As California residents circulate a petition to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, here on Long Island, two state lawmakers have pitched legislation that will authorize the recall of certain officials elected to special districts.
Whether it’s recalling a Democratic governor in California or Republicans in a special district on Long Island, the concept of recall is riddled with problems.
There is a time to get rid of a horrible elected official. Vote that person out when he or she stands for reelection. Recalls not only create chaos in the governing process, but also provide special interests with disproportional power over the electorate, as well as elected officials who are seeking to do the greater good.
Let me start off by noting that I am no fan of Governor Newsom. I think it’s amazing that the people of California elected this guy to run the state after he, as mayor, almost single-handedly transformed San Francisco from one of the world’s most beautiful cities into a chaotically dangerous, typhoid spreading, drug infested, poop stained, homeless encampment.
His Covid lockdowns are moronic. He closes outdoor dining in an area where it’s 75° and pushes people inside where the virus is more likely to spread. He is destroying businesses and is threatening to raise California’s 13% state income tax once again. He definitely needs to go. But that should be when he’s up for reelection.
Closer to home, we’ve known for decades that officials in some of these smaller garbage and water special districts have been steeped in patronage and nepotism. If you want them gone, support a decent alternative on election day who will put the people first.
But here’s the rub; elected officials are forced to make very tough decisions every day.
Political pressure comes most vigorously from the most well-funded and organized special interests. It’s hard enough for an elected official to say no to these interest groups. Imagine how much harder it is to do so when some of these groups have the funding and wherewithal to threaten you with a recall campaign.
It’s bad enough you have to take them on every two or four years. Imagine getting reelected to your new term, only to be confronted with a union contract that comes before your desk a couple of months later. If you vote against the union’s interest, you can find yourself engaging in yet another election for your survival within a very short time.
There simply will be no time left for governing. The constant campaigning that already is a major draw on elected officials’ time will become all consuming. There has to be a break from campaign season and a time for these officials to simply govern.
The idea of a recall might be appealing when you think about booting out someone you don’t like. But the shoe can be on the other foot when your political opponents go after someone you admire. Sure, that official might survive the recall, but don’t count on him or her getting any of the people’s work done in the meantime. They will be in perpetual survival mode. And that’s not good for our democracy.
Steve Levy is President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a NYS Assemblyman, and host of “The Steve Levy Radio Show.” He is the author of “Solutions to America’s Problems” and “Bias in the Media.” www.SteveLevy.info, Twitter @SteveLevyNY, firstname.lastname@example.org