Recall redux

Campaign to fire governor up against the clock

Jaime Feliciano, acting as local organizer for the recall campaign against Arnold Schwarzenegger, says the campaign is attracting thousands of volunteers. “There’s a fire in the belly of people,” he said.

Jaime Feliciano, acting as local organizer for the recall campaign against Arnold Schwarzenegger, says the campaign is attracting thousands of volunteers. “There’s a fire in the belly of people,” he said.

Photo By Larry Dalton

Right before press time, Kenneth Matsumura cancelled interviews with other media and suspended his campaign to gather more volunteers, saying he’ll wait until after the special election to resume. “The important story now is not the Recall,” claimed Matsumura on his Web site. “It is the issues presented in the upcoming election. Let us all focus on getting the voters to the polls on November 8th.”

Mere months after voting Gray Davis into a second term as governor, California hosted a recall to oust him in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger. This year, California’s looking at hosting another recall election mere months before deciding whether or not to oust Schwarzenegger in the general election of 2006.

Though Democrats have threatened a retaliatory recall since the results were tallied in 2003, only now has any sort of campaign gotten off the ground. And though the campaign’s founder, Kenneth Matsumura, already has served the governor with a petition for recall, has had the Secretary of State’s office validate his first hundred signatures, and has published notice of his intent to recall in Bay Area newspapers, this may be the first time you’re hearing his name.

A Berkeley physician, Matsumura says his work with the elderly, students and the poor convinced him that a recall was necessary, even at this late date in Schwarzenegger’s governorship. On his Web site, he accuses the governor of: “… threatening public safety and welfare by grabbing funds from local governments and demoralizing public workers, failing in general to deal with state’s major problems as they near crisis proportions, and dismantling public education in California by starving schools of necessary funds while protecting special interest groups of wealthy taxpayers.”

Matsumura’s received attention from the New York Times and the Washington Post, but has had poor luck convincing daily print journalists in California that he’s worth writing about. Even those who stand to benefit most, like gubernatorial-hopeful State Treasurer Phil Angelides, are fairly quiet on the subject, though Angelides’ spokesman Dan Newman said by phone, “I would agree, by any measure, that Arnold Schwarzenegger has been a failed governor.” Newman added that he does believe voters will elect to “throw him out of office … the best way to do so is in November.”

Matsumura thinks November will be too late. The physician, who calls himself a “fiscal conservative,” said in an interview that if a recall were to be added to the primary election already planned for June of 2006, a new governor would have the opportunity to overturn decisions by Governor Schwarzenegger that have hurt students and the poor. His primary example is the governor’s late-September veto of a bill that would have raised the minimum wage from $6.75 to $7.25 and adjusted it for inflation each year.

On October 22, Matsumura announced on his Web site,, that the campaign had sent its petition to the secretary of state’s office for review. Once the petition is approved, volunteers have 160 days to collect supportive signatures from at least 12 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election; Matsumura estimates he’ll need approximately 1.2 million signatures, so he’s calling for “30,000 volunteers to commit to gathering 40 signatures a piece.” He’d like the recall added to the primary so that the state doesn’t have to pay for a special election.

So far, he said, the campaign has about 10,000 volunteers signed up, though the number is changing rapidly.

In the mean time, in Sacramento, volunteer Jaime Feliciano is looking for a campaign headquarters. A newly registered Democrat, Feliciano said he got involved with the campaign after he saw the governor vetoing legislation he supported. “Governments should be speaking out for the poor,” he said. “I want to see somebody benevolent, someone who cares.”

It’s not clear whether Matsumura has enough time to secure a recall effort by June (the secretary of state’s office is likely to send the petition back to Matsumura with requested changes, which could slow down the process), but bear in mind, the petition to recall former-Governor Gray Davis was approved by the secretary of state on March 25, 2003, and the governor was voted out of office on October 7 of that year, a little more than six months later.

“Now,” said Matsumura, “[voters] feel they were cheated.”