A coalition of academics, wealthy donors, and career political operatives are organizing in California to recall Judge Aaron Persky, the Superior Court judge who sentenced former Stanford University student Brock Turner to six months in jail for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman in 2015.
Stanford law Professor Michele Landis Dauber has organized the recall. Dauber, who also enjoys a courtesy appointment in the sociology department, previously co-chaired the university’s Board on Judicial Affairs, where she oversaw a process revising Stanford’s sexual assault policies. She is a friend of the victim’s family and was present in the courtroom when Brock Turner was sentenced in early June.
Dauber is organizing the recall effort with a California based super PAC called Progressive Women Silicon Valley, a leftwing outfit based in Sacramento with close ties to the Hillary Clinton campaign. The PAC has been bankrolled by Laure L. Woods of Protola Valley, Calif., a West Coast philanthropist with a long history of supporting liberal causes, including Planned Parenthood, EMILY’s List, and Organizing for Action, a PAC aligned with the Obama administration. Woods’ $2 million in donations, spread over multiple payments, account for the overwhelming majority of the PAC’s funding.
Progressive Women Silicon Valley is a so-called “Carey committee,” a group that allows it to operate as a traditional PAC, which contributes funds to a candidate’s committee, and a super PAC, which makes its own expenditures.
Though the group’s last FEC filing indicated it had little cash on hand, the donation portal at the recall campaign’s official website indicates the group has raised over $80,000 in recent weeks. It hopes to raise over half a million for the campaign.
Other hands supporting the effort include San Francisco political operatives Maureen Erwin and Jillian McNerney. Erwin is a partner at Erwin and Muir, a Bay area public affairs firm where she has managed campaigns for seats in Congress, the state legislature, and San Francisco’s infamous soda tax in 2014. McNerney is a corporate officer at SRI International spinoff Superflex, and cofounder of Progressive Women Silicon Valley.
To hold a recall election, the Santa Clara Registrar of Voters requires the collection of thousands of signatures. The number of signatures on the recall petition must equal 20% of the total number of votes cast in the last election for Superior Court judges. Signatures must be collected within 160 days. A simple majority is required to recall the judge, and a plurality is required to elect his successor. It is theoretically possible that Persky may be recalled, and then win the election to replace him.
Correction: This article was updated to accurately reflect Jillian McNerney’s current employment status.
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