Subscribe

Sonoma County voters head to polls in recall election

Polling places and drop-boxes are open until 8 p.m. Go here to locate one.

_____

Press Democrat reporters recap the recall election in a Facebook Live video at bit.ly/2VKTyUD

Voters in Sonoma County and across California went to the polls Tuesday to weigh in on the political fate of Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch.

Here’s a look at voting around the county:

Petaluma

At the Petaluma Christian Church, a polling station, election volunteers expressed surprise at the steady flow of in-person voters. More than 30 people had voted by 8 a.m., after the station opened for civic business at 7 a.m., Carol Ellis, a poll worker, said.

A stream of voters continued from 8:00-8:45 a.m.

“I wanted to exercise my right to vote in person,” Courtney Peterson, 33, said. "I’m part of a society that allows us to vote and express ourselves and I strongly believe in that.“

Peterson declined to share how she had voted on the recall questions.

The election is the second contest in which California election officials have mailed ballots to the state’s more than 22 million registered voters, according to the Los Angeles Times. More than 40% of registered voters had already cast their ballot by mail, that newspaper reported. Political analysts expect a larger in-person turnout from Republicans than Democrats today.

Brandon Allen casts his ballot at Petaluma Christian Church on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)
Brandon Allen casts his ballot at Petaluma Christian Church on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

Janet, a 59-year-old woman who has lived in Petaluma for more than 20 years, said she voted to recall the governor. Newsom was “hypocritical,” she said, “giving us rules and not following them himself.” She cited Newsom’s infamous dinner at the French Laundry, in which he was photographed violating COVID-19 rules he had imposed on the state.

Janet, who declined to share her last name because she said expressing a politically conservative view had in the past cost her friendships, said she had selected talk radio host Larry Elder to replace Newsom as governor. She did not vote on the question of whether to recall Ravitch because she hadn’t done enough research into the choice, she said.

Michelle Kralovec, who flagged down a Press Democrat reporter to express her strong disapproval of Newsom, said she voted to recall both him and the district attorney.

“He’s really kind of ruined California,” she said of Newsom. Kralovec also voted for Elder, she said.

Ravitch had given preferential treatment to family members who committed crimes while pursuing harsh sentences for others, Kralovec said. She cited a story about Ravitch’s brother getting light treatment in a criminal prosecution over a fatal car crash that has circulated in campaign mailers paid for by Sonoma County developer Bill Gallaher.

Ravitch has called the insinuation she influenced her brother’s treatment by the criminal justice system “immoral” and unfounded, as the case was prosecuted in Napa County, outside her jurisdiction.

Gallaher launched the campaign after Ravitch’s office sued one of his companies for abandoning elderly residents at two Santa Rosa senior homes during the 2017 Tubbs fire.

Rohnert Park

Yuliya Bali, joined by her son who she declined to  identify, fills in her ballot at the Rohnert Park Community Center on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)
Yuliya Bali, joined by her son who she declined to identify, fills in her ballot at the Rohnert Park Community Center on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

Outside the Rohnert Park Community Center, 23-year-old Arianna Williamson said she voted against recalling Ravitch. New to Sonoma County, Williamson said she knew little about the district attorney but found it troubling no candidates were listed to take Ravitch’s place if she was recalled.

Williamson voted to keep Newsom in office.

“Do I think Gavin Newsom has done best job? No,” she said. But Williamson had lost loved ones who died from COVID-19, she said, and found the candidates for the governor’s mansion who vocally opposed measures to slow the virus’s spread to be “deeply upsetting.”

Poll supervisor Alex Hachoud, right, shows Tate Jarrell where to drop his ballot at the Rohnert Park Community Center on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)
Poll supervisor Alex Hachoud, right, shows Tate Jarrell where to drop his ballot at the Rohnert Park Community Center on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

Despite polls suggesting Newsom had an edge in the race to keep his seat, Williamson said she was worried about the election’s outcome. “Everything in our world right now feels like one big toss up,” she said.

