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Anaheim’s Natalie Rubalcava Fends Off Union-Led Recall Which Cost Anaheim Taxpayers $700,000

“It was clear Unite Here Local 11 just wanted revenge,” wrote the Orange County Register’s Editorial Board.

It’s official: the recall effort against Anaheim City Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava has officially failed. 

Brought forward by the hospitality labor union Unite Here Local 11 as retribution for Rubalcava’s refusal to support Measure A last year, the effort was the first recall election in OC’s largest city in over 40 years. Despite their best efforts, the attempt to remove the moderate Democrat Councilwoman ultimately backfired—the latest in a string of embarrassing and costly legislative defeats for the L.A.-based union.

In the vote count finalized last week, 53.87% of voters (3,240) rejected the attempt to recall Rubalcava from office.

“I’d like to thank the voters of Anaheim’s District 3 for their support in this election,” said Rubalcava in a statement. “Serving on my hometown’s city council has been an honor, and I am so glad that I get to continue this important work.”

Reflecting on the campaign, Rubalcava expressed pride in the diverse coalition that supported her. “We didn’t ask for this fight, but I am so proud of the campaign that we ran. Our diverse coalition included police officers, firefighters, municipal employees, labor unions, business groups, community organizations, and elected leaders from both political parties,” Rubalcava told the Anaheim Observer. “We knocked on tens of thousands of doors and had countless conversations with residents about how best to move Anaheim forward. I am grateful to everyone who donated, volunteered, and supported our efforts.”

Astute onlookers largely saw through Unite Here’s ploy and joined together as part of a broad, bipartisan coalition supported by both Republicans and Democrats—including everyone from progressive Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken to conservative former Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Kris Murray.

“It was clear from the beginning that the union was lashing out against Rubalcava after she undermined Measure A, which called for enhanced safety and a $25 minimum wage for hotel workers… The measure went down in defeat and it was clear Unite Here Local 11 just wanted revenge,” wrote the Orange County Register’s Editorial Board. “Unfortunately, the union stunt comes at the expense [of] Anaheim taxpayers, with the recall costing approximately $700,000 to conduct.” 

It is lamentable that mechanisms like the recall process—designed for legitimate accountability—are ever initiated for political vendettas. Taxpayers are not always aware that, beyond being acts of political theater, these misuses of the political process cost them dearly. 

Rubalcava echoed these sentiments in a document submitted to the OC Registrar of Voters. "Recall elections are supposed to be reserved for special circumstances when an office holder violates the public trust. This recall was about one L.A.-based organization that hasn’t gotten over losing the last election."


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