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 Recall Status Update

As we reported on June 28th, 2021 the New Mexico Supreme Court cleared the way to allow the political action committee that is leading the effort to recall Commissioner Couy Griffin could go forward.

In follow-up, about two weeks since the ruling, the committee has begun circulating a petition and gathering signatures within his district to recall Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin from public office as a commissioner in Otero County.

The non-partisan Committee to Recall Couy Griffin consists of an equal number of representatives of both parties with a charter to collaborate for the removal of Griffin for the greater good of the overall county. Partisan politics has been put aside to work together for what the group deems is the common good of Otero County, the district, and Southern New Mexico.

The group is not focused on his removal due to rhetoric and outlandish statements, which are in themselves unappealing and lack dignity. Though the statements are unappealing and show a level of ignorance that does not shine well upon the county for business recruitment, they are not the basis of the recall.

The committee and the Supreme Court ruling affirmed that the focus of the recall effort of Griffin was for using his elected county position for personal gain and a variety of other charges.

The committee assert in their brief before the New Mexico Supreme Court that, Griffin used his office space to solicit contributions to Cowboys for Trump that covered his personal expenses. They also are criticizing Griffin’s pursuit of travel reimbursements from taxpayers for a cross-country trip that culminated in a visit with Trump at the White House. Additional causes for recall argued were Griffin’s attendance of Otero County Commission meetings by phone rather than in person, his banishment from the Mescalero Apache Reservation along with alleged use of Otero County Commissioner offices for personal business.

Griffin has called those allegations” frivolous, baseless and politically motivated” per his many public rebuttals. Griffin says that the Cowboys for Trump is a for-profit endeavor and as such that is not subject to financial disclosure requirements for political organizations. The state of New Mexico ruled against this assertion affirming that Secretary of State may go after him and the organization for failure to comply with New Mexico political reporting laws.

Since the positive ruling signature gathering has moved forward to get the question of recall on the ballot. AlamogordoTownNews.com reached out to the Committee to Recall Couy Griffin to get their assessment of how the effort is going. We presented committee spokesperson Scott Fredrick with questions for an update…

AlamogordoTownNews.com – Do you have any updates on the recall effort?

Scott Fredrickson – “We had good traffic this weekend at the La Luz and Tularosa locations. Only 2 people came to the locations that did not support our efforts, but they were nice and with discussed our case with them.

AlamogordoTownNews.com – When and where are the next signature drives?

Scott Fredrickson – We have a meeting Monday night to discuss the next weeks efforts. The committee will be at Veterans Park in Tularosa again next Sunday, July 18th from 1 to 4 at a minimum.

AlamogordoTownNews.com – Do you anticipate meeting the deadline to get the question on the November general election ballot?

Scott Fredrickson – “We have been told that we need to have the signatures to the clerk by August 5th to have them validated in time for the recall to be in the November general election. We are going to do all we can to prevent having a special election at an additional cost to the taxpayers.”

AlamogordoTownNews.com – What is the deadline to qualify for a special election of the August deadline is missed?

Scott Fredrickson – “We have 90 days from July 1st (September 28th) petition initiation date to get them to the clerk.”

AlamogordoTownNews.com – Has Couy Griffin been in touch with your group in the last week?

Scott Fredrickson – “We have not had any contact with Couy other than one of our committee members briefly spoke with him during a break at the county commission meeting last week.”

AlamogordoTownNews.com – Has the group encountered any recent hostility?

Scott Fredrickson – “No.”

AlamogordoTownNews.com – You are now the acting spokesperson for the Committee to Recall Couy Griffin, for what reasons are you involved in this effort and what is your community and political background?

Scott Fredrickson – “I am involved in the effort because I voted for Couy and do not like how he has represented me as a commissioner. I feel he spent too much time in his Cowboys for Trump role to effectively tend to the needs of Otero County. I live in District 2 and I am active in local politics because I want what is best for the local area. I am a registered Republican and ran for the city commission in the last Alamogordo District 2 election. I retired from the US Air Force 5 years ago and stayed here because we like the area and I work for Holloman.

