A small group gathered at the northeast corner of Bruceville and Laguna boulevards on Sept. 18 to bring awareness to two separate recall campaigns against local politicians.
The campaigns were launched earlier this year to gather sufficient signatures to qualify for special elections in 2022, which would let voters decide whether Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and Elk Grove Unified School District Trustee Nancy Chaires Espinoza should be allowed to continue serving in office.
Both campaigns must collect enough signatures to meet their deadlines this fall.
Recall campaign against Singh-Allen
The recall petition against Singh-Allen was initiated by the activist group, Elk Grove Hmong Americans (EGHA), and is intended to remove her from office through a special election. She was elected mayor last year when she defeated incumbent Steve Ly, who became America’s first Hmong mayor in 2016.
Organizers of the activist group claim that Singh-Allen made derogatory comments that targeted the Hmong community.
Singh-Allen, a former Elk Grove Unified School District trustee, joined the Elk Grove mayoral race last summer, after becoming one of several local women to allege they were harassed by Ly’s associates or supporters.
A month earlier, she used her personal Facebook page to refer to the Hmong patriarchal clan system as a “controlling and intimidating system used to attack and silence these women.” It was that statement, which led to protests against Singh-Allen that also included an online petition for her to resign from the school board.
The group is working to collect about 11,000 signatures – slightly more than 10% of Elk Grove’s 104,697 registered voters in the 2020 election. They must meet the goal by Oct. 21, in order to have the issue placed on the November 2022 city ballot.
Orangevale resident Marie Vue, one of EGHA’s organizers, spoke about that recall effort.
“(Singh-Allen called) our culture, our kinship system ‘an intimidating and controlling system used to (attack and) silence these women,’” she said. “That is incorrect. Till this day, it’s been a little over a year. We’re still trying to get a solution. We’re here to raise awareness about the recall effort that we have launched earlier this year, in May.
“We don’t believe that a politician like Bobbie Singh-Allen, who cannot understand the pain she has cause or inflicted on a community, should be (Elk Grove’s) leader. So, we’re here to recall the mayor.”
Vue said that she was unable to provide a total number of signatures collected, as of Sept. 18.
“We don’t have a number yet, because we haven’t started the counting on the number of signatures that we have,” she said. “With limited volunteers, we have not started that (process). But we should have the final numbers by early October.”
Vue told the Citizen that Elk Grove Hmong Americans have a very diverse group of supporters.
“A lot of the times, we come out here and people see a group of Hmong people standing here and they think it’s a Hmong effort,” she said. “It’s actually a community effort. We have a large, diverse group that (meets) at least twice a week to discuss the recall efforts.”
While attending the Sept. 18 gathering, Eric Rigard, who will run in the California State Assembly’s District 9 election next year, said that he is currently supporting the recall campaigns against Singh-Allen and Espinoza.
Rigard believes that Singh-Allen “made false assertions,” and “has got to go.”
Singh-Allen responded to the recall campaign aimed at removing her from office.
“I have been and continue to be focused on governing and working to make Elk Grove the best community for our families and business,” she wrote in a statement.
“New jobs are being created, free transportation for school-age kids is a reality and we have programs with funding available to help small businesses through this pandemic. I was elected with a record number of votes. My duty is to continue to do the work of being mayor, and I welcome all to join me because we are stronger together.”
Since the recall effort against Singh-Allen was launched, one of its organizers, Mia Foster, resigned from the group and later reconciled with Singh-Allen.
Singh-Allen spoke about her communication with Foster during an interview with the Citizen last May.
“I have had numerous meetings and meaningful discussions with Mia Yang Foster and others,” she said. “Mia and I are working together towards hope and healing.”
Recall campaign against Espinoza
As for the recall effort against Espinoza, it aims to remove her from her school board seat through a special election next year.
The parent group, EGUSD Parent Coalition, claims that the trustee mistreated parents who attempted to participate in the school district’s school reopening process.
Coalition members called for the Elk Grove school district officials to reopen campuses for full-time, in person learning this winter and spring. The schools were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic last year and were partially reopened this spring. In July, Elk Grove Unified returned to full-time, in-person learning when the current school year began.
The EGUSD Parent Coalition also believes that Espinoza may have been influenced by the Elk Grove Education Association’s Political Action Committee (PAC), which represents the district’s teachers. That PAC made multiple contributions to her campaign.
To qualify for a special election in November 2022, the recall campaign against Espinoza is required to collect more than 18,700 signatures from voters residing within the school district by Nov. 17.
Erin Somers, president of the EGUSD Parent Coalition, spoke about her dissatisfaction with Espinoza’s service as a school trustee.
“We do feel that Nancy, in particular, of the various seven trustees, has really just demonstrated kind of a lack of committed concern on behalf of the student voice,” she said. “And more importantly, because we’re the parent coalition, the parent voice. But the parents represent the students.
“The reason we feel that way is that it was demonstrated last year, during the push for reopening, when we really started building movement and bringing in 50-plus voices to the Zoom board meetings.”
Somers added that during one of those meetings, Espinoza suggested reducing the amount of time that those parents could speak during the public comment period.
“That’s not right,” she said. “We should never limit parents’ (comments). We are committed to making sure that our children have the best education possible and that’s why we were working really hard to reopen our schools.”
Somers mentioned that the collected signatures supporting having a special election regarding Espinoza’s trustee seat have not yet been counted.
In support of the recall effort against Espinoza, Rigard spoke about his support of the EGUSD Parent Coalition.
“They’ve got some legitimate gripes,” he said. “And they approached the school district. Nancy (Chaires) Espinoza who was there (in a school board meeting), in kind of a hot mic situation, she kind of laughed them off. And I just think they need to be taken seriously, because these parents are the concerned ones.”
Espinoza this week shared her thoughts on the recall effort aimed at removing her from office.
“The parents with whom I’m in contact on a daily basis are like me, focused on what we can do to improve the safety and educational experience of students by working together, “she wrote in an email message to the Citizen. “The lack of public interest in this recall effort is further evidence that these individuals are not representative of our community, and that parents do not find their allegations credible.”