Jerry Kern recall, City of Oceanside (December 2009)

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A vote about whether to recall Oceanside, California City Councilman Jerry Kern took place on December 8, 2009.[1]

Voters overwhelmingly rejected the recall attempt.[2] About 63.2% of voters were in favor of keeping Kern.

Election results

Shall Jerome D. Kern be recalled?
Defeatedd No15,78562.89%
Yes 9,315 37.11%
These final, certified, election results are from the San Diego County election office.


Kern, who was elected to a four-year term on the city council in 2006, was serving his first term at the time of the recall effort. When the way the vote was trending became apparent on December 8, Kern released a statement saying, "With this mandate of the electorate I will continue to work on behalf of the Oceanside taxpayers to contain our costs while providing the maximum services during these challenging economic times. Part of this balancing act includes containment of our employee benefits so that the taxpayer doesn’t end up footing the bill."[3]

Kern's supporters said that the recall was a sham recall run by aggressive labor unions who were opposed to Kern's belt-tightening moves in the city that were precipitated by the city's falling tax revenues. Kern supporters pointed to the fact that key public employee union contracts were up for re-negotiation during Kern's term in office as the reason why local labor unions tried to prematurely remove Kern, a fiscal conservative, from office.[4]

The union-funded recall effort made a number of charges, accusing Kern of being "too developer-friendly" and supporting the trimming of the city's fire and police budgets.[5][6]

Oceanside was facing a $10 million hole in its $116 million operating budget for 2010 and 2011.[6]

About $400,000 was spent on the campaigns for and against the recall question. Those in favor of the recall spent about $229,000, while Kern's supporters spent around $160,000.[7]

Divided city council

Oceanside has a 5-member city council whose members tend to vote in a 3-2 voting pattern with Jerry Kern, Rocky Chavez and Jack Feller against Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez.[8]

The balance-of-power on the city council was up for grabs despite the fact that Kern stayed on the council because Rocky Chavez resigned his seat on the council at the end of November 2009 to move to Sacramento. He took a job with the state government as undersecretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs.[9]

A special election took place in June 2010 to fill the Chavez seat on the council.

Firetruck at soccer game

On November 14, a fire crew drove their ladder truck to a youth soccer game at Mance Buchanon Park. The emergency vehicle was located at the park for about four hours. The daughter of the fire crew's captain was playing in the game.

Photos of the fire truck parked at the game circulated through the community and became the subject of lengthy articles in the local press.

Opponents of the Kern recall said the event was important because it called into question whether the fire department was really suffering from a staff shortage. The Oceanside City Council eliminated a battalion chief and two captains from the fire department in early 2009 to help address the problem of the city's $10 million budget shortfall. The local firefighter's union has led the Kern recall effort, saying that Kern's votes led to a shortage of critical fire personnel.[10][11]

Cost of recall election

The cost of holding the special recall election was about $500,000.[12] The election was conducted by election officials for San Diego County. Since Oceanside was strapped for cash, the cost of the recall election was raised as an issue in the election by those who opposed the recall effort.[4]


Rick Kratcoski, Charles (Chuck) Lowery and Rex Martin ran for the seat on the council that would have become vacant had Kern been recalled. Kratcoski, Lowery and Martin each ran for the city council, unsuccessfully, in 2008.[13][14]

  • Rick Kratcocski is a grounds supervisor at Palomar College. He wrote in "The North County Times" on September 6, "Felien, the city treasurer (who should be independent and nonpartisan in local politics), is also the treasurer of the Kern anti-recall group. If the readers don't smell a stinking rat or rats perhaps you should have your noses checked. For all you recall skeptics who will vote to keep Kern in office because you don't think the city should be spending money on a recall in tough economic times, think again. The special election will occur; 11,300 of your fellow residents think something stinketh in Oceanside and feel that Kern and his Repub Club "team players" have something to do with the odor. Can you smell it too? I can."[15]
  • Charles Lowery owned Pacific Bakery in Oceanside for 22 years. He is a 1969 graduate of Oceanside High School. Mayor Jim Wood and Esther Sanchez both contributed to his election campaign; Wood and Sanchez are the 2-person voting bloc on the city council who typically vote against the 3-person voting bloc that includes Kern. When Lowery ran for the council in 2008, he placed third with 19% of the vote. Several of the public employee unions that financially supported the Kern recall funded his 2008 campaign. Lowery, however, did not take any money from those unions for his 2009 campaign.[8][16]
  • Rex Martin is a former emergency call system manager who moved to Oceanside in 2005. At a candidate forum, Martin said the city can cope with its $10 million two-year budget deficit through cost-cutting measures such as turning to its commissions and committees for volunteers instead of hiring expensive consultants. When he ran for the Oceanside City Council in 2008, he got 7% of the vote.[8]

