Newsom Recall Backers Sue to Block Framing of Effort as ‘Republican Takeover’ of California
Newsom Recall Backers Sue to Block Framing of Effort as ‘Republican Takeover’ of California

By Tom Ozimek

Key backers of the recall election against California Gov. Gavin Newsom have filed a lawsuit to prevent the Democrat governor from framing the contest as a Trump-aligned Republican power grab in an official voter information guide that will be distributed publicly.

Orrin Heatlie, the lead organizer of the recall campaign, and Mike Netter, a board member of the recall committee, are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court. The activists call for each use of the word “Republican” and “Trump” to be stricken from Newsom’s so-called “recall argument,” the governor’s official response to the special election that will be included in the voter guide sent out ahead of the Sept. 14 vote.

Heatlie and Netter argue that Newsom’s language misleadingly casts the recall as illegitimate and falsely implies only Republicans are behind the effort to oust him.

“The messaging used by Governor Newsom is divisive and hate filled,” Heatlie said in a statement.

Netter said that, “the law clearly states his argument cannot include false or misleading statements. He simply ignored the law and we aren’t going to allow him to get away with it.”

File photo showing Orrin Heatlie, the main organizer for the campaign to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom, posing with a banner at KABC radio station studio in Culver City, Calif., on March 27, 2021. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)

The California Secretary of State has provided a draft copy of the official voter information guide, which under state law is to be made available for public inspection for a period of 20 days ending on Aug. 6. The draft features a note that there may be court-ordered changes to the guide before the final version is printed and delivered to California voters.

In the draft copy of the recall argument (pdf), Newsom describes the effort as “an attempt by national Republicans and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California,” urges voters to oppose “the Republican takeover of our state,” accuses Republicans of “abusing our recall laws in order to gain power and advance their partisan agenda” and warns that the recall could result in “handing power to Republicans and supporters of President Trump.”

In their petition, Heatlie and Netter provide detailed proposals for modifying Newsom’s recall argument—chiefly by removing references to “Republican” and “Trump.” They say the effort is not a “Republican recall” because its supporters come from various political parties and more than half of the 46 candidates competing to oust Newsom are not Republicans.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Newsom campaign spokesman Nathan Click called the arguments raised in the lawsuit “totally baseless,” arguing that the recall effort was launched by Republicans and has raised money from the Republican Party.

“Republicans know they can’t win in a normal election year, so they are trying to force a special election and grab power,” he said in the statement.

The recall petition against Newsom is only the second to succeed against a governor in the state’s history. While every governor since 1960 has faced a formal recall petition, the only petition with enough signatures to trigger an election was the one against Gov. Gray Davis (D), who was, in the end, replaced by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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