Funds pour into Anaheim Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava recall election

Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava speaks during a Feb. 27, 2024, meeting of the Anaheim City Council.
(Screenshot by Gabriel San Román)

With a recall election against Anaheim City Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava about a month away, fundraising efforts are ramping up.

Voters in Rubalcava’s downtown Anaheim district will decide on June 4 whether she keeps her seat or not.

Ahead of the special election, an assortment of political action committees are aiming to persuade potential voters to support or oppose the recall.


On Jan. 30, Unite Here Local 11, a union that represents hotel workers in Anaheim, chipped in $30,000 through its own PAC in seeking Rubalcava’s ouster but hasn’t reported any new contributions since council members scheduled the recall election during a February council meeting.

The union sponsored a petition against Rubalcava before getting the recall qualified on the ballot.

Campaign finance records show Unite Here Local 11 spent $315,000 through 2023 in support of such efforts.

“Our members are fighting to clean up Anaheim’s politics,” Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11 told TimesOC in February. “Council member Rubalcava is connected to a corrupt cabal and has been criticized by the city’s corruption investigators. The recall process exists to remedy this exact kind of situation.”

Rubalcava won election in November 2022 by a wide margin.

In her first year on council, she pushed for panic button protections for hotel workers in Anaheim — a key provision of a ballot measure championed by Unite Here Local 11 that principally sought to raise the minimum wage for hotel and event center workers to $25 an hour.

Known as Measure A, the initiative was rejected by voters during an October special election.

Since then, pro-recall proponents have tried to tie Rubalcava to the ongoing political corruption scandal in Anaheim that publicly surfaced with an FBI investigation in May 2022 that halted the sale of Angel Stadium and led to former Mayor Harry Sidhu’s resignation.

It’s a claim that Rubalcava backers have said is unfair.

“No one is buying that, and the timing doesn’t even line up,” said Derek Humphrey, Rubalcava’s political consultant. “Natalie was elected to City Council six months after former mayor Sidhu resigned in disgrace.”

A previous council contracted an independent investigation in the aftermath.

In a report publicly released in July, Rubalcava stood accused of using contact information from a binder for Anaheim First, a nonprofit founded, in part, by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, to make an unsolicited campaign call to a voter in her district.

Rubalcava denied any wrongdoing and criticized the report’s accusations against her as “inaccurate.”

According to recent campaign finance documents, a cross-section of hoteliers, trade unions and public employee unions are backing Rubalcava.

“I’m proud of the diverse coalition of groups who have endorsed against the recall,” said Rubalcava in a prepared statement. “I appreciate their help in getting the message out to voters about what I’ve been able to accomplish over the past year and a half. I care deeply about Anaheim, and I hope to continue serving on our City Council.”

One PAC alone has amassed a war chest of just over $100,000.

The Anaheim Police Assn. is the single biggest contributor to Anaheim Neighbors Opposed to the Misleading Recall of Natalie Rubalcava with $29,500.

Another PAC from the Anaheim/Orange County Hotel and Lodging Assn. is flush with cash from Anaheim Resort-area hoteliers.

Wincome Hospitality, which counts the Westin Anaheim Resort and the Anaheim Hotel among its properties, is the top donor to the PAC with $38,000 in contributions alone.

According to Anaheim’s annual lobbying report, the Anaheim/Orange County Hotel and Lodging Assn. met with several council members, including Rubalcava, regarding the standalone panic button hotel worker law last year.

But the biggest single donor is the Los Angeles County Building and Construction Trades Council PAC, which contributed $50,000 to Working Families Against the Recall of Natalie Rubalcava.

The June 4 recall election is expected to cost Anaheim $700,000.