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Federal lawsuit seeks to stop recall or add Newsom to ballot

The court could declare the recall election procedure unconstitutional and leave it to California to devise a constitutional alternative

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – In a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California last Friday, two registered voters residing in the state of California are asking the court to either stop the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom or add his name to the ballot.

In the court filing and as reported by Politico, attorney’s for the plaintiffs, Rex Julian Beaber and A.W. Clark, are challenging the constitutionality of the recall law process writing;

“This process is violative of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, because it flies in the face of the federal legal principle of “one person, one vote,” and gives to voters who vote to recall the Governor two votes — one to remove him and one to select a successor, but limits to only one vote the franchise of those who vote to retain him and that he not be recalled, so that a person who votes for recall has twice as many votes as a person who votes against recall. This is unconstitutional both on its face and as applied.”

The plaintiffs are asking that the court issues an injunction prohibiting the recall election or add Newsom’s name to the replacement candidate list on part two of the ballot.

Under California law, the recall elections specify in the first part a yes or no question to recall the governor. If a majority of voters eject Newsom, then second part with its list of replacement choices comes into play with the candidate who receives the most votes would then become Governor.

Monday was the state’s deadline to mail out the approximately 22 million ballots by elections officials. According to the California Secretary of State’s office Tuesday that has been accomplished.

Politico reported that Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, in an op-ed published in the New York Times pointed out that the structure of the ballot “allows a replacement candidate to be elected with a small plurality — and potentially with far fewer votes than the number of votes cast to keep the current governor.”

“The court could declare the recall election procedure unconstitutional and leave it to California to devise a constitutional alternative,” Chemerinsky wrote. “Or it could simply add Mr. Newsom’s name on the ballot to the list of those running to replace him. That simple change would treat his supporters equally to others and ensure that if he gets more votes than any other candidate, he will stay in office.”

In an interview Monday with Politico’s Jeremy White and colleague Debra Kahn, California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta acknowledged the lawsuit and ongoing underlying legal debate.

“We’re aware of that argument and some of the other concerns and we’ll be making sure we stay abreast of this issue and monitoring it,” Bonta said, adding of the lawsuit, “We’ll be coordinating with the secretary of state’s office to determine next steps.

Newsom has been traveling the state battling efforts to replace him in the September 14 recall election. During several campaign stops he warned of dire consequences should one of the top six Republicans or forty other candidates on the second part of ballot be selected.

Speaking to campaign workers, at tables full of phone-banking volunteers at Hecho en Mexico restaurant during a stop in the San Gabriel neighborhood of East Los Angeles this past weekend, Newsom told them;

“Though we defeated Trump, we didn’t defeat Trumpism. Trumpism is still alive and well, even here in the state of California. If you don’t believe me, just consider … the likely person to enter an oath of office, to enter in the governor’s office in just a matter of weeks if we don’t reject this recall.”

Democrats across the state are making a full court press to thwart any Republican candidate from obtaining the governor’s chair.

Equality California and the California Democratic Party will host an LGBTQ+ Californians Against the Republican Recall Day of Action on Thursday, featuring a virtual rally with LGBTQ+ leaders and a volunteer phone bank to help get out the vote.

Speakers will include California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur, San Francisco Democratic Party Chair Honey Mahogany and Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez.

A new statewide poll of 1,000 registered voters taken one week ago shows an increase from a similar poll taken at the end of last month which showed that the percentage of voters to recall was 43% versus those who would vote to keep Newsom at 48%. The poll had also recorded that undecided voters comprised 9% of the total with the poll having a margin of error of of +/- 3%.

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Politics

MAGA GOP nominee for Arizona secretary of state opposes LGBTQ rights

Finchem is no stranger to conspiracies & the far-right. Before heading to the Arizona Legislature, he had already joined the Oath Keepers

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Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem (L) with former Georgia Republican House Rep. Vernon Jones taken in Washington D.C. on January 5, 2021, the day prior to the Capitol insurrection. (Photo via the now deleted Twitter account of Rep. Finchem)

PHOENIX – Mark Finchem, a Republican Arizona state representative who won his party’s nomination in the race for Arizona Secretary of State, with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, is a self-proclaimed member of the far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers.