For the recall


The primary momentum behind the recall effort was led by the Oceanside firefighters and police unions. They collected $46,625 in the first six months of 2009 to pay for circulators to collect the 11,389 signatures needed to force the recall vote.[1]

The official name of the committee the unions supported was Citizens to Recall Kern for Fair and Balanced Government. This union-backed group spent more than $114,000 in cash contributions or services through October 24, 2009. $81,016, or 72% of that total, came from the Oceanside Firefighters Association.[17]

The firefighters union was antagonistic to Kern because he and fellow councilmen Rocky Chavez met with fire officials to suggest that the city's ambulance service be privatized.[1][18]

A New York labor union, Unite Here International, provided services worth about $4,000 to the recall effort. The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council contributed about $2,000.[17]


Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood formally announced his support of the recall in early November. He said he supported the recall because after City Manager Peter Weiss made some recommendations to cut spending in the city's police and fire departments as part of a plan to cut into the city's 2-year, $10 million budget gap, Kern supported the recommendations of Weiss.[19] [20]

City council member Sanchez supported the recall by representing the recall committee in two appearances on KOCT-TV.[19]

Melba Bishop

Melba Bishop, a former member of the Oceanside City Council and a "longtime political powerhouse", was viewed by Kern's supporters as being the architect of the recall effort. She denied that she orchestrated it, but acknowledged that she was a strong supporter. After the vote, Kern said that he wanted the city council to re-name Melba Bishop Park as Veterans Memorial Park.[21]


Those in favor of the recall collected $228,853 in donations to their campaign.[22][23]

  • $55,795 is from Unite Here San Diego, a labor union.[22]
  • $89,000 is from the Firefighters Association.[22]

The California Fair Political Practices Commission reported in February 2010 that two pro-recall groups–"Citizens to Recall Kern for Fair and Balanced Government" and "Citizens for the Preservation of Parks and Beaches"– violated state campaign laws because they did not properly report their connection to the Oceanside Firefighters Association.[24]

The groups violated a state law that says when campaign committees receive 80% or more of their contributions from a single source, they must include that source in their name as a sponsor. No specific enforcement action was taken against the groups by the FPPC because they corrected their error in amended reports.[24]

Against the recall

Kern supporters

  • "Citizens Against the Recall Effort" led the charge against the recall effort. Attorney David Shore was a leader of the anti-recall group. Shore is also a former president of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.[25] Shore wrote that, "Kern is a good and decent man who has acted conscientiously in his position as a member of the Oceanside City Council. Under the leadership of Kern and the council majority, we have more police officers on the streets than at any time in memory. Oceanside now boasts the lowest crime rate in San Diego County. Following through on their commitment to public safety, Kern and the council majority have opened a new fire station in the past year and have another station set to come on line."[26]
  • Ten past presidents of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce signed an opinion piece in a local newspaper opposing the recall.[4]
  • The Republican Club of North County.[15]

Reasons for support

Those who supported Kern said:

  • "From our perspective, this whole recall is a sham effort".[25]
  • The recall effort is "a public-safety-union-driven attempt" to take control of the City Council.[25]
  • Recall opponents are unhappy "with the idea that the city is forced to spend a half-million dollars (on a special election) when Councilman Kern is up for re-election" in November 2009.
  • "This recall effort was prompted by two public safety unions because Councilmember Jerry Kern questioned a pension system that is unsustainable. The San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the City Managers Association, and the chief actuary of the California Publics Employees Retirement System have substantiated this fact. In spite of this, these unions bankrolled the recall effort to the tune of $46,000 and continue to pour tens of thousands of dollars into this upcoming election in order to dictate the terms of their contract." [27]


Supporters of Jerry Kern raised about $179,000.[23]

Donors to his campaign included:

