Governor Gavin Newsom (D), Commissioner Couy Griffin (R), 2 Peas of the Same Pod – Lessons on Recalls

The Lessons on Recalls; Gavin Newsom and Couy Griffin – Similarities and Differences

Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin Facing Recall with California Governor Gavin Newsom Surviving Recall (AlamogordoTownNews.com)

“Recall” is the mantra yelled by those not happy with the actions of politicians. Daily we hear recall the governor, recall the commissioner, recall, recall, recall. The threat of a recall can has consequences on an incumbent politician and can hamper their reputation and ability to govern or lead.

In New Mexico, the recall effort of Otero County Commissioner, Couy Griffin, the founder of Cowboys for Trump has garnered local, state, and national media attention. In California the recall effort to unseat Governor Gavin Newsom, once the most popular politician in California just ended as a $300 Million dollar debacle for the Republican party of California. The taxpayers are forced to pick up the $300 Million dollar tab for the “special election” that just concluded with Newsom overwhelmingly remaining in office.

What are lessons learned from the recall of Newsom, and are there any parallels with the soon to conclude effort to recall Commissioner Couy Griffin.

The Governor of California, Gavin Newson; represented the largest economy in America, the 5th largest in the world, the most prosperous state in wealth generation and the engine that drives the American economy via Silicon Valley; so yes, much is at risk when a governor of California failed the competency test. A former governor of California was successfully recalled, Gray Davis, leading to the rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the office of governor but that is because of the electric crises, and he could not keep the lights on for business thus the California economy was at risk

Couy Griffin, as County Commissioner of Otero County represents a district within Southern New Mexico that was once the home and the center of America’s space race, nuclear program and contained a school system ranked in the top 10 in the nation. His district in the 60s thru 80’s, while rural, was like California in the concentration of scientist, researchers, innovation and was a center of military industrial collaboration and commerce. Now, however, the district has transitioned to one with increasingly dilapidated buildings, a drain of a qualified and educated work force compared to its past. The district contains one of the lowest vaccination rates and some of highest high school dropout rates in Southern, New Mexico and a lot of blame against the governor and northern New Mexico for the problems plaguing the district.

Mr. Griffin has been a lightening rod of controversy from his affiliation as leader of Cowboys for Trump to missteps in rhetoric that often gets him in trouble, and his handling of campaign finances and those around Cowboys for Trump. These have been lightening rod issues which provide poor optics politically.

What does Gavin Newsom and Couy Griffin have in common that led both to battle a recall effort? Both had a significant issue with optics and understanding voter perceptions.

Mr. Newsom before a statewide lockdown was seen eating at one of the most prestigious restaurants in the US, the French Laundry, celebrating the birthday of a close friends and ally. He implemented policies that were viewed by many as harsh, over reactive, and harmful to business.

In retrospect, yes indeed he was insensitive and created very poor optics thus deserved to be called on his actions. But at a cost of $300 Million to the taxpayers? That’s not quite an example of fiscal responsibility and taxpayer sensitivity by the Republican machine.

Economics are showing that when it came down to his policies, over the longer term, the state of California has bounced back stronger than ever, with the largest budget surplus ever and an economy that is churning stronger than at any time since it was founded. Wealth creation is at an all time high and business interests embrace Mr. Newsom because he himself was a connected and prosperous business owner and operator of high-end resorts, wineries, and restaurants. He came from a history of wealth generation and job creation thus the policies he implemented impacted his business interest directly, and he also felt the pain of those decisions. His net worth when entering the governor’s mansion was estimated as at least $20 Million.

The business community never turned-on Newsom, thus the overwhelming rejection of his recall and a failure by the Republican Party of California to unseat him.

Was Katilyn Jenner and Larry Elder the best the Republican party could do to unseat Newsom? If that is the best and the brightest of California’s Republican party, then the Republican party of California certainly has some soul searching to do. Sadly, the taxpayers of California must pick up the $300 Million dollar tab of this debacle.

