In his Feb.8 CALmatters column, Dan Walters discusses the implications of the more populist features of California’s government: the initiative, the referendum and the recall.
While recognizing their contributions to improving citizen control, Walters also admits that these tools can increase volatility if used with frivolous intent.
He notes that initiatives are commonplace, referenda have been used but are less typical and the recall has been the most sparingly implemented.
The most significant recall in California history, Walters writes, was the successful removal of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.
Two Big Recall Efforts in California
This effort, he claims, was more appropriate than the current measures facing more local constituencies in the recalls of Orange County state Sen. Josh Newman and Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky.
Newman, on the face of things, is being challenged for his vote on the controversial gas tax.
However, Walters points out that 26 other senators voted in favor of the bill, including one Republican.
According to Walters, “Newman’s real sin is that he captured a Senate seat that Republicans had held for decades and that his win gave Democrats a 27-seat supermajority. In other words, it’s just a partisan maneuver.”
Newman’s questionable recall effort also led to some manipulation of the recall process by Democratic legislators, creating a bit of the chaos Walters decries.
Walters also touches on the case of Persky, the judge who gave Stanford rapist and swimmer Brock Turner a “shockingly lenient sentence.”
He writes that Persky’s sentence, while worthy of criticism, “does not approach the incompetence, neglect or dishonesty that the recall was designed to combat.”
The Unintended Consequences
Walters concludes by summing up the fallout if these recall efforts are successful: Elected officials will face greater scrutiny for issues unworthy of a recall and, thus, politicians will serve to defend themselves by further bending election laws.
To read Walters’ full discussion, click here: Recall drives could spark more political chaos