Sebastopol

In Sebastopol, Brad Snell, 47, called Ravitch “ a fine attorney,” and said that like the gubernatorial recall, the campaign against her was a “witchhunt.”

In Ravitch’s case, it’s “one particular fellow throwing a lot of money at her demise,” Snell said, casting the vote as “a personal vendetta between (Gallaher) and her.”

“In my opinion this whole thing is just a big farce,” he said, “and a big giant waste of taxpayer money.”

Polling places and drop-boxes are open until 8 p.m. Go here to locate one.

_____

Press Democrat reporters recap the recall election in a Facebook Live video at bit.ly/2VKTyUD

Oliver Marks, 64, did vote to recall Ravitch, along with Newsom. Marks described himself as a registered Democrat, voting “yes” on the recall questions to shake up a party he cast as out of touch.

Tenaya Perine and Gregory Boduch fill in their ballots at the Sebastopol Center For the Arts in Sebastopol on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)
Tenaya Perine and Gregory Boduch fill in their ballots at the Sebastopol Center For the Arts in Sebastopol on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

“The more these people get a shake up the better,” he said. “I’m just very dissatisfied with the way Sonoma County is run right now and so I’m trying to send a message.”

When it came to voting Newsom out, Marks was also driven in large part by a specific local issue, he said. Sonoma County’s recent purchase of the Sebastopol Inn in the heart of downtown for use housing homeless residents had robbed the city of lodging taxes and represented an overreach by the government into local affairs, he said. Marks ultimately blamed Newsom, who visited the Inn in July to tout his $12 billion spending program to combat homelessness, for the decision.

The hotel purchase would not ultimately address root causes of homelessness, Marks said. “We’re spending a huge amount of taxpayer money on what I consider a Potemkin Village of sorts,” he said.

Rohnert Park

In Rohnert Park, voters also faced a city-specific ballot question — whether to overrule the city council’s ban on the use and sale of fireworks in city limits. Williamson did not vote because she wasn’t familiar with the debate, she said.

Jesse Bengson voted to overturn the firework ban, he said. “I’m not passionate about that and I’m surprised it is even up for a vote,” he said, but considered concerns about fireworks starting wildfires in city limits were overblown. Bengson voted to recall the governor, who he said had demonstrated a lack of integrity. He left the question of whether to recall the district attorney blank, being unfamiliar with the issues he said.

Jean Irvine voted to uphold the ban. “I don’t like fireworks,” she said. She also voted to keep Newsom in office. “I came to vote in furor because I have to vote again for a governor I already voted for,” she said.

Rebecca Burnham, center, votes at the Rohnert Park Community Center on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)
Rebecca Burnham, center, votes at the Rohnert Park Community Center on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

Voters expressed varying reasons for showing up in person, but many said it was simply their preferred method of carrying out their civic duty. “I want to vote in person like I have all my life,” Irvine, 75, said. She was also frustrated by the controversy generated over voting by mail, she said.

Inside the Rohnert Park Community Center polling station, poll workers said the majority of in-person voters had not known they were supposed to bring their mail in ballots in. Voters are supposed to turn their mail ballots into poll officials before filling out an in-person ballot, if that’s how they prefer to vote.

But volunteer Debbie McCoy said only four people had known to do so, out of the dozens who had showed up to cast ballots in person by 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Some voters had returned home for their ballots, others had filled out provisional ballots on the spot, she said. Most people were polite, she said, even in an era of tenser voting.

“I’m very pleasantly surprised,” McCoy said. “We haven’t had too much grief about it.”

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @AndrewGraham88

Andrew Graham

City of Santa Rosa, The Press Democrat 

As Sonoma County's largest city, Santa Rosa, its policy and politics, crime and its economy affect the lives of North Bay residents both inside city limits and beyond in ways both obvious and unseen. I aim to document those impacts and give voice to city residents.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette