Recall effort targets Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, citing Santa Rosa homeless camp
Frustration over a large unsanctioned homeless camp in west Santa Rosa is fueling a nascent recall effort against first-term Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who is set to defend her seat in the March primary even while fending off the potential recall campaign.
Stuart Kiehl, a Santa Rosa resident who lives near the Joe Rodota Trail homeless camp, filed a notice of intent to recall Hopkins on Thursday with the Registrar of Voters, launching a process fraught with hurdles and one that has been successful in Sonoma County only twice — both times in 1976, when voters recalled liberal, conservation- minded supervisors Charles Hinkle and Bill Kortum.
Kiehl, a charter boat operator and political newcomer, will center his recall effort on the encampment. In his notice, he calls it a “public cesspool” and says Hopkins has allowed it to fester in her district.
“Hopkins is the boss; her jurisdiction, her watch, her failure,” the recall notice reads, in part.
Once served with the notice, which also must run in a legal advertisement, Hopkins will have the opportunity to issue a response, which must be printed together with any petitions circulated for signatures.
Hopkins lamented the cost to taxpayers for such an effort. Deva Proto, the county’s registrar of voters, said a recall election, should it come to that, would cost $250,000 to $400,000.
Hopkins also lamented being singled out for alleged inaction on the camp, pointing to her efforts to fix the growing crisis. In late December, the Board of Supervisors approved nearly $12 million to support short- and long-term shelter and housing options in the works for camp residents.
“I have been the person sticking my neck out there in terms of pushing for creative solutions,” Hopkins said. “I think sometimes when you stick out your neck, it ends up on the chopping block.”
To succeed, Kiehl will need to gather about 8,200 signatures from registered voters within Hopkins’ mostly rural, west county district in just 160 days. The effort would be difficult with volunteers alone, and Kiehl gave no indication he has an organized base of volunteers.
Hiring signature gatherers can run between $4 and $10 per signature, according to Ballotpedia, meaning the effort would need to raise tens of thousands of dollars. Kiehl, who runs a charter boat service out of the San Francisco Bay, has no track record of raising that kind of money.
Hopkins’ paid political consultant, Rob Muelrath, dismissed the recall effort as ill-conceived and misguided.
“Clearly, the person putting up the recall has not been doing their homework,” Muelrath said. “One, there’s an election in March. The second issue that people need to really be aware of is Lynda Hopkins has been one of the strongest leaders in finding solutions.”
The recall process would need to begin before July, as no recall effort can begin within six months of the start of a supervisor’s term, Proto said. And if it doesn’t happen by then, there’s a 90-day grace period beginning Jan. 1, 2021, further putting off any potential recall of Hopkins.
“There would be no way to recall someone before the March election,” Proto said. “That would not work within the legal timelines.”