Recalls have history in county

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This is the first of a three-part series on Tuolumne County's own past recall elections, some of which were successful, all of which were colorful. Tomorrow: The recall that moved tall buildings.

By CHRIS BATEMAN

The 20th century was young when California Gov. Hiram Johnson signed 1911 legislation providing for recall, "a precautionary measure by which a recalcitrant official can be removed."

But until this year, no state officer had ever faced a recall election. Gov. Gray Davis' Tuesday stand is a precedent-setter.

But on the local level, this political weapon of last resort has been used far more often. Across the state, scores of county supervisors, sheriffs and city council members have faced voters in mid-term elections.

In Tuolumne County, recall threats and unsuccessful petition drives have been common. In the mid-1990s, in fact, a campaign to recall all five members of the board of supervisors was launched. It fell far short of the signature mark and no election was held.

But five times first in 1949 and most recently in 1988 Tuolumne County voters have gone to the polls for recall elections. Charges, countercharges and levels of emotion far higher than those in regular elections have characterized each campaign.

A sheriff facing recall resigned under pressure and two supervisors were thrown out of their jobs by recall voters. But an assessor and two more board members survived elections.

Recall issues have been as hard to predict as results: Tax assessments, a jail inmate's escape, the location of county offices and the proposed piping of a Tuolumne-area ditch have all precipitated elections.

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