As voters throughout the state decide whether or not to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom, Turlock City Councilman Andrew Nosrati is able to breathe a sigh of relief eight months removed from a failed attempt to remove him from the dais.
In July 2020, a group of citizens called SAVE Turlock started the process to recall Nosrati from office just a year and a half into his four-year term — an attempt which forced the young, first-time politician to examine how he does his job, and question if public office is really for him.
They cited a litany of complaints, ranging from concern about policy-related decisions to anger over his social media use, and advocated for the cause in a public Facebook group, amassing almost 430 members along the way and canvassing for recall petition signatures in Nosrati’s District 3. At one point, retired Police Chief Nino Amirfar endorsed the recall as the petition gained steam.
The group had until Dec. 24, 2020, to collect signatures from at least 20% of District 3’s voters, but the petition fell short. Nosrati believes the effort was a personal attack and didn’t focus on the issues, describing it as “one of the hardest, most difficult times” of his life.
“I put a lot out into this role and I kind of pride myself on trying to connect with people who, theoretically, are on opposite sides of me,” Nosrati said. “Despite my best efforts, I had enemies and that was very difficult to just accept...It was definitely a hell of a growing experience.”
The recall process wasn’t without its fair share of drama; a request for censure of Nosrati came during an October 2020 City Council meeting after he attacked one of the petition’s organizers online. He also made waves in the SAVE Turlock Facebook group when he showed up at the recall petition booth in front of Raley’s to speak with signature gatherers and potential signees, which organizers didn’t appreciate.
In retrospect, Nosrati says he would handle things differently now and understands that criticism comes with the job of public service.
“When I had disagreements, or I didn't particularly enjoy the way certain people behaved or I thought it was disrespectful, I would definitely be too confrontational about it,” Nosrati said. “To the people running the campaign, I wish they would have debated me on the issues...But no one wanted to talk about the issues. They were trying to make me into like, a radical extremist that wanted to destroy the town.”
Turlock resident Michael Camara, who helped organize the recall attempt, said the effort wasn’t a personal attack at all. He believes had the recall petition been granted an extension due to COVID-19, as the California recall attempt was, SAVE Turlock could have garnered enough signatures.
“It had nothing to do with personal vendettas or egos. It had everything to do with his public positioning and how he chose to engage or not engage the public,” Camara said. “That's definitely what was driving the enthusiasm and the passion of the people that were involved with it — and there were quite a few.”
The group declined to try again because they felt like the effort would still be hindered by COVID, Camara added. Despite the petition’s failure, he said he views the recall effort as a success because it educated people. He said that through the recall campaign’s canvassing and online efforts, more people in both District 3 and in Turlock are now paying attention when it comes to local government.
Should Nosrati run for reelection in 2022, Camara believes the recall’s impact will be felt at the ballot box. Nosrati told the Journal he has no plans to run for any sort of office again.
“It sufficiently caused a certain amount of public education. There were people completely unaware that Andrew was their elected City Council member and that they were in his district,” Camara said. “They knew nothing about what was really going on locally.”
The campaign to remove Nosrati from office was the first City Council recall attempt in the area since three Hughson City Councilmen were recalled in 2010 after violating California’s public meeting law and conspiring to fire their city manager. While the experience changed how Nosrati carries himself as a Councilman — he speaks less now, he said, and doesn’t post much on social media — he feels his ethics are still intact.
“I knew I would have had to have done something truthfully wrong to mobilize enough people for the recall to go through. I've never done anything illegal, and I’m an ethical man that cares about the community,” Nosrati said. “If you disagree with me on the political side of things, Let's talk about it.”