Mr. Fredrickson concluded, “Our committee has 5 Republicans and 5 Democrats, and we are a non-partisan organization. Our goal is to get a commissioner who will work for Otero County and not bring negative press to the local area.”

The recall initiative is moving forward. The committee is in the parks and around County Commission District 2 gathering signatures. Couy Griffin is at present attending Commission meetings but is also embroiled in multiple lawsuits that are a distraction from serving his constituents.

Today, Couy Griffin is divorced, disparaged by family, and confronts a political recall drive, a state corruption investigation, and federal charges. He is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, according to a United States District Court criminal complaint. In Washington, prosecutors unveiled photographs of Griffin climbing a toppled fence and another barrier to access the Capitol steps.

Griffin has been rebuked by many Republicans over his racial invective. He’s also been suspended from Facebook and banished from Native American lands in his district as he contests charges of breaking into the Capitol grounds and disrupting Congress that could carry a one-year sentence. A recall effort is underway, amid a plethora of lawsuits.

The New Mexico Secretary of State says that Cowboys for Trump operated by Couy Griffin qualifies as a political committee, amid its parades on horseback and merchandise sales in support of Trump. The secretary of state’s office prevailed in a June arbitration and appeal to court decision that ordered Cowboys for Trump to register, file expenditure and contribution reports and pay a fine of $7,800.

According tp the Santa Fe New Mexican Jan 18, 2021 “New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said he intends to see Griffin removed from his elected office. Balderas said his office is aiding the federal investigation into Griffin, 47 — who is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority — while also gathering evidence for a criminal probe into Griffin’s time on the Otero County Commission.”

“We’re hopeful the federal prosecution will move rather quickly and the evidence presented there will help make the case for his removal clearer,” Balderas said Monday. “The general public should be outraged about what he’s been able to do while in office.”

The two other County Commissioners; Gerald Matherly and Vickie Marquardt — both Republicans have asked Couy Griffin to please, just resign, so they can focus on the county’s business without distractions and drama.

At a commission meeting in April the drama and debate around Griffin intensified with both Republicans making statements that he needs to leave.

Matherly was clear about his position, “We have gone through many days of drama, with our staff and my office. I’ve received threats myself because of your actions. This is office supposed to be taking care of county business, and I don’t think you should be using county property for Cowboys for Trump business and filming personal videos. Every time we have county meetings, it turns into a meeting about Couy Griffin’s personal life and has nothing to do with county business.”

Marquardt didn’t hold back either, “How many hours do you think you actually spend on county business each week? You generate hate that rains down on this county, and we have to deal with it,” she said.

Griffin said that everything he did under the auspice of Cowboys for Trump was for the good of the county. “It was to represent the conservative values of Otero County.”

Griffin continues in defiance against all odds but now it is up to the voters of District 2 to decide. 

The question each voter should ask themselves…

Is the District better off since Couy Griffin was elected to his position?

What value has he brought to the district?

Has Mr. Griffin enhanced employment opportunities, recruited new businesses personally or via commission directives? What has he done to lower the poverty rates in his district?

Is he a good spokesperson for Otero county to recruit good paying jobs, tourism and new development?

Is he devoting a majority of his time to local constituent concerns?

If not allowed on the reservation, how does he represent their interests within the county and participate in collaborative dialog?

What has he done to improve the lives for our children since being elected?

What has his done that improves the lives of seniors and the middle class in his district since being elected?

The poverty rate for Otero County is 21.2% with the high number of individuals living in poverty, located in District 2, what has he done to help solve the issue of poverty since being elected, and how much time and how many speeches has he given specific to this topic since being elected?

Are you better off now then before he was elected?

If the responses to most of the questions above are positive, then he is your commissioner. If the answers to most of the questions above, are he has not impacted the issue, has not addressed the issue or has not proposed solutions and work towards them in district and on behalf of his constituents then the citizen should sign the petition for his recall.

Those who participate make the decisions. Be informed, participate, make a difference for yourself, family, and friends and for future generations. What we do today impacts tomorrow. The future of your district and of business growth and wealth creation for you, your family and future generation may indeed be impacted by this very recall effort.

Is Couy Griffin worth the gamble for the future of District 2 and Otero County? District 2 registered voters of all parties, that is up to you to decided.