SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom can’t put his Democratic Party affiliation on the ballot voters see when they decide whether to remove him after his campaign missed a deadline to submit his affiliation to California Secretary of State Shirley Weber for the Sept. 14 recall election. Newsom’s campaign said it was inadvertent and asked Weber to allow the affiliation to appear.
She said the issue needed to go to a judge, so Newsom filed a lawsuit. Newsom’s Republican opponents criticized the move as an attempt to change rules everyone else must follow.
Newsom’s attorney, Thomas Willis, and an attorney for Weber both argued during an hourlong hearing that Newsom merely missed an arbitrary, harmless filing deadline and that it is in the voters’ interest to know his party preference.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James Arguelles said his decision came down to whether there are reasons to look beyond the Newsom-approved law that required the governor to submit his party affiliation to the state’s top election official by February 2020.
He determined that the law “unambiguously precludes party information from appearing on a recall ballot where the elected officer fails timely to make the designation.”
It’s unclear if the lack of a party designation will have any practical impact. Newsom is well known, having held statewide office for a decade as lieutenant governor, governor, and previously was San Francisco’s mayor.
Previous recall targets weren’t allowed to list their political party, but Democrats who control the state Legislature changed that in 2019 after a state senator from their party was recalled.
Last month, Newsom signed a law that again changes the recall rules, this time to speed up the election. Democrats believe the state’s reopened economy and low coronavirus case numbers put Newsom in a better position than when the recall gained momentum during the pandemic’s darkest days last winter.
The recall was fueled by frustration over Newsom’s coronavirus shutdown orders and anger after it was learned the governor attended a party with lobbyist friends at a posh restaurant last fall when he was forcing Californians to stay home.
The election is set for Sept. 14. The two-part ballot will first ask voters if they want to remove Newsom from office and, if so, who should replace him. The answers to the second question are only counted if more than 50% of people say yes to the first.