Back to Commissioner Griffin, he is embroiled in the final weeks of the effort to get a recall question on the ballot. So far with less than 2 weeks left in the effort it appears Griffin may very well survive the recall effort without a vote ever getting on the ballot. Signature collection is sluggish at best. There will be entertaining commentary once the signature drive is over as the real stories of behind the scenes come to light.

Like Newsom, Commissioner Griffin has a horrible problem with optics and the public perception of his behaviors. Yet, he does not seem to care.  

With the deadline of the recall fast approached he appears emboldened and as such is speaking his mind more, traveling in spectacle with his horse red and the American flag near Holloman Airforce Base this past week, and a trip to Montana in the works.  He made statements at the most recent County Commission meeting that his opponents felt were “unbecoming of a commissioner.”

Will Couy Griffin survive the recall? As of September 7th, the Committee to Recall Couy Griffin had 991 of the 1574 required. The deadline for signatures is September 28th and then assuming 1574 are valid then there would be a special election as the deadline for the November election was missed.

Will Couy prevail as Newsom did in California? Odds at this point are yes unless there is a sudden influx of valid signatures over the next 12 days.

History has proven recall elections are won and lost based on how the business community sides.

In the case of Gavin Newsom, the business community was tightly aligned with him. In Silicon Valley he received over 80% of the vote against recalling him. Even in Republican rich, Orange County, the election swayed to his favor. Business executives contributed heavy to his campaign and saw no need in a change to the status quo.

In Otero County where is the business community in relation to Commissioner Couy Griffin?

He has not proven to be an effective business leader or wealth generator. He claims to make less then $23K per year in salaries.  He has not delivered skilled employment opportunities or high paying jobs to his district through any direct demonstrated successes. He attempted to get the Forestry Service to revisit lumber laws and forest management but that fell through during Covid. His ties with the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce, now the Center of Commerce, are one of the contributing factors that led to the recall effort. One of the 5 accusations for the recall, is that his travels to DC were not county business, and the county should not pay. To bail him out the Chamber “passed the hat,” Couy’s term. That hat passing, created a flurry of investigations with the County and Secretary of State and was a contributing factor to Couy’s issue of recall.

Alamogordo and Otero County business interest seem to be silent on the recall of Couy. No major corporate contributions have been disclosed to this point, no statements in support of the recall by the area’s largest employers, no endorsement of the recall by the Center of Commerce but equally silent is no loud voice of support. Basically the business community is absent in this fight though the County Commission controls a good deal of government leverage in interfacing with state and feds on redevelopment funding and infrastructure improvement.

 So, what does Commissioner, Couy Griffin and California Governor Gavin Newsom have in common?

Though political ideological opposites that are united in common purpose, to survive a recall.

  • Both failed to understand the public outcry that can result from poor optics or poor management of their image as political leaders.
    • What one says and does matters to the public.
  • Both were temporarily weakened by the recall efforts, but both are now feeling a new sense of embodiment toward their ideology and beliefs as the result of victory or potential victory over the recall efforts.
  • Both enriched their campaign or personal coffers because of the recall efforts and the publicity around them.
    • Newsom brought in over $70 Million into his campaign coffers and has a large chunk remaining unused.
    • Griffin going into the recall claimed he was broke, lost his wife, almost lost his C4T Pickup Truck and his horse- Red, thanks to fundraising efforts led by the controversial Ben Bergquam Frontline America with alleged ties to the Proud Boys. Via Bergquam’s fundraising efforts for Griffin, Griffin has $41,142 in a funds of the $50K fundraising goal that Bergquam created for him.
  • Both love the media spotlight.
    •  Newsom is the “pretty face” of the progressive movement and is a media darling
    • Griffin is the lightening rod cowboy for Trumpian ideology, on a horse, attending rallies around the country.
  • Both got a pass from the business community
    • Couy got a disinterested business community that for the most part is waiting out the recall effort and is staying mute in dialog and direct fundraising.
    •  Gavin Newsom got a bounce and significant funding to maintain his role from the business community.

What the recall movement has done is it has brough two politicians, opposite on almost every topic, but united in a battle to win over the prevailing winds of a recall effort.

