-Person School in a recent Gallup Poll.”  They argue, “Yet our DJUSD school board is granting our kids only 4 hours a week of in-person school in hybrid, which does not require in-person academic instruction, likely for the remainder of the school year.”

A Facebook page notes: “Your unwillingness to follow the recommendations from local, state, and federal public health officials prevented public schools in Davis, CA from re-opening for any in-person learning for over one year.”  (Note that only two of the board members were even on the board a year ago).

They continue: “In early January, the school board voted to require all teachers be offered both doses of the vaccine, plus two weeks thereafter, as a precursor for moving to hybrid learning.”

They argue: “This requirement was at direct odds to advice provided by public health officials to the determinant of our children.”

But can they get enough signatures to qualify for a recall and, if so, can they win?  The group that was pushing hard for re-opening is apparently split on this, with some opposing a recall.  Schools will be partially re-opened by April 12 with an expectation of full reopening for the fall.

Parents are split on the issue of re-opening.  The broader community, many of whom are past child rearing age, are probably more indifferent.  I would argue, of the four recalls, this seems to be least likely to qualify for the ballot and even less likely to succeed if it does qualify.

The one most likely to qualify is Gavin Newsom.  But it is hard to know how successful such an effort would be.  For one thing, while Newsom’s polling ratings have clearly slipped from peaks in the 60s last spring, they still are not horrible.  IGS (Institute of Governmental Studies) out of Berkley shows it at 46-48, basically split with a slight lean toward the negative.  Another one is a bit worse, at 44-49.

Neither are as bad as Gray Davis when he was recalled and removed, standing in the 30s.

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, told the Bee that the polls show “many people who are very dissatisfied with Newsom now were also dissatisfied with him before he took office.”

“If I look at who are the people who are unhappy with Newsom today, they were unhappy when he was elected as governor,” Baldassare said. “They base their opinions about performance based on their preconceptions of their leader.”

Given the trajectory of things—reopening, schools starting again, vaccine distribution increasing—it would seem that, barring a collapse like we are seeing with Governor Cuomo in New York, Governor Newsom is likely to survive this.  But things could change quickly, as we have seen over the past year.

Two district attorneys are also facing recalls.  The circumstances are a bit different in San Francisco from Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, the drive is occurring by some of the deputies district attorneys leftover from Jackie Lacey’s office and law enforcement.  The problem that they have, while they and some outsiders have tried to stoke the fire, the voters, a majority of them, just voted to elect George Gascón by seven points.

He has largely attempted to implement the policies he ran on.

And polling last month from the Appeal continues to show voter approval of those policies.

“A new poll from The Lab, a policy vertical of The Appeal, and Data for Progress shows substantial support among Los Angeles County voters for a number of measures to reduce the jail population,” the Appeal reports.

“A strong majority (59 percent) of respondents in Los Angeles County—including 65 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independent voters—favor releasing people charged with low-level offenses, such as crimes that do not involve physical injuries to another person,” the poll finds, with just one-third of the voters opposing such a measure.

“Sixty-two percent of people favor releasing incarcerated people with less than 6 months left in their sentence,” it continues.  “An even stronger majority (65 percent) of voters support releasing elderly incarcerated people and 55 percent favor releasing those who are more vulnerable to the virus as a result of co-morbidities like heart and lung disease so long as they do not pose a serious risk to public safety.”

The poll goes even further—the voters in Los Angeles, in fact, do not support “pre-trial detention,” which is basically bail reform.

The Appeal finds that people do not want to see people detained before trial unless strictly necessary.

Chesa Boudin in San Francisco probably has the most to worry about of the folks facing recall.  Anger has flashed both from the incident on New Year’s Eve with the two people killed as well as several violent attacks on Asian politicians.

Unlike Gascón, Boudin faced a multi-person race and received just 35.6 percent of the vote.  That means that a majority of the voters did not support him on the first round of voting.  He did win by just under 3000 votes after choice voting took place—50.8 to 49.2.

On the other hand, the forces against him are decidedly conservative in an overwhelmingly liberal town.  Richie Greenberg ran for mayor in 2018, focusing on crime—but he’s a Republican in a town that is overwhelming Democrat.

While critics of Boudin will undoubtedly claim there is rising crime and the incidents of hate against Asians, and point the finger at his progressive policies, defenders can counter that crime has risen across the board and that there are similar problems in Oakland with a more traditional DA than San Francisco with a more progressive one.

While in some ways things seem to have settled down from where they were a month ago, the response to a recent press conference was decidedly mixed.

If I had to guess, Boudin is most likely to be removed as he lacked 50 percent of the voters in the direct round of voting.  His best bet is to focus on the policies that got him elected and turn this into a more partisan and ideological battle.  I think the recall in Davis goes nowhere.  Governor Newsom will face an election but survive, and Gascón probably survives as well.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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4 thoughts on “My View: Recalls Galore, but Will Any of Them Remove People from Office?”

  1. PhilColeman

    Tis indeed.

    Recall, Referendum, Impeachment,  All ominous terms to be used as a populist last resort to unresponsive or corrupt government entities or individuals. With public employee labor groups add one more term to be feared, “Vote of No Confidence.”

    Thanks to the current political climate of polarizing and separating within our “United” States, these tools of last resort are becoming the first option from advocates who comprise a fractional sentiment of the general populace.

    Will these media-fueled hollow blusterings succeed? No.

    Governor Newsom, for example, is not even close to being removed from office. Nor will any of the others mentioned. By the time the tedious, costly, and protracted process has moved forward, the Pandemic-generated issues will have largely evaporated.

    The construction of our current form of democratic governing had some very wise folks long ago. They knew they had to give recourse to a populist attack of the existing government. Nonetheless, our founders perhaps intuitively anticipated distortion of public opinion of duly elected government caused by biased cable news networks, blogs, and pods.




    1. Bill Marshall

      They knew they had to give recourse to a populist attack of the existing government.

      Actually, the recourse was intended to correct greivious behavior in more a ‘judicial’ model… figuring that the government could not be trusted to “police its own”…

      The “populist attack” is real, but generally is actually “political attack” … but is only secondary to the intent of “the remedies”… Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was a political attack, and gained Thomas Hart Benton a chapter in JFK’s “Profiles in Courage”… Nixon’s impeachment proceedings ended with what amounts to a “no contest” ‘plea’, and a ill-advised pardon… (I still wonder if Nixon stepped on Ford’s foot, accidentally, and said ‘pardon me’, and Ford said “sure”)

      Clinton’s impeachment did not come from ‘populist attack’… it came from the opposing political party in power… technically representing their constituents, but ‘really’?

      Trump’s 2 impeachments came from two directions… the first, purely political party… the second actually had a significant ‘populist’ support…

      My 2 cents…

    1. Bill Marshall

      Good question, Alan… probably no pertinent response will be forthcoming…  share the question, as to he question , as asked, or if certain folk equate Asian (actually, think there is another term, that eludes me, that includes those from India, Pakistan, Philippeanx, Pacific Islanders) people to ‘politicians’…

      Darn good question, though… expect nothing cogent in response…

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