Finchem is also completely opposed to LGBTQ rights and has endorsed allowing parents to seek professional counseling for their minor child with same-sex attraction or gender identity issues also known as conversion therapy.

Finchem has a long record of activism in far right extremist groups and political circles. While he has served since January of 2015 as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives representing District 11, he has also been actively engaged as a member of several far right groups and also has embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory.

His political positions on the equality rights of LGBTQ+ Arizonans is dismal. In a 2022 survey conducted by the Center for Arizona Policy, a vehemently anti-LGBTQ+ conservative lobbying group run by Cathi Herrod, who is among Arizona’s most anti-LGBTQ lobbyists.

Center for Arizona Policy
2022 Survey Questions For Arizona Candidates
Position Sought: Secretary of State
Question 2: Adding “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” or “gender expression” to the protected classes of race, religion, age, sex, and ancestry in nondiscrimination law.
Candidates’ Position: Oppose.
Question 4: Allowing biological males that identify as transgender to play on female sports’ teams.
Candidates’ Position: Oppose
Question 8: Allowing parents to seek professional counseling for their minor child with same-sex attraction or gender identity issues.*
Candidates’ Position: Support
Question 9: Protecting individuals and businesses from being required to provide services or use their artistic expression in a manner that violates their moral or religious beliefs.**
Candidates’ Position: Support.
*  This is in reference to the dangerous and disproven “Reparative Therapy”.
**Discriminatory “Religious Freedom” laws.

In March of 2020 Finchem voted yes in support of Phoenix Republican Nancy Barto’s “Save Women’s Sports Act” bill (HB 2706), which would prohibits transgender female students from sports designated for females. The language specified that it requires any interscholastic or intramural athletic team or sport sponsored by  an educational institution in Arizona to be designated by one of the following based  biological sex: Males, men, or boys; Females, women or girls; co-ed.

On several social media websites linked from his since-deleted former Twitter account Finchem has also embraced and asserted former President Donald Trump’s lie about the 2020 being “stolen.”

Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem (L) with former Georgia Republican House Rep. Vernon Jones taken in Washington D.C. on January 5, 2021, the day prior to the Capitol insurrection.
(Photo via the now deleted Twitter account of Rep. Finchem)

Finchem has been a self-identified as a member of The Oath Keepers since 2014, the anti-government, far-right militia composed of former and active military and law enforcement that purports to defend the U.S. Constitution.

CNN reported the group is perhaps best known for providing security for the January 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally preceding the Capitol riot. Eleven members, including its leader, were charged by the Justice Department with “seditious conspiracy” related to the Capitol attack.

According to CNN, Finchem’s most extreme content came on the social media platform Pinterest, which allows users to save, categorize and share posts called pins into digital mood boards. While Finchem has some light-hearted and conventional boards on food, fashion and dogs, he also has a board titled “Treason Watch List,” featuring photos of Jesse Jackson, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

In February of this year, Finchem along with Kelli Ward the osteopathic physician who has serves as the chair of the Arizona Republican Party were subpoenaed  by the U.S. House Jan. 6 Committee, regarding documents over actions reportedly taken among the Donald Trump supporters involved in sending slates of so-called “alternate electors” to Congress to be included in the electoral votes cast for president in the 2020 election.

In June in published reports by the Arizona Republic and Politico, Ward and her husband, Michael, received grand jury subpoenas from the Department of Justice regarding their involvement in a scheme to send fake electors to Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Also in February, Finchem filed HCR 2033, which says that is it is the “justifiable position of the Arizona State Legislature that we set aside the results of the Maricopa, Pima and Yuma County elections as irredeemably compromised and reclaim the 2020 Presidential Electors.”

The lawmaker is also a rabid anti-vaxxer spreading dangerous misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic sharing a story last August riddled with misinformation on the coronavirus and vaccine on the platform Gab — a social media network popular with conservatives, the alt-right and some extremists.