Newsom won his effort to stay and prevailed. September 28th is D Day for the Committee to Recall Couy Griffin. Will he prevail and join the club of recall survivors with Gavin Newsom? Stay tuned…

New Mexico’s Couy Griffin Slaps at the Legitimacy of Native Americans Voting and their Struggles and History

“I think the Recall for Couy Committee should look at the legal side of it because those signatures they get on the Mescalero Reservation, I don’t see how they could be used in a recall if I’m already been banished,” Griffin told a local radio station during an interview on July 13 that he questions the legality of the signatures gathered on the Mescalero Reservation since he was banned last fall.

Griffin apparently has forgotten or is unaware of the plight to vote for Native Americans or that there is even precedent for elected officials to be banished from stepping foot onto a reservation, but the Native American Voters still have the right to vote for or against that individual, even if the individual is banished from tribal lands represented.

Native Americans see themselves as patriots. They’re the demographic with the nation’s highest participation in military service. Yet profound differences separate some of their values from those of mainstream America. Many Indigenous people do not support the dominant society’s fiercely maintained system of racial and financial privilege of which Griffins comments allude to. Platforms with health- and community-focused planks are what interest most Native American voters per polling and Mr. Griffins absences from the district, focus on Cowboys for Trump and infatuation with the Trumpian theology don’t bold well for most Native American voters within the district.

The banishment of Couy Griffin from the Mezcalero Apache Reservation was an act, by the tribe, to get his attention. The banishment was to let him know of their displeasure in his actions as a representative in local government. Though driven by his rhetoric, the tribe’s stance of banishment is statement of his ineffectiveness as a leader of the community. The tribe clearly understands the recall is based upon his actions and potential ethics violations and not his rhetoric and as such allowed the signature drive for recall to proceed on their tribal lands.

Leaders build bridges between diverse groups and advocate for their needs. An act of banishment is a statement that he has been ineffective in representing their voice within county government if even at all.

The banishment of a political leader by a Native American tribe is not to be taken lightly and there is precedent for such actions. Couy is NOT the first politician to face a banishment and not the first to question voting rights of Native American citizens.

A most recent example of a tribal banishment is by the Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota, Via banishment they told the state’s governor that she was no longer welcome to access the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the largest in the country, because she signed bills that allegedly target Keystone XL pipeline protesters. The tribe’s president, Julian Bear Runner, informed Gov. Kristi Noem of the council’s unanimous decision in an open letter.

Tribal banishment is a permanent ban from the reservation, and violations are punishable by law with fines or even jail time on their lands. Tribes have sovereign rights over their lands per Federal treaties however they also participate in county and state elections. Federal law allows for what one might deem as dual citizenship the right to participate in tribal elections as per the tribes constitution and the right to participate in local, state and federal elections via rights granted to all citizens within the US constitution.

Voting Rights of New Mexico’s Native American Population:

Miguel Trujillo Sr. had been a Marine sergeant in World War II and was in the middle of getting his master’s degree from the University of New Mexico. But there was one thing he still could not do. Trujillo could not vote. In 1948, the state’s constitution barred American Indians living on reservations from participating in elections. So, that summer, the Isleta Pueblo educator waged a legal battle that culminated in a court ruling 74 years ago that won Native Americans the right to vote in New Mexico.

Even though the federal government had granted citizenship to Native Americans back in 1924, the New Mexico Constitution still barred them from voting. The state’s constitution expressly prohibited from voting “idiots, insane persons, persons convicted of felonious or infamous crime unless restored to political rights, and Indians not taxed.”

That last part referred to Indians living on reservations because they did not pay property taxes on their land. It is unclear whether Native Americans could have registered to vote if they lived outside reservations.

But the provision disenfranchised many and prompted condemnation from the President’s Committee on Civil Rights in its 1947 report. The provision did not make any sense, the committee said. That line in the constitution was written before American Indians were granted citizenship, but they were paying taxes to the state and federal government like other citizens.

Protests against this ban, the report noted, had only gained force as American Indian veterans returned to civilian life after World War II.

