Newsom can’t tie recall to GOP in voter guide, lawsuit says

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Top supporters of the recall against California Gov. Gavin Newsom want to block him from branding the contest as a Republican effort in the official election guide that will be sent to voters ahead of the Sept. 14 contest.

His contention that the effort is led by Republicans seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election and an “attempt by national Republicans and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California” are “at best misleading, at worst flat-out false, and in all events a hyperbolic outrage,” according to a lawsuit filed Friday by two Republican activists who led the campaign to get the recall on the ballot.

The case is scheduled for a court hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Orrin Heatlie and Mike Netter are asking a judge to strike portions of Newsom’s ballot statement and edit other parts. Newsom, a Democrat, was unable to get his party affiliation listed on the ballot because of a filing error and has sought to brand the recall as a power grab by right-wing activists in the nation’s most populous state.

He makes that argument in two campaign ads, one of which features video of people storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. It’s aimed at motivating Democrats, who outnumber Republicans significantly in the state and strongly dislike former President Donald Trump.

Heatlie and Netter argue that the effort is not a “Republican recall” because its supporters come from various political parties and more than half of the 46 candidates vying to replace Newsom are not Republicans. They want the word “Republican” stripped from the statement in all but one place. In that instance, they suggest Newsom’s language that the effort is led by “national Republicans who fought to overturn the presidential election” should be changed to say “the recall’s supporters include national Republicans.”

Every registered voter will be mailed a copy of the voter guide, which includes statements from Newsom and Heatlie arguing over the merits of the recall and from candidates looking to replace him if the recall succeeds. County election officials will start mailing the ballots on Aug. 16. The guidelines to Newsom and Heatlie stated their arguments could not include “any demonstrably false, slanderous, or libelous statements.”

State elections officials take no position on the issues raised about the text of the arguments, according to a response filed Monday by Attorney General Rob Bonta. They asked the court to make a ruling before Friday, when the text of the voter guide must be finalized.

The recall supporters also want the court to remove a sentence in Newsom’s statement that characterizes the effort as an abuse of the state’s recall laws. The recall organizers collected the roughly 1.5 million signatures required under state law to place the question on the ballot.

Voters will be asked two questions: Should Newsom be recalled, and if so who should replace him. He will be removed from office if more than half of voters say yes on the first question.

Newsom campaign spokesman Nathan Click called the arguments “totally baseless,” noting that the effort was launched by Republicans, including Heatlie, and has raised money from the Republican Party.

“Republicans know they can’t win in a normal election year, so they are trying to force a special election and grab power,” he said in a statement.

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