  • $20,000 from the North County Association of Realtors.[22]
  • $15,000 from North County ADR, a Realtor's group.
  • $5,000 from the Building Industry Association of San Diego
  • $5,000 from the San Diego Association of Realtors
  • $5,000 from New Majority, a San Rafael group that backs Republican candidates.
  • $5,000 from Western Manufactured Housing Committee in Temecula
  • $3,000 from Associated Builders & Contractors in Poway
  • $2,500 from Poseidon Resources.
  • $2,500 from the Oceanside Airport Political Action Committee
  • $2,500 from the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council of Sacramento.
  • $1,000 from Catalina Mobile Estates[22]

About Jerry Kern

Location of Oceanside in San Diego County

Kern's biography includes:

  • Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from San Diego State University.
  • Social Science and Business teaching credential from Chapman University.
  • Associate of Arts degree in English and History from the University of Maryland
  • Service overseas in the United States Air Force.
  • Co-founder, Pacific View, the first charter school in Oceanside.
  • Former president, Oceanside Chamber of Commerce[4]

Kern won election to the Oceanside City Council in 2006 by beating Shari Mackin, an incumbent, by 460 votes.[16] Mackin had been elected to the council in 2005. An issue in the Kern-Mackin race was that Mackin had exceeded her $5,200 allowance on a city-issued credit card, a revelation that is thought to have cost her the election.[6]

About Oceanside

Oceanside is the third-largest city in San Diego County, with a population nearing 180,000. It has 75,000 registered voters. Approximately 29,000 are registered as Republicans and 24,800 as Democrats.[6]

The Kern recall vote is the third recall election for an Oceanside City Council member since 1981, with recalls in 1981 and 1991. There are 17 cities in San Diego County; in the last three decades, just two of them have held recall elections.[6]

Path to the ballot

The City Clerk approved the recall petition in early February 2009. Proponents needed signatures from more than 11,389 registered Oceanside voters by July 23, 2009 to force the election.[28]

See also

External links


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Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 San Diego Union-Tribune, "Oceanside councilman's recall vote is scheduled for Dec. 8", August 13, 2009
  2. North County Times, "Voters back Kern, crush recall", December 8, 2009
  3. San Diego Union Tribune, "Voters decide councilman should stay", December 9, 2009
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 North County Times, "Shameful tactics dominate Kern recall effort", November 15, 2009
  5. North County Times: "OCEANSIDE: Kern answers recall proponents," Jan. 22, 2009
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 San Diego Union Tribune, "Recall is old hat in fractious city arena", December 6, 2009
  7. North County Times, "Big bucks spent in recall campaign, reports show", February 2, 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 North County Times, "Three candidates in recall election sound off", October 15, 2009
  9. San Diego Union Tribune, "Sea change in city politics may be on horizon", November 15, 2009
  10. San Diego Union Tribune, "Firetruck at game becomes issue", November 22, 2009
  11. North County Times, "Firefighters presence at park sparks complaints", November 23, 2009
  12. North County Times, "$500,000 a bargain for recall of Kern"
  13. North County Times, "Three candidates likely to appear on recall ballot", September 22, 2009
  14. Candidate list
  15. 15.0 15.1 North County Times, "Face Facts"
  16. 16.0 16.1 North County Times, "Voters consider candidates as recall election nears", November 28, 2009
  17. 17.0 17.1 North County Times, "Reports show thousands spent on Kern recall campaign", October 30, 2009
  18. San Diego Union Tribune, "Fire Dept. cuts seen as a step backward", October 18, 2009
  19. 19.0 19.1 North County Times, "Mayor makes public his support of recall drive", November 6, 2009
  20. The San Diego Union-Tribune,"Mayor backs Kern recall, cites public safety votes," November 15, 2009
  21. North County Times, "Kern seeks to strip Bishop's name from park", December 10, 2009
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 North County Times, "Big money flowing in on both sides of recall campaign", December 1, 2009
  23. 23.0 23.1 San Diego Union Tribune, "Hueso re-elected leader of council unanimously", December 8, 2009
  24. 24.0 24.1 North County Times, "Political commission raps pro-recall groups for campaign reporting error", February 3, 2010
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 San Diego Union-Tribune, "Supporters defend Kern against recall", August 9, 2009
  26. San Diego Union Tribune, "Public employee unions behind wasteful campaign", November 20, 2009
  27. North County Times, "FORUM: Labor contract behind recall effort", October 28, 2009
  28. "Kern foes can start circulating recall petition," February 16, 2009