OAKLAND – Gov. Gavin Newsom will appear on recall ballots without his Democratic Party tag after losing a last-minute legal fight on Monday.
The Newsom team was quick to correct an error that will now deprive it of its party preference on the ballots for the September 14 recall. Newsom sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber in late June, arguing that the law imposes an unnecessarily early deadline on recall targets to apply for their party nomination and that voters deserve to see this information.
After hearing the arguments on Friday, however, Judge James P. Arguelles ruled Monday night against Newsom. Arguelles had previously been instrumental in the recall by giving promoters an additional four months to collect signatures – an extension that ultimately coincided with the worst months of the pandemic in California.
Arguelles disagreed with an argument by Newsom’s lawyer that party status was vital information for voters, writing that the law offered candidates “the discretion to inform voters of recall of their party preferences, instead of imposing a requirement that voters be so informed ”. Arguelles rejected the idea that a “good faith mistake” on Newsom’s part should spare him.
“Governor Newsom argues that the unique circumstances of his untimely party designation support an order excusing the non-compliance,” Arguelles wrote, but “the court is not convinced.”
Newsom’s legal team had requested a ruling this week before Weber finalized the list of candidates on Friday so counties could begin preparing ballots.
A discreet 2019 law signed by Newsom allows elected officials who are the target of dismissals to register their party designation. But Newsom’s legal team did not ask the governor to take advantage of this option when it responded to the recall petition in February 2020, the official window for making the request. Newsom’s team called the omission unintentional and argued that voters would benefit from knowing the governor’s party.
Lawyers for supporters of the recall and Republican candidate Caitlyn Jenner have argued that the law clearly prohibits Newsom from making such a change, and they attacked Newsom’s attempts to do so as an example of his inappropriate distortion of the law. for its purposes.
“Basically it comes down to whether the governor of California should follow the law without ambiguity, and it turns out that this is a law that he signed,” the supporters’ lawyer said Friday. recall, Eric Early. “It may be a bitter pill for the governor to swallow, but he has to swallow it. “
With the election set for September 14, many more voters are expected to vote earlier via postal ballots that election officials are expected to send to every registered and active voter. Counties must send out these ballots by August 16.
As Newsom leads its Republican rivals in polls and fundraising and benefits from California’s majority Democratic electorate, the enthusiasm rests on the governor’s conservative enemies. This raises the stakes for Newsom to form his Democratic base.
The impact of the decision could be mitigated given the widespread recognition of Newsom’s name in California. The California Democratic Party – which has spent around $ 1.5 million so far against the recall and has pledged a massive turnout – said Monday it was not deterred by Arguelles’ decision.
“Today’s decision does not change the facts: California Democrats are united behind Governor @GavinNewsom,” the party said in a tweet. “We are ready to organize to beat the Republican recall attempt.”