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Newsom In Court To Defend Language Tying Recall To The GOP

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at Hanzo Sushi Thursday, April 29, 2021, in San Fernando, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at Hanzo Sushi Thursday, April 29, 2021, in San Fernando, Calif.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom's lawyers will argue in court Wednesday that he should be allowed to brand the recall against him as a Republican effort in the state's official voter guide, saying his statements are “classic political speech" that cannot be proven or disproven.

Two Republican activists who led the effort to place the recall on the ballot filed a lawsuit to block him from labeling the contest a “Republican recall" in the guide.

State elections officials have asked Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie M. Earl to rule before Friday, when the final text of the voter guide must be finalized. The document, which includes arguments for and against the recall and statements from the candidates vying to replace Newsom, will be mailed to registered voters this month.


Voters will start receiving ballots in the mail in two weeks and the final day to vote is Sept. 14.

Mike Netter and Orrin Heatlie, the recall backers who filed the lawsuit, said Newsom's labeling of the effort as Republican is misleading because voters across the political spectrum back the effort and more than half of the 46 candidates running to replace Newsom are not Republicans. Newsom is a Democrat.

They want the judge to strike references to the word Republican in all but one sentence of Newsom's 500-word statement. They're also asking the judge to remove a sentence that calls the recall an “attempt by national Republicans and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California."

They also argue that Newsom's statement was supposed to be nonpartisan, citing a law that Secretary of State Shirley Weber's office and Newsom's lawyers said does not apply to the recall.

Newsom’s lawyers, in a response filed Tuesday, said the governor’s argument is not misleading or inaccurate because there is “overwhelming evidence" the recall is driven by Republicans. They further argue Newsom’s statements are not categorical and cannot be disproven because they are classic political speech.


“They do not, for instance, purpose to claim that the Recall Campaign is exclusively a Republican effort, or that only supporters of former President Trump are involved in the campaign. Instead, they are classic political speech — opinions about opponents’ tactics or policies,” their response says. That applies to Newsom’s statements that Republicans are abusing the state’s recall laws and that handing over power could set back the state’s fight against the pandemic, they wrote.

Newsom has sought to brand the effort as a power grab driven by Republican extremists in an effort to motivate Democrats to vote. If more than half of voters say “yes" to recalling Newsom, he'll be forced to leave office more than a year before his first term ends.