It was amid all of this that Trujillo went to the Valencia County Clerk’s Office in June 1948. Family have said Trujillo had grown up with the county clerk, Eloy Garley, but knew he would not be allowed to vote in any event. Sure enough, he was turned away. In turn, Trujillo went to court with the help of Felix Cohen, a former federal official who had become a prominent civil rights lawyer and was working with tribes in New Mexico.

They filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court focusing on that one strange qualifier in the state constitution. For one thing, Trujillo’s lawsuit argued, he paid plenty of taxes. No, he did not pay taxes on his land. But he paid income taxes and sales taxes. There are other voters who don’t pay property taxes, too, such as renters. But no other group has been barred from voting on the basis that they do not pay property taxes.

On Aug. 3, 1948, a panel of three judges in Santa Fe sided with Trujillo granting Native American voting in New Mexico.

“We are unable to escape the conclusion that under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments; this constitutes discrimination on the ground of race,” the court said in its ruling. The cruel irony that Trujillo had just served in the military but was denied the right to vote was not lost on the court, either. Native Americans, the court said, “have responded to the need of the country in time of war in a patriotic wholehearted way, both in furnishing manpower in the military forces and in the purchase of war bonds and patriotic contributions of that character.” “Why should they be deprived their rights to not now because they are favored by the federal government in exempting lands from taxation?” the court asked.

With that, American Indians had the right to vote and petition in New Mexico in any election for any candidate like other citizens.

And vote they do. In the most recent election voters elected a record-breaking six Native American congressional candidates to serve in the US House of Representatives. Native candidates also won dozens of races in state and local elections across the country.

In New Mexico at the state level 9 candidates ran…

  1. WON: Anthony Allison, Navajo Nation, State House 4, Democrat
  2. UNOPPOSED: Doreen Wonda Johnson, Navajo Nation, State House 5, Democrat
  3. WON: Derrick Lente, Sandia & Isleta Pueblo, State House 65, Democrat
  4. UNOPPOSED: Georgene Louis, Acoma Pueblo, State House 26, Democrat
  5. WON: Patricia Roybal Caballero, Piro Manso Tiwa, State House 13, Democrat
  6. WON: Shannon Pinto, Navajo Nation, State Senate 3, Democrat
  7. WON: Benny Shendo Jr., Jemez Pueblo, State Senate 22, Democrat
  8. WON: Brenda McKenna, Nambe Pueblo, State Senate 9, Democrat
  9. LOST: Gertrude Lee, Navajo Nation, New Mexico Court of Appeals, Position 2, Republican

There are almost 3600 members of the Mescalero Apache tribe of which a large percentage live on the reservation and are located within Couy Griffins District. By law each have the right to sign the petition if a registered voter in the county the tribe’s people like ANYONE registered to vote in Otero County District 2 can sign the recall petition, including those registered voters on the Mescalero Reservation.

If Griffin is removed from office, the New Mexico Constitution states that Lujan Grisham may appoint a person from any political party to the seat. The appointee must be from Otero County District 2, Governor’s Office Spokeswoman Nora Sackett said.

The New Mexico Constitution is not as specific as the statement from the Governor’s spokesperson however there is precedent in appointments, and it would be politically prudent for the Governor to appoint within the district thus the statement from her spokesperson.

The Committee to Recall Couy Griffin is setting precedent in New Mexico history as there is not a record of a recall effort that has garnered this much attention nor seen the successes to date of this effort. To learn more about the recall effort visit:

https://www.facebook.com/RecallCouy/

Signatures at the Reservation are being gathered…

Friday, July 16:

Mescalero, Apache Reservation at the Chiricahua Plaza parking lot from 10 am – 4 pm

Saturday, July 17

Mescalero: Chiricahua Plaza parking lot from 10 am – 4 pm

Note: Story Revised on 7/16/21 at 6:09 pm per request the author has remove the call letters and named interviewer referenced in the story per a call request. While the record of the call is in the public airwaves we respect the request and have done so accordingly. 

To hear audio of the interview with Couy Griffin of New Mexico follow the link https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FSgtChez%2Fposts%2F10219254270935110&show_text=true&width=500