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Santa Clara Old Guard Aims to Recall Minority Council Members

A new and unregistered political committee calling itself Save Our Santa Clara aims to recall three city council members elected in 2020: two Asian Americans and Santa Clara’s second openly gay council member.

The purported recall effort comes after $6 million in a losing court battle and another half a million in ballot measures to preserve Santa Clara’s former at-large election system — a system that cemented a revolving door, all-white city council in power long after the City became a minority-majority community. The committee wants to recall Council Members Suds Jain, Kevin Park and Anthony Becker, who is challenging Mayor Lisa Gillmor for the mayor’s seat.

“It seems like the old guard is trying to hold on by their fingertips and overturn the will of the voters for candidates that were elected in free and fair elections,” said Executive Director of the Asian Law Alliance, Richard Konda. “It’s shocking to me that they would stoop so low.”

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The recall was announced on the blog run by Robert Haugh, notable for its vulgar and bigoted following.* The group’s website offers no information about who is behind the committee but is almost identical in style to that of the also-unregistered Stand Up For Santa Clara political committee; which claims a non-existent mailing address that, if it did exist, would be next to Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s real estate office.

Burt Field, a longtime official with the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League, says he’s a founder of the recall committee, according to Haugh. Field is also one of the leaders of Stand Up, a self-described “grassroots” group that has actively campaigned on social media and by email against minority candidates since 2016. Stand Up has been advertising the recall attempt since early Sunday morning. Council Member Kathy Watanabe has also been publicizing it on her City Council Facebook page.

Santa Clara Libraries Trustee Lee Broughman has publicly promised many times to lead a recall against Becker. Likewise, one-time South Bay politico James Rowen writes almost daily to City officials and members of the press attacking the three targeted by Field. Rowen has filed 25 public records requests this year alone about Becker, Jain and Park’s communications — including those with family members — and regularly posts on Haugh’s blog under various pseudonyms.

Brian Doyle, the fired city attorney threatening the City with a wrongful termination lawsuit, is another longtime Burt Field ally who may have a role in this recall threat. This year he began regularly filing FPPC complaints against Council Members Becker, Raj Chahal, Karen Hardy, Jain and Park — none of which so far have been found by the Fair Political Practices Commission to have merit. The complaints are then publicized by Haugh and will likely appear on campaign materials if the recall gets off the ground.

The committee announced itself and put up a website soliciting names and email addresses before even minimally complying with state regulations concerning political committees or recall elections. The committee has no FPPC number and has filed none of the required disclosures, although Field said he intends to do so before collecting donations.

Nor has the committee filed the required notice of intention to circulate a recall petition, which has to be served to the target of the recall and published twice in a newspaper of general circulation.

City Clerk Hosam Haggag didn’t respond by publication time to our request for comment on these apparent violations.

Recalls of Local Officials Aren’t Easy

 To conduct a local government recall in California, filing the necessary notices of intention and committee disclosures is the easy part. Actually getting to the point of having an election is far more difficult.

The next step is collecting signatures in a specific format that includes, among other things, the names of the principal donors to the campaign. For each of the three council districts, the committee will have to collect valid signatures from 25% of the registered voters in the district, depending on the number of voters in that district. The committee then has 60 days to submit the petitions to the Registrar of Voters, who has 30 days to verify the signatures.

If the petition passes muster, an election must be called between three to four months after the order to call the election and can be combined with a regular election if one falls within that date. Otherwise, a special election is called, which will cost Santa Clara at least $200,000.

*Gillmor and O’Neill were instrumental in launching Haugh’s blog and continue to actively promote it. O’Neill is a contributor to the blog. Council Member Watanabe is another promoter.

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19 Comments
  1. The Dude 1 month ago
    Reply

    Here’s the minority card…. Nevermind that they are horrible Representatives further districts.

    • TD 1 month ago
      Reply

      *For their

    • Davy L 1 month ago
      Reply

      Our City Council members, Becker, Jain, Park helped to establish our six District voting system, which was strongly opposed by Lisa Gillmor and Watanabe. Additionally, they helped to rid our city of Deanna Santana and Brian Doyle.

      • The Dude 1 month ago
        Reply

        Jain lied to district 5 constituents when he said he could vote on downtown issues. He also said his wife would retire from SCU so it would not be a conflict of interest. Those are probably the biggest 2 areas of concern for District 5 residents and he can’t vote on either of them.

        • Davy L 1 month ago
          Reply

          Let’s see, Jain says he can vote on certain downtown issues. However, you’re claiming he can never do this? And what gives you the right to say that? Downtown issues are a major cost and concerns not only District 5 residents, but all residents of our entire city. Obviously, this is an issue that needs to be decided by all members of our City Council, which of course, Jain is a part of.

          • The Dude 1 month ago

            The FPPC said he can’t vote on downtown issues.

          • Davy L 1 month ago

            Any notice or comment from the FPPC is open for interpretation. Please provide a reference to the specific FPPC statement you are referring to.

