The Southern California premiere of the documentary, State of Corruption: Recall Newsom began as quietly as the recall which it has honorably documented. A handful of grassroots citizens, coupled with aspirational leaders, banded together with individuals motivated by a love of freedom and a love of their state.
Director Jeff Roldan said he was honored to be trusted by the recall proponents to be “a fly on the wall”, so to speak, of the recall movement.
“I saw that this governor was not going to let go of his powers, it was very apparent that the response to COVID was political, and did not have anything to do with health,” he said. However, I felt like I needed to contribute what I could to the recall movement, which is to, you know, tell the story of what’s going on with the Recall team and also to tell the story of Gavin Newsom himself, and how he’s affected Californians.”
The film begins in 2018 with the preening governor-elect giving his victory speech, and talking about having the “Courage to Change”, which was his campaign slogan at the time. Newsom had little idea that he was seeding a new grassroots movement with what he probably saw as a throwaway political catchphrase.
The film quickly moves into interviews with California Globe Editor Katy Grimes, Assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate Kevin Kiley, Retired Homicide Detective Steve Lodge, Recall Gavin 2020 Senior Advisor Randy Economy, Founder of 1776 Forever Free Dr. Cordie Williams, Rescue California Manager Anne Dunsmore, John Kobylt of KFI AM 640’s “The John and Ken Show”, and Lead Proponents Mike Netter and Orrin Heatlie. Each person first dissects the illusion of Gavin Newsom from the reality, and how from the beginning, the actions of this governor pointed toward the dictatorial leanings that have since morphed into the abuse of executive power that fueled the Recall.
Thankfully, that is less than four minutes of the film. The rest of the documentary tells the story of how Heatlie and Netter first joined forces, and from that inspired and nurtured a grassroots coalition who mobilized and garnered the initial 2.1 million signatures to see this recall of Gavin Newsom qualify for an election date. From that 2.1 million initial signatures, 1.7 million were verified by the California Secretary of State, securing an election date to oust this governor.
It was and is a history making event. But it would have not been possible save for the steely-eyed organizational prowess of Orrin Heatlie. In the documentary, Heatlie is rather muted about his own contribution to this cause.
“The California state constitution gives any registered voter in the state the authority and the ability to start a recall. I’m a citizen of California who is frustrated. All I’m doing is giving people the opportunity to recall this governor.”
Heatlie did far more than give an opportunity, he did what a quality leader does: he replicated himself by empowering and equipping others in order to see the task done. Those others, like Randy Economy, who became the communications face of the recall, and all the people behind the scenes, like Executive Secretary and Lead Proponent Christine Abercrombie and her team of Mama Bears did the same. They gave voice and purpose to more citizens, and those citizens in large and small ways were activated and mobilized to collect the signatures, hold the rallies, and show the people around them that one person can indeed make a difference.
The documentary also featured two of the small business owners who were radicalized because of Newsom’s adversarial attacks on their livelihood and life’s work. Restauranteur Angela Marsden of the Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill shared her story of what transformed her from an occasional political participator, into a fierce advocate of the Recall. Matthew Oliver of House of Oliver Wine Lounge and Restaurant described himself as apolitical, until the government tried to shut him down during the pandemic.
“This year our government forced us to choose sides.”
Throughout the documentary, Heatlie often emphasizes that “these are a group of non-paid volunteers,” who span the spectrum of political leanings: Democrat, Republican, Independent, Non-Party Preference, apolitical. Each of these volunteers used their own personal stories of disenfranchisement, and their desire to see their state restored, to fuel a citizen-led recall movement that has now reached across the nation, and possibly the world.
The documentary also accentuated the unique role of upstart network One America News (OAN). Correspondent and Host Pearson Sharp talked about why the network chose to spotlight the recall of Gavin Newsom, and make it a weekly feature of their news programming. Sharp marveled at how the movement quickly expanded and mushroomed into a force of its own, where it could no longer be ignored by legacy media.
Not only is this documentary an inspiration and revitalization of what it means to be an engaged citizen, but it has replicated itself across the nation. Citizens in others states are using Heatlie’s model and tactics to mount recall efforts of their own, for the purpose of bringing their government back in line to what the founders intended: a government OF, FOR, and BY the people.
State of Corruption: Recall Newsom is available to view for free on the website. The special election is little more than a day away (Tuesday, September 14). Director Jeff Roldan had this to say about the audience who he wanted to see this film:
“The audience for this film isn’t affiliated with any party, I’ll say that up front. It’s not specifically for Republicans, it’s not specifically for Democrats to hear. It’s for anybody who will embrace a message that we’re in a bad spot in this state.
“The way things are headed, the direction we’re going, are not conducive to freedom, are not conducive to economic growth, are not conducive to a way of happiness. If you’re on board with that, that’s who this message is to.”
This documentary paints a true portrait of everyday Californians who made that choice, and lit a spark beneath others to do the same. Lead proponent Mike Netter referred to the power of this grassroots undertaking as having captured, “lightning in a bottle”. The beauty of this is they have passed on the vision, the tools, and the organizational prowess to millions, so that they can affect change in their local, state, and national government.
“Everybody has the power because of our U.S. constitution and our state constitution. You can get involved and you can become a leader in your own community, and within the state, or even, you know, nationally—it’s your call, you know? You can become involved. So, that’s the message; that’s who this is for: it’s for people who want to get off the sidelines and get in the game.”
You can view the one-hour documentary here. At a little over 58 minutes, it is concise, digestible, and a heartening source of hope. If California is indeed “Roaring Back,” it is because of patriots and citizens like the ones who are given voice in this film.
If you are in California and have not yet done so already, vote “YES” on the recall of Gavin Newsom.