California Governor Gavin Newsom handily defeated a recall effort this week. And I’m glad. Before you pull out your RINO stamp again, let me explain: Recall elections are stupid. And expensive. Just think about it. Newsom is up for reelection in 2022—you know, next year. And California just shelled out more than a quarter billion dollars in the fall of 2021 because some folks couldn’t wait another 14 months to throw him out of office. Seriously?
Newsom raised $80 million to defeat the recall 2-1. And now he’s in the national spotlight. I heard CBS’ Major Garrett asking him this morning if he is seeing the presidency in a different light. When the recall election was declared he was dealing with a scandal at the state unemployment office (EDD), fallout from pandemic mandates, public education performance and devastating wildfires (I know! It’s like we’re the size of Nebraska but operate like California!)
Nearly 70 people have been arrested for fraud over the EDD scandal and significant parts of California have been burning for three months. Talk about a strategy backfiring for the California GOP.
After Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped into the governor’s office with a recall election in 2003, California Republicans saw recalls as a handy alternative to actually winning regular elections. Perhaps this 2021 debacle will help the state GOP there to relook at its platform and reassess its strategy.
California is an extreme case for recall elections and ballot measures in general. Ballot measures have increased in number in every general election in California in the last decade. A ballot measure or initiative is a law that can be enacted by a simple majority vote by voters in a general election. Ballot initiatives can be placed on the ballot by the legislature or by petitions generated by the public with a certain number of signatures (at least 5% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election).
You aren’t going to get the number of signatures required for a ballot initiative without a lot of special interest money. It’s basically lobbying outside the legislature. It’s another way of bypassing the existing system to push forward an agenda that isn’t about voters or their benefit.
Some states have enacted, or are attempting to enact, laws that would make state election boards more partisan or even give the legislature the power to challenge election results. Smart voters know this isn’t okay, and any pragmatic politician knows such laws become problematic once the other party becomes the majority party. Texas, Georgia, and others have made national headlines with their laws.
As I have been writing recently, here at home we don’t seem to expect much of our elected officials. Rather than recall them, we patiently wait for the FBI or AG to show up and take them out of office that way. And our ballot initiatives of late are to approve constitutional amendments, such as establishing a state ethics commission (so much yes) and making the Public Regulation Commission an appointed body rather than an elected one (I first supported this, but the initiative seemed like it would go south under our current governor. It did.).
We may not have California or Texas problems like these in New Mexico—but we certainly have our own with over a century of one-party rule and an unhealthy tolerance for political corruption.
But if we are going to look to other states for political inspiration, we need to stop looking to blue California where income inequity (the median home price just hit $800,000, while 15.4% of its people live in poverty) continues to rise, or even red Texas where the cost of living is more affordable, but Covid cases are rising (and 12.5% of its population lives in poverty).
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appears regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. She lives amicably with her Democratic husband and Republican mother north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at email@example.com.