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California Politics

Right-wing media are already crying foul on the California recall

Gay conservative Richard Grenell is calling for people to catalog supposed instances of voter fraud in the recall election on his website

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Photo Credit: Instagram account of former U.S. Ambassador Grenell, selfie with former President Trump

By Spencer Silva | WASHINGTON – With California’s gubernatorial recall election happening on Tuesday, the state’s voters have been flooded with conspiracy theories aimed at undermining their faith in its outcome. 

With polls now showing sitting Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom firmly in the lead, right-wing media have been steadily pushing election misinformation — laying the groundwork to claim that the forthcoming election is rigged before the votes are even cast. 

Predictably, Fox News has been beating that election misinformation drum. Pro-recall Facebook groups are also teeming with voter fraud conspiracy theories. Former Fox contributor Richard Grenell, who served as a cabinet member in the Trump administration, is even calling for people to catalog supposed instances of voter fraud happening across the Golden State on his website. 

The narrative has gotten so bad that both local and state officials have now had to preemptively push back against bad-faith claims of fraud on official social media accounts.

Conservatives have latched onto four different bogus pieces of evidence to cast a pall over the results of the recall effort before the election even takes place.

Right-wing figures are claiming California’s ballot design will lead to fraud

On August 19, Grenell shared a video of a California voter claiming that holes punched in mail-in ballot envelopes allowed ballot handlers to identify “yes” votes on the ballot’s central question of whether they wanted to to remove Newsom. The person in the video made a bogus claim that the envelope design is “sketchy” and can be used to tamper with the “yes” votes. 

In reality, the holes in question are a tactile way for the visually impaired to locate the ballot envelope’s signature line. They also act as a visual aid for election officials to quickly identify if an uncounted ballot has been left in an envelope. (Additionally, each county in California designs its own ballots, so the fact that a ballot in one county lines up with the envelope holes when folded one very particular way is hardly evidence of fraud.) 

But the fact that the ballot holes controversy was easily debunked didn’t stop right-wing media figures from running with the narrative. The day after Grenell tweeted the video, The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles cited it as proof that Democrats cheat in elections and implied that the ballot design was part of a clever statewide conspiracy to allow political operatives to identify votes in favor of the recall and trash them.

Right-leaning media outlets are vilifying the state’s accessible voting system

In early August, right-wing media seized on a voting feature, Remote Access Vote-by-Mail, that allows some disabled voters to fill out their ballots online and print them at home. The system isn’t used widely and limits each user to printing one ballot, and “the voter’s choices are also transferred to a ballot and both documents are stored together for a post-election audit.” But conservatives spent the past month billing the system as a tool California Democrats would use to rig the recall election.

On August 9, right-wing website RedState published an article that describes the remote voting feature as a “scheme” concocted by “crazy California Democrats” to “cheat on elections.” The same day, One America News Network host Natalie Harp cast doubt on the home-printed ballot program for disabled voters, asking, “How does California define what’s a disability?” 

On August 19, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield fearmongered about California’s remote voting program, asking his audience, “Can you imagine if we start printing our own ballots? Our elections would be lawless. Can you imagine if we don’t go after voter fraud? We have to.” Stinchfield’s segment also cited the “ballot holes” video mentioned above as additional evidence of widespread voter fraud.

During a September 7 appearance on Newsmax, election misinformation superspreader former President Donald Trump claimed with no pushback from the interviewer that the California recall election is “probably rigged” before mentioning that “you can even make your own ballot” — a seeming reference to remote vote-by-mail.

Right-wing media are misleadingly amplifying an incident of mail theft as “stealing votes” 

On August 23, news stations reported that police in Torrance, California, found 300 unopened mail-in ballots for the recall election in a car parked outside a 7-Eleven along with a sleeping man, a bunch of other mail, a gun, and drugs. 

While one might reasonably assume that the ballots were incidentally taken along with the thousands of other pieces of stolen mail, right-wing media immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was clear evidence widespread of voter fraud. 

On Facebook, Fox News’ social media headline read: “STEALING VOTES: Hundreds of Calif. recall ballots, drugs, loaded gun found in passed-out felon’s car: police.” 

Breitbart, The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, and Fox host Dan Bongino each shared the story. Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder also shared a link to a YouTube video from right-wing podcaster Tim Pool, who discussed the stolen ballots. 

Pro-Trump media networks OAN and Newsmax also ran with the story. During an interview with Elder on August 24, OAN host Dan Ball cited the Torrance story, and other claims as evidence of voter fraud. Elder responded, “Well, we know what happened in 2020. We know about all the fraud, shenanigans that went on in the 2020 election. As you know, you can now print your own ballot here in California. What could possibly go wrong? That’s why we have a battery of lawyers watching all of this. … We’re watching them. But I wouldn’t put it past them.”

That same evening, OAN’s Harp told her audience that the Torrance ballots had been “intercepted.” 