Finchem labeled the vaccine a “crime against humanity,” implying it was a “bio-weapon” and wrote “It ain’t a vaccine!!! Call it what it is, a crime against humanity.”

In December of 2021, journalist Jake Dean at the Tucson alternative newspaper, the Tucson Weekly, in a lengthy political commentary laid out a synopsis of reasons Arizonans should not vote for the far-right lawmaker to become Arizona’s Secretary of State:

“Finchem is no stranger to conspiracies and the far-right. In fact, before heading to the Arizona Legislature, he had already joined the Oath Keepers—who played a leading role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the militia group is “founded on the belief that the federal government is part of an evil conspiracy intent on stripping Americans of their natural rights and freedoms.” Its members have encouraged violence in opposition. The founder of Oath Keepers has previously encouraged the murder of elected officials, including in 2015 openly calling for the late Sen. John McCain to be put to death by hanging.”
[…]
“He previously served as the Arizona coordinator for the Coalition of Western States—a group of legislators and activists who supported the armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. He also signed a letter of support to pardon arsonists who burned federal government land.”
[…]
“Following the horrific events of the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, Finchem denied any far-right involvement in the event—claiming that mainstream media was lying and that it was a Deep State PSYOP to construct a political narrative for Democrats. It was not. He also falsely accused contemporary Democrats as being the true members of the Ku Klux Klan who joined the rally.”
[…]
“Mark Finchem also parrots far-right conspiracies on vaccines. Sure, Finchem got COVID-19 himself. And yes, his mother lost her decades long battle with cancer soon after contracting the virus. But on his official Twitter in July, he warned President Joe Biden to take his “tweet as Arizona’s statewide ‘no trespassing sign.’ You and your vaccine henchmen have been forewarned.” I am unsure what exactly he is threatening here, but I believe you can read between the lines.”
 
“Finchem’s supply of money also comes from the right-wing extremists. One of his leading campaign funders is Daniel Brophy, a Wyoming-based political megadonor and brother of former State Sen. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix. According to a local legal group, Sen. McGee herself once described her brother as having alt-right political views after he gave money to her political rival. When a woman who has proudly touted her anti-LGBTQ+ bonafides and was painted as a bygone example of the Arizona GOP by English newspaper The Guardian calls you alt-right, I am going to have to take her word for it.”
 
“Rep. Finchem also attended the premiere of a “documentary” called The Deep Rig about an alleged conspiracy in the 2020 election. The film featured Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan (who confirmed himself as “Anon” in the movie), former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, and other leaders of election conspiracies in Arizona. Finchem supported the film despite the fact that its director has a history of baseless conspiracies—including the dedication of an entire film to the argument that extraterrestrials were the cause of the Sep. 11 attacks on the Twin Towers”
[…]
“Given his evident belief in the conspiracies of the far-right, of course Finchem was at the insurrection on Jan. 6 himself. Despite claiming that he never made it closer than 500 yards to the Capitol building, footage of the event clearly shows the politician in attendance himself. He also tweeted in praise of the insurrectionists. Plus, the prominent “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander identified Finchem as the starting point of the anti-democratic movement in Arizona.”
 
“Not only was he there, but he then spread more conspiracies after the fact. In his newsletter following the attack in D.C., he claimed (falsely) that facial recognition technology had identified masses of leftist activists in the crowd. He also accused Antifa of responsibility for violence at the Capitol building, despite having no evidence for such claims. Further, even in the face of proof of him attending the event, he has repeatedly threatened to sue anybody attempting to connect him to the events at the Capitol.”

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Monkeypox

Right-wing media exploit monkeypox- retread anti-vax misinformation

These anti-vax talking points are intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – As monkeypox presents an ever-increasing threat to Americans, predominantly gay and bisexual men, conservative media figures are exploiting the global health emergency to stoke fears of the COVID-19 vaccine and related health measures and to attack queer men. 

These anti-vax talking points are often invoked alongside AIDS-era rhetoric intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease and gay and bisexual men as culprits in — rather than victims of — the growing outbreak. This stigmatization has already reportedly resulted in violence against gay men.

