ESCONDIDO — The newly released county electoral maps will not impact a local group’s recently launched effort to recall Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, according to political and redistricting analysts.
The county’s Independent Redistricting Commission approved new voting maps on Dec. 11, reshaping all five districts in San Diego County in accordance with regional demographic and population changes.
And the changes to Lawson-Remer’s District 3 were fairly significant. Once encompassing Leucadia to Tierrasanta north-south and Escondido to Encinitas east-west, the district now runs from approximately Carlsbad to Coronado, retaining Encinitas but losing all of Escondido to the newly-formed District 5.
But would Escondido residents, who have been drawn out of District 3 via the redistricting process, still be eligible to sign a petition to recall Lawson-Remer? According to Evan McLaughlin, a political data consultant for Redistricting Partners, the answer is yes.
Per state guidelines, the new boundaries will not take effect until the 2024 election cycle, meaning that redistricting will likely have no impact on the current recall campaign that seeks to replace Lawson-Remer, McLaughlin said.
“The recall election is related to the District that elected the supervisor in 2020 — the current district, that includes Escondido,” McLaughlin said. “Every time that there is a special election that is held before the end of a term, regardless of redistricting, it is still held within that previous district iteration.”
But with the loss of Escondido, a traditionally conservative stronghold, and a greater concentration of territory along the region’s coastline, which tends to lean blue, McLaughlin said it’s safe to say that redistricting has shifted the district toward Democrats.
If she survives the recall effort, Lawson-Remer — who was elected in 2020 by more than 15 percentage points over Republican incumbent Kristin Gaspar — will likely be even more difficult to defeat due to the new district boundaries, according to McLaughlin.
Local group airs grievances
The recall, which was initiated in September, has gained approximately 2,500 signatures so far, according to Mike Johnson, who is president of the local political action committee, Undivided San Diego. The initiative needs to garner at least 40,240 signatures by May 12 in order to generate a special election to replace Lawson-Remer.
Johnson said the recall arose out of concern over the supervisor’s close ties to Super PACS, labor unions, and other special interests that he said don’t necessarily share the interest of the district’s constituents.
“You look at the last election, she received more money from out of state than any other candidate in the county, she got a lot of big union money, just a lot of money to fill that seat, and it wasn’t from individual donors it was from organizations…and they’re already giving her money for 2024 trying to keep her in their pockets,” Johnson said. “Once she got into office, right away she just started repaying favors…the recall is to send a message to the entire board that she’s a corrupt politician…we want to replace her with a citizen who wants to serve the people.”
Johnson added that the group also wants to unseat Lawson-Remer for various policy stances she has taken, such as her vote not to endorse Senate Bill 248, a recently passed state law that makes legal proceedings involving sexual predators open to the public.Recall+Remer+Flyer
The supervisor’s support for various regulations concerning COVID-19, including universal vaccine mandates and restrictions on businesses, has also alienated her constituents and demonstrated that she puts party interests ahead of those of District 3 residents, Johnson said.
“This is not a partisan position…but her only purpose, and she’s made it very clear several times, is that she only thinks that she needs to serve the people that voted for her…I think that San Diego County is tired of that mindset, we want to come together and make things better for everyone,” Johnson said.
Lawson-Remer’s campaign declined to comment for this article but previously told The Coast News in a statement: “I am remaining focused on delivering services to my constituents to protect our quality of life, help families make a better living, support struggling renters and small businesses, and get more than two million residents vaccinated. I trust that reasonable San Diegans will unite to say enough is enough with this wasteful recall.”
A tough road to recall
The initiative to replace the supervisor is reflective of a recent statewide surge in campaigns aimed at recalling various elected officials, according to Dr. Thad Kousser, a political scientist at the University of California San Diego.
Without strong financial backing and a clear campaign message for voters, however, a recall initiative will not get far, Kousser told The Coast News, noting that a large number of the current recall efforts are failing to even get on the ballot because they can’t get the required amount of signatures.
“Many of these are falling short of the signature requirement because nearly all recalls require a significant paid operation — grassroots will only get you so far,” Kousser said.
Over the past year, North County has seen a number of recall campaigns against local officials with mixed results. In May, a local teachers’ union successfully gathered enough signatures to force a special election following the appointment of Ty Humes to the San Dieguito Union High School District board, but months later failed to oust San Dieguito school board Trustee Michael Allman.
In October, a citizen-led attempt to unseat Oceanside City Councilwoman Kori Jensen failed after coming 52 signatures short of the required amount. Republican radio host Carl DeMaio launched a recall campaign against former Carlsbad City Councilwoman Cori Schumacher on April 5, but Schumacher resigned two months later.
And then there are the associated costs of running a recall campaign, successful or not. Kousser estimated that it will cost between $100,000 to $200,000 to fund the recall campaign against Lawson-Remer.
The researcher expressed that even if the recall gains the required number of signatures, he gives the initiative little chance of success, largely because voters typically prefer to vote “no” in a special election without a major scandal or singular event that galvanizes the electorate and rallies support for a replacement campaign.
“Voters are looking for a real reason to recall someone, not just that we prefer another candidate. If the idea is that they haven’t been serving their constituents, well we have a fix for that and it’s called regular elections” Kousser said, adding that he’s taken polls that show voters prefer to limit recalls to cases of criminal acts or corruption on the part of the officeholder.
“In order to get a majority of voters to change their minds, in a district that she [Lawson-Remer] won by 16%, they’re going to need to see some clear examples of malfeasance…so far I haven’t seen a major scandal like that affect her,” Kousser said.