Right-wing actors highlight an Associated Press story about election fraud without giving context

On September 2, The Associated Press reported that a group of cybersecurity experts sent a letter to California’s secretary of state calling for an audit of the state’s election because unauthorized system images had been released at a right-wing voter fraud conference hosted by disgraced businessman Mike Lindell. 

Right-wing personalities like Blaze TV host Steve Deace, preacher Jack Hibbs, and former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis all shared the story online, holding it up as evidence of fraud and casting doubt on the results of the forthcoming election. Unsurprisingly, none of them mentioned that experts were calling for an audit because right-wing activists had triggered a security threat.

Local newsrooms have had their hands full debunking all of these ridiculous claims, but right-wing media continue to spread them anyway, attempting to undermine the legitimacy of California’s election.

Additional reporting and research by Eric Kleefeld & Kellie Levine

********************

Spencer Silva is a researcher at Media Matters. His writing and reporting have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the East Bay Express, Oakland Magazine, KQED-FM, and other outlets.

He holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and Spanish from the University of Portland as well as a master’s in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. 

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

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California Politics

It’s official- Rep. Karen Bass enters race to become the next mayor of LA

If elected she would be the first Black woman & second Black mayor after legendary Tom Bradley who served as 38th Mayor from 1973 to 1993

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Rep. Karen Bass (D-37CA) (Photo Credit: Bass campaign provided0

LOS ANGELES – Congresswoman Karen Bass officially announced her entrance Monday as a candidate to replace her fellow Democrat outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“Our city is facing a public health, safety and economic crisis in homelessness that has evolved into a humanitarian emergency,” she said in a statement announcing her candidacy. “Los Angeles is my home. With my whole heart, I’m ready. Let’s do this — together.”

If Bass were to win election she would be the first Black woman mayor and the second Black mayor after Thomas Bradley, the legendary politician and former police officer who served as the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993.

KABC 7 noted that she would be the first sitting House member to be elected mayor of Los Angeles since 1953, when Rep. Norris Poulson was elected. Then-Reps. James Roosevelt, Alphonzo Bell and Xavier Becerra lost campaigns for mayor in 1965, 1969 and 2001.

The 67-year-old member of Congress currently represents the 37th Congressional District, which encompasses Los Angeles neighborhoods west and southwest of downtown including Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills, Miracle Mile, Pico-Robertson, Century City, Cheviot Hills, West Los Angeles, Mar Vista and parts of Westwood, as well as Culver City and Inglewood. Bass was a member of the California Assembly from 2004-10, serving as that body’s speaker from 2008 to 2010.

Bass is entering an already crowded field of candidates including Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and two members of the City Council – Kevin de León and Joe Buscaino – who have already announced their campaigns for mayor.

When speculation as to her running surfaced last week, Bass spokesman Zach Seidl told the Los Angeles Times that her running was due to the fact that “Los Angeles is facing a humanitarian crisis in homelessness and a public health crisis in the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on Angelenos,” Seidl said in a statement. “She does not want to see these two issues tear the city apart. Los Angeles has to come together. That’s why the Congresswoman is considering a run for mayor,” he added.

That seems to be the focal point and whoever is elected will face the city’s massive homelessness crisis.

Bass acknowledged this in her candidacy announcement statement this morning, writing “I’ve spent my entire life bringing groups of people together in coalitions to solve complex problems and produce concrete change — especially in times of crisis.”

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California Politics

Rep. Karen Bass to enter Los Angeles mayoral race

Bass has been working to dismantle systemic racism, as well as other forms of social, racial and economic injustice, for decades

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Rep. Karen Bass, (D-37) (Photo Credit: Blade file photo by Karen Ocamb)

LOS ANGELES – In a breaking story published Friday morning, the Los Angeles Times reported that Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass, who represents California’s 37th congressional district, which covers several areas south and west of downtown LA will enter the mayor’s race.

U.S. Rep Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) intends to run for Los Angeles mayor, according to three people familiar with her plans. Such a move would shake up a contest that, until this past week, which saw the field of candidates increase, had been a fairly sleepy affair. Bass, a high-profile Democrat who has served in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C., could announce her entry into the mayor’s race as early as next week, those sources told The Times.

Bass has been working to dismantle systemic racism, as well as other forms of social, racial and economic injustice, for decades. She is a community activist who was raised on civil rights activism in LA’s Jewish Venice-Fairfax district, volunteered for Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign in middle school, graduated from Hamilton High School in West LA in 1971, studied philosophy at San Diego University but switched her attention to healthcare, graduating from USC’s Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. She subsequently received her BA in health sciences from Cal State/Dominguez Hills and her Masters in Social Work from USC.

Bass focused that training on fighting the crack epidemic in South LA, where she founded the Community Coalition to fight for substance abuse prevention programs and better foster care and relative caregivers, like grandmothers.

She also fought the AIDS epidemic — all experience directly applicable to dealing with the ongoing Opioid crisis, as well as COVID-19.