During the last week of July, the U.S. reported both the fastest rise in and highest number of monkeypox cases worldwide, leading the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency on August 4. The virus, which is endemic in certain African countries, is usually rare in Europe and the U.S. However, the virus recently found its way to men who have sex with men (MSM), where it has proliferated primarily through sexual contact. The gay community has emphasized the need to warn about the risk the virus poses to MSM while not feeding into anti-gay rhetoric that depicts gay sexuality as immoral. 

Despite this plea from those most affected by the ongoing health crisis, right-wing media quickly responded to the spread of monkeypox with homophobia – recalling the vilification that gay men experienced during the AIDS epidemic. In addition to being impacted by the latest right-wing media smear campaign risking targeted violence against LGBTQ people, queer men are also less likely to seek medical care for monkeypox in countries where their sexuality is stigmatized.

Conservative media figures invoke COVID-19 conspiracy theories and criticism of health measures in coverage of monkeypox

From early on in their coverage of the monkeypox outbreak, right-wing media figures used the story to renew efforts to sow vaccine hesitancy and undermine COVID-19 health measures. Some far-right figures have even spread conspiracy theories that falsely assert the COVID-19 vaccine is directly responsible for the monkeypox outbreak. 

On May 24, The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens said on her show that “the first person who lines up to get a monkeypox vaccine, I’m going to laugh in your face.” Owens then suggested the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, and Dr. Anthony Fauci were involved in the spread of both diseases as part of “attempts at authoritarianism” and “globalism.” This claim coincides with the recent conservative conspiracy theory claiming the U.S. was ceding power to the WHO.

From the May 24, 2022, edition of Daily Wire’s Candace

Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought anti-vax conspiracy theorist Dr. George Fareed onto the August 8 edition of his radio show, where Fareed falsely claimed “the mass vaccination with these gene therapies, COVID vaccines, have the ability to weaken the immune system and make people more vulnerable to viral infection,” suggesting the vaccine could precipitate the spread of monkeypox. 

Far-right blog American Greatness posted an article on August 3 promoting the work of Shmuel Shapira, an Israeli scientist pushing similar claims as Fareed. The article claimed “Twitter censored Shapira” after the platform flagged a tweet of his as misinformation. Shapira’s tweet read, “It is well established the mRNA vaccines affect the natural immune system. A monkey pox outbreak following massive covid vaccination: Is not a coincidence.”

Right-wing media figures have also taken advantage of the recent health crisis to reignite their crusade against public health measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative commentators claim that a double standard exists between government reactions to monkeypox and COVID-19, ignoring differences in how the two diseases spread. 

Podcaster Steven Crowder, amid a longer homophobic rant suggesting gay men were engaging in bestiality, claimed on August 2 that COVID-19 health measures were “politically motivated” and that masking and social distancing “didn’t make any difference whatsoever.” Crowder then contrasted those measures with the fact that Pride events still took place this year despite the spread of monkeypox, saying, “They won’t even cancel their gay San Francisco fuckfest.”

From the August 2, 2022, edition of Louder with Crowder, streamed on YouTube

An article for The Federalist titled “Americans Lost Fundamental Freedoms During Covid — But Halting Gay Orgies To Stop Monkeypox Is Too Far?” bemoaned COVID lockdowns and claimed, “We shut down the world for a virus that had no traceable transmission, it was entirely random. It really isn’t too much to ask for gay men to stop engaging in orgies and public sex events for their ‘mental health,’ their ‘self-esteem,’ and to continue ‘having fun.’”

On Twitter, right-wing personalities expressed a similar sentiment. 

Alt-right troll Mike Cernovich tweeted his criticism of public health advocate Dr. Gregg Gonsalves:

Far-right YouTuber Ian Miles Cheong continued his online anti-gay tirade on monkeypox:

Right-wing radio host Dan O’Donnell similarly tweeted:

Gay men are targeted with violence while right-wing media continues to depict them as threats

After the first cases of monkeypox were found among children in the U.S., LGBTQ advocates reported right-wing figures were using the news to falsely claim that gay men were guilty of abuse. This was a part of a larger attempt by right-wing media to use the monkeypox outbreak to depict LGBTQ people as a threat to society. By attempting to evoke the sort of stigmatizing rhetoric pushed during the AIDS epidemic that frames the MSM community as vectors of disease, right-wing media is feeding a culture of prejudice that has already resulted in violence against gay men. 

