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Recalls in Retrospect

Posted by Chris Nguyen on May 29, 2012

Recalls, 1995-2010

Local recalls in California, 1995-2010

There has been much talk about the chances of the Fullerton recalls passing in the press, on other blogs, and even a little here and here on this blog.  (It is recalls, plural, by the way, since it’s technically three recalls in Fullerton on next week’s ballot, one each regarding Don Bankhead, Dick Jones, and Pat McKinley.)

I found an interesting study of local election data from California State University, Sacramento.

(All recalls in this post refer to recalls that qualified for the ballot.  Recalls that failed to qualify for the ballot are excluded because they are not relevant.)

According to the CSUS study, in an average year in California, there are 16 local recalls, of which 66% result in the officeholder being recalled from office.  Specifically, there are 2 county-level recalls, 7 city-level recalls, and 7 school district-level recalls in an average year.

The CSUS data shows that from 1995-2010, there were 256 local recalls, of which 175 recalled the elected official and 81 officeholders hung on to defeat the recall election (a 68% removal rate). Specifically, there were:

  • 35 county-level recalls, in which 24 resulted in the recall of the official and 11 officeholders hung on (a 69% removal rate)
  • 116 city-level recalls, in which 80 resulted in the recall of the official and 36 officeholders hung on (a 69% removal rate)
  • 105 school district-level recalls, in which 65 resulted in the recall of the official and 40 officeholders hung on (a 62% removal rate)

Outside the timeframe of the study, 9 out of 9 city councilmembers subject to recall elections were recalled in 2011.  This bumps city-level recalls to a 71% removal rate for 1995-2011.  4 out of 4 school board members defeated their recall elections in 2011, dropping the school district-level recalls to a 60% removal rate for 1995-2011.  There were no county-level recalls that qualified for the ballot  in California in 2011.  The overall rate for all local California recalls for 1995-2011 remains at 68%, the same rate as for 1995-2010.

Narrowing it down to even years (i.e. regular election years):

  • 8 out of 16 county-level recalls succeeded (a 50% removal rate)
  • 55 out of 79 city-level recalls succeeded (a 70% removal rate)
  • 32 out of 43 school district-level recalls succeeded (a 74% removal rate)

The above numbers are statewide.  Looking closer to home, no Orange County recall has failed since 1996.

  • 2010: Capistrano Unified School District
    Mike Winsten was recalled 61.4%-38.6% and replaced with John Alpay.
    Ken Maddox was recalled 61.3%-38.7% and replaced with Gary Pritchard.
  • 2010: Mission Viejo
    Lance McLean was recalled by a 50.1%-49.9% and replaced with Dave Leckness.
  • 2008: Capistrano Unified School District
    Marlene Draper was recalled 69.3%-30.7% and replaced with Sue Palazzo.
    Sheila Benecke was recalled 69.4%-30.6% and replaced with Ken Maddox, who would ironically be recalled himself in 2010.
  • 2003: Santa Ana Unified School District
    Nativo Lopez was recalled 69.3%-30.7% and replaced with Rob Richardson.
  • 2001: Orange Unified School District
    Martin Jacobson was recalled 51.5%-48.5% and replaced with Melissa Taylor Smith.
    Maureen Aschoff was recalled 50.9%-49.1% and replaced with John Ortega.
    Linda Davis was recalled 51.3%-48.7% and replaced with Kathy Moffat.
  • 1996: Dana Point
    Karen Lloreda defeated a recall effort by a 50.6%-49.4% margin.
    Harold Kaufman defeated a recall effort.
  • 1995: Cypress
    Cecilia Age, Gail Kerry, and Walter Bowman defeated their recalls by a 2-1 margin.
  • Not a local recall per se, but in 1995 in Orange County:
    Assemblywoman Doris Allen was recalled 65.2%-34.8% and replaced with Scott Baugh.

Outside the timeframe of the study:

  • In 1994, the voters of Fullerton recalled Councilmembers Don Bankhead, Buck Catlin, and Molly McClanahan, by 52%-48% margins but left the then-elected City Clerk Anne York in office.  Five months after the recall, Bankhead won a new election to the council where he has remained ever since and is now subject to a recall election next week.  If recalled next week, Bankhead would likely be the first person since the inception of the recall ever to be recalled from the same office twice.
  • In 1989, the voters of Fountain Valley recalled Councilman Fred Voss by a 2-1 margin after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for solicitation after he offered $20 to a prostitute, who was actually an undercover police officer.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should note my day job is working in the Fullerton office of Assemblyman Chris Norby, who served on the Fullerton City Council from 1984-2002, but he was not a target of the 1994 recall.  One of my co-workers in the office is Fullerton City Councilman Bruce Whitaker, who was elected in 2010 and is not a target of the 2012 recall, but he was one of the organizers of the 1994 recall.)

One Response to “Recalls in Retrospect”

  1. Basil Seidman said

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