“I went through the AIDS crisis from its very beginning. I watched all of Santa Monica Boulevard get wiped out near Vermont (Ave.). That whole area there. I watched everybody die within a matter of two years,” Bass told the Los Angeles Blade. “But I think that this [COVID-19 crisis] is really hard because you don’t have to have any physical contact….People are building the plane while it’s flying.”

Torie Osborn, the executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center in 1989, met Bass at a meeting of progressive grassroots activists in a South LA church basement.

“This woman I didn’t know came up, introduced herself as Karen Bass from South LA, an anti-police violence activist and a physician assistant,” Osborn says. The two talked all day with Bass noting that the gay community’s experience of AIDS deaths was similar to what the Black community was experiencing during the crack epidemic.

“I had never heard anything like this before. She knew gay men. She clearly was an ally,” Osborn says.

Last summer the Biden campaign vetted Bass as a potential candidate for the number two spot on the Democratic ticket in the race for the White House, which ultimately ended up with then California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris as Biden’s choice.

“Los Angeles is facing a humanitarian crisis in homelessness and a public health crisis in the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on Angelenos,” Bass spokesman Zach Seidl said in a statement, when asked for comment by the Times. “She does not want to see these two issues tear the city apart. Los Angeles has to come together. That’s why the Congresswoman is considering a run for mayor.”

Earlier this past week, another LGBTQ ally, Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León, a Democrat, announced his intention to seek the mayor’s chair after current Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was elected for a four-year term in 2013 and again in 2017- who’s limited to serving no more than two terms- was picked by President Joe Biden to serve as the U.S. ambassador to India on July 9, 2021.

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California Politics

NBC News exit survey: 83% of LGBTQ Californian voters said no to recall

As Governor, Newsom has signed a litany of pro-LGBTQ legislation expanding the civil/equality rights of the Golden State’s LGBTQ+ community

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Graphic courtesy of NBC News

NEW YORK – In an exit poll conducted by NBC News on Tuesday, voters who identified as LGBTQ+ by a majority of 83 percent voted “no’ in the gubernatorial recall, versus 17 percent who voted “yes.”

Newsom has had a long track record as an LGBTQ+ ally, while mayor of the City of San Francisco in 2004 he sparked a political firestorm when he defied state law and issued approximately 4,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Many people in the California Democratic Party were certain Newsom had effectively ended any chance to advance his political career with his actions, ironically though he instead garnered wide-spread support, especially from a statewide LGBTQ+ constituency which landed him in the Lieutenant Governor’s chair.

In 2015, then Lt. Governor Newsom saw vindication as the U. S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, ruling that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Since taking office in 2019 as Governor of California, Newsom has signed a litany of pro-LGBTQ legislation which has expanded the civil and equality rights of the Golden State’s LGBTQ+ community.

In a statement emailed Thursday morning, California’s Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, reflecting on the results of the NBC News poll, told the Blade; “It’s no secret that Governor Newsom has been an ally to the LGBTQ community for decades. From signing countless bills enacting new protections, to his leadership through the COVID crisis that centered the needs of the most vulnerable, he has shown up for California’s LGBTQ community.”

Had Newsom been removed as governor, 77 percent of LGBTQ recall voters said they would be concerned or scared, compared to 57 percent of all recall voters. Twenty-one percent of LGBTQ voters said they would be excited or optimistic if he were removed, compared to 38 percent of all recall voters, according to NBC News’ Exit Poll.

“The numbers are clear on just how overwhelmingly opposed the LGBTQ+ community was to this Republican power grab,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), who serves as Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus in an email to the Blade. “Governor Gavin Newsom has been a steadfast ally of ours for decades, and I’m proud to see our community make its voice clearly heard as we build on the progress California has made regarding equality and inclusion.”

Rick Zbur, the Executive Director of Equality California noted: “We stood with Governor Newsom because he has always stood with us — no matter the personal or political consequences. He has signed groundbreaking legislation to support the health and well-being of transgender Californians; expanded access to life-saving HIV prevention medications; enacted new gun safety measures and police reforms; created more housing for people experiencing homelessness than any governor in history — and put a stop to California’s racist, anti-LGBTQ+ death penalty. He is working every day against difficult odds to keep our families safe, protect families from eviction and provide billions of dollars in relief to working families and small businesses.”

NBC News’ Exit Poll revealed that a significant percentage of LGBTQ recall voters think getting the coronavirus vaccine is a public health responsibility, at 82 percent, compared to 65 percent of all recall voters. Of LGBTQ voters, 17 percent believe getting the vaccine is a personal choice, compared to 32 percent of all recall voters.

The poll also found that 48 percent of LGBTQ voters, (roughly half) think the policies Newsom put in place to deal with the pandemic have been about right, 35 percent don’t think they’ve been strict enough, and 17 percent think they’ve been too strict. On the governor’s statewide in-person school masking mandate, 86 percent, are in support while 13 percent oppose it.

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