Though they admit the process is demanding and difficult, critics of Deltona City Commissioner Loren King say they are determined to make him face a recall election in the coming months.
“We’re putting the team together, and I’m chairing it,” Deltona Realtor Mike Williams told The Beacon.
Williams is past president of the West Volusia branch of the NAACP, which is supporting the move for a recall election of King because of his former membership in the Oath Keepers, one of the groups whose members have been accused of criminal activity during the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C.
King has not been a member of the Oath Keepers for the past four years. He said he dropped out of the group in 2017, after some members had engaged in illegal activities.
“I did not renew my membership,” King said.
Nevertheless, supporters of the recall effort will reach out to the community to gauge how Deltona residents feel about his former membership.
“We’re going to be putting the foot soldiers out, and we’ll be knocking on doors,” Williams said.
Oath Keepers is a private organization that has attracted first responders and former military personnel who profess allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, and who say their oath to support and defend it remains in effect after their active duty ends.
King was elected to represent the city’s District 1 (northeast Deltona) in 2018, and his term expires in 2022. He has not yet said whether he intends to run for re-election.
Because he has admitted to being a former member of the Oath Keepers, King’s political enemies want him out now. He has publicly rejected public demands for his resignation.
A former Navy SEAL and the commander of American Legion Post 255 in Deltona, King said he joined the Oath Keepers in 2015, in the belief it was a patriotic organization dedicated to pro-American values.
Even though King wasn’t a member for more than three years before the assault on the U.S. Capitol, those demanding his removal from office say his past membership makes him unfit to serve as an elected leader of Deltona.
Mounting a recall is rare, and is, in the words of Volusia County Elections Supervisor Lisa Lewis, “an uphill battle.”
Those leading the recall must secure the signatures of at least 10 percent of eligible voters or 1,000 voters, whichever is greater, within the jurisdiction of the elected official in question.
In Deltona’s District 1, which King represents, there are 10,340 voters, per the count in the 2020 election cycle. That means the recall committee must secure the signatures of no fewer than 1,034 qualified voters within 30 days of the start of petition-gathering.
Florida election law is quite clear in stating the allowed grounds for a recall election. Under the law, there are only seven reasons for which an elected official may be forced to face a special election that could result in his/her expulsion from office. Those reasons are:
— Neglect of duty
— Permanent inability to perform official duties
— Conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude
The reason for recall must be stated on the petition to be signed by voters.
Asked what charge(s) they cite against King for a recall, neither Williams nor current West Volusia NAACP President Sean King has elaborated.
Petitioning, however, is not the end of the process, but only the beginning.
Once the petitions are gathered within the 30 days, the elected official under challenge must be given five days to file a statement in his/her defense against the charge(s).
Then follows a second round of petitioning, this time requiring at least 15 percent of the voters within the elected official’s jurisdiction to sign papers requesting a recall election The second petition drive must be finished within 60 days of its beginning.
For both the first and second rounds of petitioning, voters’ signed statements will be handed over to Deltona City Clerk Joyce Raftery who, in turn, will forward the petitions to Elections Supervisor Lewis.
During the second round of gathering signatures, a voter who signed a petition may change his/her mind and have his/her name removed from the numbers of those demanding the special election.
When petitioning is completed — if the leaders of the recall campaign have the minimum number of signatures on their petitions — the affected officeholder must be given at least five days to resign.
If he/she does not resign, the demand for a recall goes to the chief judge of the judicial circuit. In this instance, Circuit Judge James Clayton would set the date of the recall election “not less than 30 days or more than 60 days after the expiration of the 5-day [resignation-time] period.”
This timeline puts the earliest time for a recall election in Deltona at four to five months out from the start of the first round of petitioning.
Williams said his group is not deterred by the hurdles.
“It’s not going to be an easy lift,” Williams acknowledged. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re in the formative stage.”