California Republican State Senator Denham Faces Recall Election–Impact on State Budget Crisis


California Secretary of State Debra Bowen today (March 18) certified that enough valid voter signatures were submitted to proceed with a recall election of Republican State Sen. Jeff Denham of Merced in the 12th State Senate District. Denham [[pictured left in a photo last year] was first elected to the State Senate in 2002 and is termed out in 2010. Denham-in-hall.gif

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is now required to set an election date for the recall 60 to 80 days from today (March 18). It is likely that the Governor will schedule the recall election for June 3, the same day as the California State primary election when all 80 Assembly seats are up for election, along with some State Senate seats.

Supporters of the recall want Denham removed from office in large part due to his refusal to vote for the State Budget last August that was delayed for over 51 days. That delay, supporters of the recall claim, caused widespread panic and harm to thousands of people with disabilities, mental health needs, seniors and others across the State due to the cut off of State funding until a budget was passed. Denham has said his refusal to support the State Budget last August was because it was seriously out of balance and required more spending cuts.

Recall Battle Will Complicate and Intensify Budget Battle

The recall election will complicate and increase the intensity of the budget fight in the Legislature, especially in the State Senate where Denham, first elected in 2002 and other Senate Republicans have accused Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (Democrat – Oakland, 9th District) of sponsoring the recall effort. Perata has denied that charge.

The impact of the recall election on the State Budget crisis will be significant, and will have major influence on what eventually happens to many of the proposed spending reductions of critical services and programs serving persons with disabilities, mental health needs, seniors and low income families. It could influence what happens to various proposals to increase revenues, including closing certain tax loopholes.

Denham, broke ranks with other Senate Republicans, and voted to support the Governor’s proposal – advanced by Senate Democrats – to end exemptions of state sales taxes for yachts, recreational vehicles and small planes bought outside California but brought into the State within 12 months. The Senate passed the measure as part of the special session emergency budget bills in February, but that bill stalled in the Assembly. Supporters of the recall say Denham’s vote was made because of the recall threat, which Denham denied.

There is little chance that the Legislature will pass a State Budget by July 1, in time for the start of the 2008-2009 State Budget year.

If Denham is recalled, and replaced by a Democrat, State Senate Democrats would still be short one vote for the 2/3rds needed (27 votes out of the 40 member State Senate) to pass a State Budget.

In the Assembly, Democrats control 48 of the 80 Assembly seats, with Republicans holding 32, with 54 votes (2/3rds) needed to pass a State Budget there.

Supporters of Recall Effort Turned in Over 60,000 Signatures of Registered Voters

• The sponsor of the recall, Gary D. Robbins, filed 61,144 signatures of registered voters in the 12th State Senate District.

• To qualify a recall election, the supporters of the recall needed to get at least 31,084 valid signatures on a recall petition, which is 20% of the total votes case in the last 12th State Senate District election, which was November 2006.

• The recall qualified through a random sample signature check by local county election officials, who reported the results to the California Secretary of State.

• Candidates seeking to replace Senator Denham must file nomination papers with county elections officials 59 daysbefore the election date.

• The Secretary of State will certify the candidate list 55 days before the election.

12th State Senate District Includes All of Merced and San Benito Counties

The 12th State Senate District includes parts of Madera, Monterey and Stanislaus counties and all of Merced and San Benito counties. The district includes the cities of Atwater, Ceres, Dos Palos, Gonzales, Greenfield, Gustine, Hollister, King City, Livingston, Los Banos, Madera, Merced, Modesto, Newman, Patterson, Salinas, San Juan Bautista, Soledad and Turlock.

Denham Easily Won Re-Election in 2006

In 2002, Denham narrowly defeated former Assemblymember Rusty Areias by just 1,844 votes. In 2006 however Denham was easily re-elected with 60% of the vote. He is termed out in 2010 and had talked about running for statewide office then.

November 2006 General Election – 12th State Senate District
Denham (Republican) – 92,879 (59.8%)
Nickel (Democrat) – 62,539 (40.2%)

November 2002 General Election – 12th State Senate District
Areias (Democrat) – 72,034 (47.1%)
Denham (Republican) – 73,877 (48.4%)
Eaton (Lib) – 6,950 (4.5%)
Votes Not Cast – 9,160 (5.7%)

Laws Governing Recall Election Different From Regular Elections

State laws for recall elections differ significantly from those for regular elections in the following ways:

• A recall election includes two parts or questions.

• A voter – in this case, only the voters in the 12th State Senate district may vote on both parts, or only one.

• The first part or question will ask, “Shall Jeffrey Denham be recalled (removed) from the office of Senate District 12?”

• If more voters in the 12th State Senate District mark “yes” than “no,” then Sen. Denham will be recalled (removed) from office.

• If more voters in the 12th State Senate District mark “no,” he will remain in office and serve out the remainder of this term, which expires in 2010.

• The second part of the recall election will list the names of candidates seeking to replace Sen. Denham in the event he is recalled.

• If Sen. Denham is recalled, the candidate who receives the most votes will be elected. It is not necessary to receive a majority of the votes cast.

• That person may be sworn in after the election results are certified by the Secretary of State.

Recall Elections Rare – Last Successful Recall of A Legislator in 1995

The State Constitution since 1911, gives voters the power to remove an elected official from office through a “recall election”, though recall elections are very rare.

The last successful recall was held in October 2003 when voters recalled then Governor Gray Davis and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Prior to that, the last successful recall elections of a state legislators, was in1995, and both against Republican Assemblymembers who were targeted for recall by Assembly Republicans.

In May 1995 Assembly Republicans mounted a successful recall effort against one of their own, then Assemblymember Paul Horcher who represented the 60th Assembly District. The recall was mounted against Horcher as punishment for providing the crucial vote that kept then Assembly Speaker Willie Brown in power after Republicans narrowly won control of the Assembly in the November 1994 elections. Republican Gary Miller replaced Horcher.

In November 1995, Republican Assemblymember Doris Allen, who represented the 67th Assembly District, was recalled by voters in her district after she defied the Assembly Republican Caucus and, with Assembly Democratic votes, succeeded Willie Brown in June 1995, becoming the first female Assembly Speaker. She stepped down less than four months later in September after she faced a recall launched against her by Assembly Republicans. She was replaced by Republican Scott Baugh.

The California Disability Community Action Network, is a non-partisan link to thousands of Californians with developmental and other disabilities, people with traumatic brain injuries, the Blind, the Deaf, their families, community organizations and providers, direct care, homecare and other workers, and other advocates to provide information on state (and eventually federal), local public policy issues.


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