On June 22nd, business interests who want to recall
Supervisor Jake McGoldrick failed to gather enough signatures to put it on the November ballot – falling about 1,000 signatures short. But proponents of this effort, which include the local Republican Party, told the San Francisco Examiner that they will now try for the February 2008 ballot. Because state law requires them to collect all 3,573 signatures in 120 days, proponents must complete the petition gathering by September 14th without having to start again from scratch. While that’s a doable goal (especially with the group’s financial resources and high-priced consultants), putting the recall on the same ballot as the Democratic presidential primary is a doomed strategy. Progressives will be voting in droves next year, so a campaign that urges the ouster of a Supervisor because he championed Healthy Saturdays in Golden Gate Park and a bus-only lane on Geary Boulevard will not get much traction. The June 2008 ballot should be more favorable, but by then McGoldrick will almost be out of office – which calls into question the sheer absurdity of such an endeavor.
To recall a San Francisco Supervisor, the City Charter requires that at least 10% of registered voters in the district sign a petition within a 120-day period. Proponents of the McGoldrick recall took out papers at the Department of Elections on May 18th, so they still technically have until September to qualify a recall election. But in order to have the recall coincide with the Mayor’s race, the Elections Department needed thirty days to verify the signatures before the July cut-off. They failed to get it on time, so the next possibility is the February 2008 ballot, which will not help their cause.
With no serious opponent running against Gavin Newsom, this November’s election is likely to have a low turnout. As I’ve warned progressive activists, don’t even bother putting a ballot measure for this November because unless Matt Gonzalez enters the race, it’s going to fail. The specter of a McGoldrick recall in the Richmond (which now thankfully won’t happen) and a special election in the Sunset to replace Ed Jew (which could still happen), coupled with the Newsom re-election machine, could mean that the San Francisco electorate in November 2007 will have a decided conservative bent.
But that won’t be the case in February 2008. George W. Bush did not win a single San Francisco precinct in either presidential election, and voters are impatiently waiting to pick the next Democratic president. With California’s primary two weeks after New Hamsphire, residents in the Richmond and elsewhere will be excited to choose between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. Many of these people don’t vote in local politics, but when they hear that Republicans want to recall their local Supervisor – even though he’ll be termed out in less than a year – they will not react favorably.
In fact, the February ballot might even see two or three right-wing recall efforts that are doomed to fail when Democratic voters come to the polls. Rex Reginald, an Animal Control Commissioner who doesn’t even live in District 3, wants to recall
North Beach Supervisor Aaron Peskin – because the Board President won’t support raising the rent on tenants who have pets. Some conservatives even want to recall Supervisor Chris Daly in District 6, but they can’t legally collect signatures yet because (ironically) he was sworn into office less than six months ago.
With a competitive three-way primary for the Democratic Presidential nomination and the influence that California will play in that race, imagine how much support Supervisors McGoldrick, Peskin or Daly (all Democrats) would get to fight a recall effort. The Democratic County Central Committee has already opposed the McGoldrick recall, and they will most certainly oppose the other efforts too should they materialize. Many San Franciscans will be getting involved to support their favorite presidential candidate, and while they walk precincts will be asked to pass out literature against the recall as well.
Of course, proponents of the McGoldrick recall could wait to put it on the June 2008 ballot and hope for a more favorable (i.e., conservative) electorate. They could get a lower voter turnout in that District, because there won’t be much happening on the West Side in that election cycle. If the Richmond were located in the 3rd State Senate District, it would be a totally different story
– but Leland Yee, not Carole Migden, represents that part of San Francisco in the State Senate.
But if recall proponents tried for June 2008, they would have to start again from scratch and collect another 3,573 signatures – because the law says they must collect them all within 120 days. And if these people are honest about the frustration they have with Jake McGoldrick, why not just wait until January 2009 when he will be termed out of office? While they could still try to recall him in June 2008, it really sounds silly. Not to mention that it’ll be just barely legal – you can’t recall an elected official if they have less than six months left in their term.
With the sudden flurry of recall attempts, many observers have said that it’s way too easy to gather signatures for a recall – and that the City Charter should be amended to set a higher barrier. They’re right. Ten percent of registered voters in a local district is a ridiculously low threshold to qualify for the ballot, especially if your campaign can pay signature-gatherers to hang out in front of every neighborhood supermarket.
In fact, if the Charter were consistent with state law, proponents of the McGoldrick recall would have to collect twice as many signatures as they currently need to. California Elections Code Section 11221 lays out the requirements to recall local elected officials, and it says that the number depends on how many registered voters live in the area. If there are between 10,000 and 50,000 registered voters (the Richmond has 35,000), you must collect signatures from twenty percent of all registered voters.
Meanwhile, the City Charter sets a flat 10% rate for all elected officials in San Francisco, regardless of whether they are elected citywide or by district - and regardless of how many voters live in the district. But San Francisco is allowed to conflict with state law on this issue because the state law governing recall procedures “does not supersede the provisions of a city charter or county charter relating to recall.”
So until the voters pass a Charter Amendment, San Francisco is stuck with a system where a fringe minority can collect signatures from 10% of registered voters in a district and force a costly recall election upon the taxpayers. It’s not good public policy, regardless of your political affiliation. The McGoldrick recall is a witch hunt – plain and simple – and now that proponents have failed to qualify for November, they should re-think their strategy. Promote your candidate for November 2008, but don't make a mockery of our democratic process.
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