          • Davy L 1 month ago

            Well, in any case, it’s obvious that your interpretation of the FPPC notice differs from Jain’s interpretation. Since I assume Jain has approval from the city’s attorney, then Jain is more than correct when he says he can vote on certain downtown issues.

  2. Davy L 1 month ago
    Reply

    “It seems like the old guard is trying to hold on by their fingertips and overturn the will of the voters for candidates that were elected in free and fair elections,” said Executive Director of the Asian Law Alliance, Richard Konda. “It’s shocking to me that they would stoop so low.” I can’t say it any better than that. All this does is to insure the election of Becker as our next mayor and dooms Watanabe’s chances for any future elections.

    • The Dude 1 month ago
      Reply

      https://www.fppc.ca.gov/content/dam/fppc/documents/advice-letters/2021-/2021/21056.pdf

      • Davy L 1 month ago
        Reply

        If Jain says he can vote on the Downtown issues, implies that his wife has terminated her employment at the university. Under the same criteria, Lisa Gillmor needs to recluse herself, since she owns property in the area.

      • Davy L 1 month ago
        Reply

        Lisa Gillmor, Kathy Watanabe, Teresa O’Neill, Deanna Santana, Brian Doyle, Robert Haugh, Burt Field, Lee Broughman, James Rowen, the Dude … all Birds of the Same Feather.

  3. BuchserAlum 1 month ago
    Reply

    Trying to frame this as a matter of race is laughable. Shameless, in trivializing actual racism and using the accusation for political reasons.

    The recall effort is clearly about their belief that the 49ers have improper influence over these councilmen.

    This publication trying to pretend as if it’s about race makes it seem even more so that these three have something to hide.

    • Colin Bakel 1 month ago
      Reply

      Really? You really should look at the city’s history. Did you know that former Council Member, Pat Kolstad, encouraged Dr. Mohammed Nadeem to run for his Council seat as Kolstad was not going to run for re-election. Then, Kolstad either got cold feeta at the prospect of not being on the dais or perhaps Nadeem expressed opinions at odds with the “Old Guard” so Kolstad ran against Nadeem. The very same minority he had endorsed and encouraged to run and won. Please name all the minority candidates that have run for Council and won before Raj Chahal won. I’ll wait…

  4. Hosam Haggag - City Clerk 1 month ago
    Reply

    I received an email from Ms. Schuk at 12:38pm, for an article she published at 4am. I just saw the email (and article) for the first time 10 minutes ago. Here is the response I provided to her over email just now.

    Hello Carolyn,

    I just saw this email for the first time just now. Although it appears you already published your article you are more than welcome in the future to contact me by cell phone if you’re ever on a tight deadline as I may not see your email in time.

    The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office has published the “Guide to Recall” here: https://sccvote.sccgov.org/sites/g/files/exjcpb1106/files/County%20Recall%20Guide.pdf

    Residents talking among each other around organizing a recall effort does not on its own constitute the formation of a formal committee, nor does it serve as the official “Notice of Intention” as outlined in the Guide. In other words, just because someone claims they will begin a recall petition doesn’t actually constitute an official start of said recall committee, nor does publishing in an online blog their intent to start a recall serve as the official “Notice of Intention” that is governed by the recall process.

    Hope this helps add clarity.
    Thanks,
    Hosam

    From: Carolyn Schuk
    Sent: Tuesday, August 30, 2022 12:38 PM
    To: Hosam Haggag
    Subject: Comment?

    Dear Hosam,

    Do you have any comment on the recent formation of an unregistered recall committee? Is this a violation of the city’s and state’s campaign disclosure laws? We are on a tight deadline, so a prompt answer is appreciated.

    Carolyn

    Carolyn Schuk, Associate Editor
    Santa Clara Weekly
    3000 Scott Blvd.
    Santa Clara, CA 95054
    www.svvoice.com

    • SC Resident 1 month ago
      Reply

      Thanks Mr. Haggag for taking the time to respond in a calm and level-headed manner, and also sharing Ms. Schuk’s middle of the night request for comment. It really does seem unethical for this paper to do it in such a way. Unfortunately it seems to be the way that these papers operate. Seems one of the “San Jose” ones also did the same thing to Mayor Gillmor. The best we can hope for is residents see through this unethical behavior.

      • Davy L 1 month ago
        Reply

        Please note Mr. Haggag’s correction below. The time was not the middle of the night, but the middle of the day. As for the “San Jose” paper, please note the “San Francisco” paper also did a major hit piece on Anthony Becker.

        • SC Resident 2 weeks ago
          Reply

          And I’ve noted one of the “San Francisco” papers has been running glowing “articles” on certain council members sponsored by a certain billionaire who owns a certain NFL team.

  5. Hosam Haggag - City Clerk 1 month ago
    Reply

    To be fair to Ms. Schuk she sent the email at 12:38 PM, not AM. But still I don’t sit hitting the refresh button on my email in the off-chance a reporter needs an urgent response on a tight deadline. I’m busy just like everyone else. Which is why I offer my cell phone for those circumstances.

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