Newsom’s newest defender: San Jose Councilmember Carrasco
Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco speaking in East San Jose in 2020. File photo.

As he faces possibly being removed from office, embattled Gov. Gavin Newsom has a new ally in his corner: San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco.

Carrasco hosted a Zoom call this month and wrote a passionate Facebook post defending Newsom, referring to the recall effort as a “dirty tactic” and “costly political theater.”

“Governor Newsom has guided our state through perhaps the most tumultuous year in our state’s modern history,” Carrasco told San José Spotlight. “It’s unsettling to know that a vast amount of state resources will be committed to indulging the whims of a treacherous lot. Their only aim is to recover from the sting of a failed presidential bid by a traitorous con man who sought to overthrow Congress on January 6… This recall effort is nothing more than a high-priced political distraction.”

A recall election hasn’t been scheduled yet, but could happen this fall. The California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials estimate it will cost about $400 million.

Carrasco said she joined State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Latino leaders statewide in speaking out against the recall because she said Newsom kept East San Jose “housed, healthy and safe” during the pandemic.

The councilwoman said his policies brought relief to families in her district, such as the Golden State stimulus which included those using an individual taxpayer identification number, and paid sick leave regardless of whether a person was covered by federal law.

“I represent the largest Latino district in Northern California,” Carrasco said. “Within my district are three of the top five hardest hit ZIP codes by COVID-19. In a state where Latino voters are leading the charge to approve change, my district stands as one of the most crucial areas for gauging the needs and demands of California residents. We will throw our collective weight behind fighting this pointless recall effort because this community demands it.” 

John Pelissero, senior scholar at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, said it isn’t unusual or inappropriate for an elected official to defend another.

“In the case of the recall election question, a councilmember would be acting appropriately as long as she does not use public resources to communicate her recommendation to vote no on the recall,” Pelissero said.

Pelissero said elected officials can’t use a government website or email to communicate a political position on the recall election. 

“A public official should be judicious in the use of social media so as not to communicate an official government position on the recall election,” he said, “or present the appearance of using one’s office and communication tools to make an election recommendation.”

Carrasco used her personal Facebook account to share her post, and said she’d do it all over again.

“The only thing unethical would be to stand in silent complicity as evildoers attempted to upend the will of the people,” she told San José Spotlight. “I will always speak my mind and share my beliefs as they apply to my constituents. This recall attempt is an attack on all of their rights to a fair and just election process.”

The majority of candidates running against Newsom are Republicans who range from businessmen to athletes and politicians. A dozen candidates have filed statements of intention including John Cox, Rep. Doug Ose and Caitlyn Jenner.

Shane Patrick Connolly, chair of the Santa Clara County Republican Party, strongly disagrees with Carrasco’s description of the recall.

“It isn’t dirty tactics or political theater,” Connolly said. “It’s responding to actual conditions that harmed Californians.”

Initially, the recall wasn’t pandemic-related. It started in February 2020 right before the coronavirus exploded in California and focused on a variety of topics ranging from immigration and homelessness to taxes and quality of life.

As the pandemic wore on and businesses suffered, residents complained about California’s strict COVID safety restrictions, especially as other states were more lenient. Newsom received additional criticism in November after attending a birthday celebration indoors at the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville while encouraging residents to stay at home.

Connolly said people signed the recall petition—which garnered more than 1.6 million signatures, well beyond the 1.495 million required—due to the destruction to their businesses during the pandemic, in addition to inconsistencies around which businesses were deemed essential and could remain open. He said hairstylists, nail salons and other personal service businesses were devastated by their closures.

“Then there’s the hypocrisy of Newsom, who tells everyone else they can’t gather and meets up with wealthy lobbyists at one of the most expensive restaurants in California,” Connolly said. “Those things have a political price… a recall and possible replacement.”

According to a poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) in early May, 49% of voters plan to vote against the recall effort. The poll shows positive public response to Newsom’s supervision of the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, with 54% rating him as doing an excellent or good job with it.

The poll shows 45% of those surveyed rate Newsom’s job performance in handling the pandemic as excellent or good, while 35% say it is poor or very poor.

“Newsom benefits from the improving situation with the pandemic, but there are still some warning signs—the low interest of Democratic voters and the substantial number of undecided voters,” IGS Co-Director Eric Schickler said in a statement. “But the governor is now in better shape and is helped by the absence of a compelling GOP alternative.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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