Nativo Lopez recall, Santa Ana Unified School District (2003)

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A vote about whether to recall Nativo Lopez from his elected position as a member of the board of the Santa Ana Unified School District in Orange County took place on February 4, 2003.

Lopez was recalled. 69.3% of voters approved the recall.[1][2] Rob Richardson was elected to replace Lopez.

Issues in the recall

The recall was initiated by Vivian Martinez, a parent in the district. The issues were:

  • Al Mijares, superintendent of the school district, said that Lopez and fellow school board member John Palacio were guilty of "horrific ethical violations" in their oversight of a $300-million-plus schools construction project.
  • Lopez was accused of meddling in hiring decisions.
  • Lopez was accused of hurting the academic performance of the district's mostly poor and Latino students by promoting bilingual education.

Latinos made up 90% of the voting population of the school district. Their rejection of Lopez was seen as the embrace of English-language immersion programs.[3]

Recall supported by Ron Unz

The recall campaign attracted national attention. It also attracted the financial support of Ron Unz, the backer of California Proposition 227 (1998). Unz contributed more than $100,000 to the effort to recall Lopez.

Lawsuit to prevent recall

Supporters of Lopez organized a lawsuit, Padilla v. Lever, to attempt to prevent the recall election from proceeding. They unsuccessfully sought an injunction to prevent the election from occurring, after the petition signatures had been collected and certified by Orange County elections officials. The district court denied the injunction. After the recall election took place and Lopez was recalled, the plaintiffs appealed to a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit. There, the idea that the recall election was illegal was originally upheld, although an en banc panel later overturned that decision.