Newsom sues elections chief to call himself a Democrat on recall ballot

Published on June 29, 2021 8:34 AM


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SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom is suing his own appointed elections chief to get two words next to his name on the recall ballot: Democratic Party.

The governor and his staff overlooked paperwork last year that would have allowed him to state his party preference on a recall ballot, according to a legal filing first reported Monday by Courthouse News. That apparent misstep means that Newsom would appear on the recall ballot without a party designation, while dozens of challengers will have their party preferences listed.

Newsom filed a lawsuit Monday against Secretary of State Shirley Weber in Sacramento Superior Court seeking to put his party preference on the ballot, based on the Courthouse News document. The Democratic governor nominated Weber to her post in December, replacing Alex Padilla, whom Newsom named to the U.S. Senate.

Weber, a former Democratic assemblymember, took office in January and is now in charge of certifying the recall election.

The legal challenge comes as California's gubernatorial recall draws ever closer, with an election possibly happening in September. Weber last week confirmed that proponents had more than enough signatures to qualify the contest, and several ministerial steps remain before the date is confirmed. Weber's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.

The lawsuit filed by Olson Remcho, LLP — a longtime Democratic Party election law powerhouse — argues that the narrow window to file the paperwork was unnecessarily arbitrary and that there remains plenty of time to practically add the governor's party preference, considering the recall election has not yet been certified. Under state law, Newsom had to file his party preference within seven days along with his response to the now-successful recall petition that launched in February 2020.

In another twist, not only did Newsom appoint the elections chief blocking his party designation on the ballot, but he signed the very legislation whose timeline he's taking issue with.

Before 2020, recall-threatened officials did not have an option to have their party designation on the ballot in California, which Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) saw as a problem. The Democratic lawmaker wrote Senate Bill 151 in 2019 to allow officials facing a recall to add their party.

Umberg argued that "unlike the elected official being recalled, candidates seeking to succeed the elected official in a recall election are able to have a ballot designation," according to a Senate bill analysis. He also argued, "By providing additional identifying information on the ballot, voters are able to make a more informed choice when deciding to ...