The above-mentioned article from The Federalist fearmongered that “as gay men spread the virus within their population at startling rates, the chances of it escaping into the mundane world through close contact in stores, crowded streets, or buses increases,” claiming that gay and bisexual men were spreading the disease through “truly selfish behavior [that] is endangering the rest of us.”

Right-wing talk show host Erick Erickson tweeted, “‘My orgy doesn’t affect you,’ said the man who spread monkeypox to the lady who worked at the gas station. Two weeks of no orgies to stop the spread is just too much to ask.”

On Hannity’s August 8 radio show, guest Dr. Brian Tyson said the virus would “spread to the heterosexual community if we don’t get a handle on the gay community to stop the transmission,” and claimed “the CDC and the NIH, they’re afraid to come out and tell the gay community to stop having intercourse until this pandemic goes away.”

On the August 5 edition of his show, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk characterized the government response to monkeypox as an attempt to avoid offending “the alphabet mafia” of the LGBTQ community, saying, “You can’t go after the gay community for maybe doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” before declaring he would “not live through another lockdown or an erosion of our civil liberties by a corrupt or usurpatious government because we’re afraid to offend people. Don’t care, and you shouldn’t either.”

From the August 5, 2022, edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, streamed on YouTube   

The effects of right-wing media’s misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine put their audience at serious risk. However, these conservative figures are now jeopardizing the health of millions of LGBTQ Americans as well by seeking to stigmatize their sexuality during a public health crisis.

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Politics

Florida school removes posters of Black heroes, teacher resigns in protest

“DeSantis’s culture wars are infiltrating every corner of our state, and it’s Florida’s students who are paying the price”

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O.J. Semmes Elementary School, Pensacola, Florida/Facebook

PENSACOLA – A career special education teacher in Escambia County, Florida resigned this past week just as classes were scheduled to start after a Escambia County Public School District staffer removed posters and pictures of historically significant Black Americans from his classroom.

Michael James, 61, who has taught special ed classes for the past fifteen years told Pensacola News Journal reporter Colin Warren-Hicks in an interview this week that he had emailed a letter to Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith in which he wrote that a district employee removed the pictures citing the images as being “age inappropriate.”

Images that were removed from the bulletin board at O.J. Semmes Elementary School included depictions of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, James said.

Michael James
Courtesy of Michael James

“It really floored me,” James told the News Journal. “I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that.”

James chose the board’s theme because the majority of the students and the residents in the neighborhoods that surround O.J. Semmes are Black, and he wanted to motivate his students with inspirational leaders they could easily look up to and see themselves.

The Pensacola News Journal reported that Escambia County Public Schools Superintendent Tim Smith  said that “teachers are permitted to decorate their classrooms with educational materials and he was unaware of any policies that would prohibit a teacher from displaying pictures of inspirational American heroes on their walls.”

Smith said a full investigation of the incident, which he called an “anomaly,” has been launched.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, (D-FL 13th District) who is running to secure the Democratic Party nomination to oust DeSantis in the November elections took aim at the sitting governor in a Facebook post:

On Wednesday afternoon the Congressman expanded his remarks saying:

“This is the sad reality of Ron DeSantis’ Florida — a teacher, in a predominantly Black community, comes into their classroom to see posters of historically Black American heroes, including President (Barack) Obama, taken down for being ‘inappropriate,’ Crist said in a statement. “DeSantis’ culture wars are infiltrating every corner of our state, and it’s Florida’s students who are paying the price.”

Florida Politics reported that the controversy comes as the first Florida schools, including Escambia County schools, begin their first academic year under legislation signed by DeSantis that targets “critical race theory.”

Among other rules, the law prohibit lessons teaching students that they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin.

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