California activists seek recall against far-right school president

By Nadra Nittle

Originally published by The 19th

Activists in Temecula, California, say they have amassed the signatures needed for a recall race against Joseph Komrosky, one of three school board members whose hard-right agenda drew national scrutiny to the school district over the past year.

“I’m extremely proud that we got signatures for one of them just on a total grassroots campaign,” said Jeff Pack, cofounder of One Temecula Valley, the political action committee that announced in June that it would organize a recall effort against the three conservatives on the governing board for the Temecula Valley Unified School District. “This is all volunteers. We didn’t do a whole bunch of over-the-top advertising. We had one person donate money for a streaming ad commercial campaign that we ran for a week, and then the rest of it was just on donations and volunteers.”

Komrosky, the school board president, has voted to prohibit the teaching of critical race theory, to reject a social studies curriculum for mentioning gay icon Harvey Milk and to fire the district’s woman superintendent without cause. Jen Wiersma and Danny Gonzalez, the two other conservatives on the board, backed these policies as well. Each of them also voted for a gender disclosure policy that would “out” trans kids to their parents and to limit the display of all flags other than the California and American flags on district grounds. Presenting other flags would need the superintendent’s approval, a move that’s been criticized as an attack on Pride flags.

Elected to office in November 2022, Komrosky, Wiersma and Gonzalez became the targets of a recall campaign after the board’s conservative turn led to legal challenges and warnings from Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta. Pack said that he turned in about 5,200 signatures from residents in Komrosky’s trustee area during a Wednesday afternoon visit to the Riverside County registrar of voters. That’s enough to hold a recall election against the board president, but county officials still need to verify the signatures. As of publication time, One Temecula Valley PAC did not have the signatures to trigger recall races against Wiersma and Gonzalez.

Pack said his group collected most of the signatures against Komrosky several months ago and decided, from there, to make him the focus of the recall campaign because it didn’t want to spread its resources thin. “It was impossible to do all three,” he said. “‘Let’s go get this one first, and then we’ll see what we can do with the other ones.’ That was always the plan.”

Since the other officials on the five-member school board lean liberal, ousting just one conservative is all it takes to cost the far-right members their edge. One Temecula Valley’s supporters include Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians in a city where a plurality of voters are Republicans.

“The people that I spoke with were, like, Republicans who felt like they got duped by Komrosky,” Pack said. Komrosky did not respond to The 19th’s request for comment before publication.

Komrosky drew the ire of Newsom in June after calling Milk, the first openly gay public official in the state, a “pedophile” during a meeting that saw the board briefly ban a social studies textbook for mentioning him. Faced with the threat of millions of dollars in fines and the prospect that Newsom would send the textbooks to Temecula schools anyway, the board reversed course and adopted the curriculum.

One Temecula Valley launched a recall effort in collaboration with groups such as EnAcT, made up of Black moms and educators; the Temecula Valley Educators Association teachers union; and Grandparents for Truth, a progressive organization that fights for young people’s freedom to learn. If the signatures the group collected are verified, a recall election against Komrosky is expected to take place next year.

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