North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue spoke for many politicians on Sept. 27 when she suggested suspending elections for Congress for two years to give them a free hand without voter input.
“You want people who don’t worry about the next election,” Mrs. Perdue, a Democrat elected in 2008, said to a Rotary Club gathering. Although a tape of the speech reveals her making the statement in a serious manner, she later insisting she was joking.
But the insularity of elected officials is no joke, and Americans who are looking for ways to increase accountability are turning to the right of recall.
Arrogant politicians take note: There is more to fear than scheduled elections.
Exhibit A is the campaign underway right now in El Paso, Texas.
Mayor John Cook and two council members will be on a May 2012 recall election ballot, courtesy of petition collectors from a pro-family group outraged over the reversal of a referendum limiting city employees’ marital benefits to married couples and their families.
On Nov. 2, 2010, El Paso voters approved by 55 to 45 percent a measure that said, "The city of El Paso endorses traditional family values by making health benefits available only to city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children.”
In January 2011, a U.S. District judge suspended enforcement of the law pending a court challenge. In June, the City Council deadlocked on a measure to restore the benefits, and Mayor Cook broke the 4-4 tie, restoring benefits to homosexual couples and unmarried male-female couples.
Shortly thereafter, a group called El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values began a recall petition against Cook and two of the council members who voted in favor of the measure. Two others had finished their terms, and so were not recall targets. Last Thursday (Sept. 22), the city clerk verified the signatures for all three recall elections in May in the border city of 650,000.
San Antonio, a city of 1.3 million whose city council voted on Sept. 15 to grant marital benefits to unmarried partners after hours of testimony by people opposing it, may be the next major Texas city to see a recall campaign.
Tom Brown, pastor of the Word of Life church, who spearheaded the El Paso recall petitions, explains why they resonated with voters: