Judge denies Newsom’s effort to display party affiliation on recall election ballots

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to face a recall election later this year, but something will be missing from his entry on the ballot.

As confirmed in a court ruling this week, his team missed a filing deadline, which means his Democratic Party affiliation will not appear next to his name.

“The court is not persuaded”

A judge was not convinced by Newsom’s lawsuit against California Secretary of State Shirley Weber in an attempt to alter the rules and ignore the filing deadline.

Attorneys for the governor argued that the deadline was “arbitrary” and set too early, insisting that the Newsom campaign’s oversight in meeting it had been a “good faith error” that should not be held against the embattled candidate.

Reiterating Newsom’s argument “that unique circumstances attending his untimely party designation support an order excusing the noncompliance,” Superior Court Judge James Arguelles wrote in his ruling that “the court is not persuaded.”

While the judge declined to alter or ignore the rules in Newsom’s favor, he previously cited the pandemic in granting a four-month extension of the deadline for collection recall petition signatures.

The governor’s suit was against a state official he appointed and in response to his failure to comply with a provision in a 2019 law he signed into effect. Prior to that law, targets of recall elections were unable to designate party affiliation on a recall ballot.

“Swallow it he must”

Now, such designations are allowed on ballots, albeit within a narrow time frame. The deadline would have been in February, but the Newsom team missed it. As Arguelles wrote, the law “unambiguously precludes party information from appearing on a recall ballot where the elected officer failed timely to make the designation.”

In a statement to Politico, an attorney representing recall proponents argued that the matter “comes down to whether the governor of California has to follow the unambiguous law, and it just so happens a law he signed,” noting that the judge determined that he does.

“This may be a bitter pill for the governor to swallow, but swallow it he must,” said Eric Early.

In response to the ruling, Early said of Arguelles: “He followed the law, and that’s all we can ask for. No one is above the law, and this ruling makes clear that includes Gavin Newsom.”

Of course, Newsom’s widespread name recognition and fundraising advantage might make party affiliation largely irrelevant in his bid to remain in office. The recall election is scheduled for Sept. 14, though mail-in ballots will be sent out beginning early next month.

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