Proponents of the recall tried to take Governor Gavin Newsom and the "No" campaign to court over the branding of the effort as "the Republican Recall." But a judge on Wednesday issued a tentative ruling that says they can continue to call it that.
The Republicans behind the recall voiced their objections this week in a court filing to Newsom's ballot argument in the voter guide set to be mailed to California voters in 12 days along with mail-in ballots. The "No" campaign position statement includes phrases that say the recall is "an attempt by national Republicans and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California," and it says that the recall supporters are "abusing our recall laws in order to gain power and advance their partisan agenda."
As the LA Times reports, the suit points to state law prohibiting "ballot arguments in the voter information pamphlet that are false and misleading," however legal experts also point out that the Supreme Court has regularly upheld that states can't be arbiters of what "truth" is when it comes to political speech.
Not to mention: This recall effort is, pretty much 100%, being driven by bitter Republicans. And the ballot argument for the "Yes" side was written by racist Republican ex-cop Orrin Heatlie, who previously was a sheriff's deputy in Yolo County and once openly compared immigrants to animals.
But a lawyer for the recall proponents, Eric P. Early, tells the LA Times, "This case is purely about making sure the taxpayer-paid voter information guide contains the truth." They argue that because 24 of the candidates running against Newsom are from other parties and 10 have no party affiliation, this can't fairly be called a Republican effort.
The Newsom campaign countered, "The facts are clear — this is a partisan Republican recall: one that was launched by Republicans like Heatlie and Netter and funded almost exclusively by Republican donors, the RNC and allies of Donald Trump."
On Wednesday, as KTVU reports, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie M. Earl issued a tentative ruling ahead of oral arguments, saying that there's nothing in Newsom's ballot argument that can be called outright false.
"The Court has no doubt that not all recall supporters are Republicans," Earl wrote in the ruling. "But the challenged arguments do not state or imply that they are."
The tentative ruling does not take effect but it signals where this is going. And as legal expert Christopher S. Elmendorf, a law professor at UC Davis, told the LA Times, "The forum provided to Newsom in the voter guide is a forum to which the 1st Amendment applies," and he said he'd be "shocked" if the lawsuit succeeded.
As SFist reported earlier, polling shows a tightening race for Newsom, and the Delta variant surge across the state — with its incumbent mask mandates, etc. — may end up hurting him further. There is greater urgency now for Democrats to make a show of force and motivate more Democratic voters to shut this down as a Republican-led effort. That show of force already includes a TV ad by Senator Elizabeth Warren in which "Republican recall" is repeated at least three times — and more heavy hitters i the party, including possibly the Obamas, are likely to shoot ads of their own supporting Newsom.
Republicans currently make up just 24% of the electorate in California, compared to about 35% when Gray Davis was recalled in 2003.
Mail-in ballots are being sent August 16, and the election is on September 14.
Top image: A "Recall Newsom" and "Make California Safe Again" political sign is planted in a barren field along Interstate 5 as viewed on May 31, 2021, near Gustine, California. Due to a lack of rain in the state and snowpack in the Sierra, this year marks one of the driest periods of weather in California's recorded history, forcing municipalities and farmers in the Central Valley to rethink their uses of water. As of this date, Governor Gavin Newsom has yet to declare a water "State of Emergency" for all of California. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)