By Najee Ali
Gov. Gavin Newsom may be in a fight for his political life as a recall effort led by disgruntled right-wing Republican activists appears headed for a special election later this year.
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass held a virtual event earlier in the week moderated by her chief of staff Darryn Harris that included almost every Black Democratic elected official in California.
I watched the event in its entirety. I wanted to hear p why Black activists and South Los Angeles residents should not support the recall effort. It was just a few months ago that several Black leaders called for Newsom to appoint a Black woman to replace Vice President Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate.
There were rallies outside the governor’s offices in Sacramento and Los Angeles along with social media and letter-writing campaigns calling for Newsom to appoint either Bass or U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee to the Senate seat to no avail.
Instead Newsom appointed California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. This angered many Black activists in leadership positions. The Rev. William Smart, president of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called for Black residents to sign the recall petition in response to Newsom giving away Black political power our community had earned with Harris being elected to the Senate seat.
I wanted to personally hear from Black elected officials why Black voters should not support the recall in what some say was a betrayal by Newsom of Black voters. Many leaders said his selection of Assemblywoman Shirley Weber to replace Padilla as Secretary of State was insufficient. The power of a Senate seat compared to a secretary of state seat is huge.
To my surprise, Bass and other Black elected officials made a strong and passionate case on why Black voters should not support the Newsom recall.
“This recall is inappropriate and should only be used if an elected official has committed a crime or some other egregious act,” Bass said. “Governor Newson is not accused of either. In fact, efforts like this one will cost taxpayers more than $100 million in the middle of a health and economic crisis.
“Should this effort qualify to make the ballot, we will do everything in our power to stand up against this effort,” she added.
“This is a choice between continuing to focus our efforts on recovery or spending $84 million on an entirely unnecessary recall and election, and that’s not a hard decision to make,” new state Sen. Sydney Kamlager said. “We are working to reopen our communities and our schools, not to mention the standing issues we face daily such as health care for our communities and criminal justice reform. We don’t have time for this self-serving, political power grab.”
County Supervisor Holly Mitchell also spoke in support of Newsom.
“I’m proud to join my fellow Black Democratic elected leaders across the state in standing up against the attempted recall of Governor Newsom,” she said. “Black communities are disproportionately impacted by this health and economic pandemic. We must not allow a small, radical minority group to distract us from the real work that lies ahead, the work of rebuilding our communities, our economy, our health care infrastructure and re-building our very lives.”
City Councilmen Mark Ridley-Thomas and Marqueece Harris-Dawson also spoke in support of Newsom.
“The record is clear that Governor Gavin Newsom has done more to confront homelessness than all of his predecessors over the last three decades combined — with unprecedented budget allocations each year since his first proposed budget in 2019 totaling $3 billion,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We have more work to do, and the recall gets in the way of that. It is mean spirited, wrongheaded, foolish and worst of all it is a blatant reenactment of Trumpism. We must crush it through all the tools available to us through the democratic process.”
“This recall effort is a distraction from recovery efforts and solving problems, including homelessness, and is straight out of the voter suppression playbook used in the South and during the last election,” he said. “We’re very close to having a breakthrough here in California. An attempt to derail that progress is an incredible waste of time and taxpayer money.”
This is just a portion of what Black politicians expressed at the event. To their credit, Bass and the rest of the Black leaders made a convincing point not to support the recall against Newsom.
I encourage the South L.A. activist community to support the call that Bass and her colleagues have made. Newsom, to his credit, just two days after the event stated publicly that he would indeed select a Black woman to replace U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein if she retired before completing her Senate term.
We will have to wait and see what the future holds concerning that. But the case was made by Black elected officials that it would indeed be foolish if South L.A. residents supported this Republican-led effort to recall Newsom.