Last week, former Denton City Councilman Don Duff submitted to the city a petition for a recall election for Alison Maguire over her politics and a meme she posted earlier this year.
The path leading to this recall effort was laid late last year, when the City Council approved a new council district map, moving Robson Ranch into Maguire’s District 4. Maguire supported the new map “because it was the right thing to do, even though it wasn’t going to be good for my political self-interests.”
“The precinct where Robson Ranch is located is historically one of the most conservative in Denton,” she said. “I’m clearly not a conservative.”
Then in January, Maguire shared a long Facebook post in response to an editorial by Chris Watts — Denton’s former mayor, new Place 6 councilman and former board member of the Denton County Transportation Authority — about DCTA. With her post, she used a popular meme format that comes from a scene in the Eric Andre Show in which Andre’s character shoots Hannibal Buress many times, then turns to the camera and says “Who killed Hannibal?” The meme format has been used countless times online to depict someone openly and obviously causing harm and then acting like they don’t know what happened or blaming someone else for it. Maguire’s version of the meme was only meant to illustrate her opinion that Watts was not supportive of DCTA’s bus ridership.
Watts, Duff and many Robson Ranch voters took issue with the meme format itself.
“I would show (voters in Robson Ranch) that picture and point out that it wasn’t actually Chris Watts,” Duff said. “I thought, ‘Really? I don’t even care what your point is, you don’t use gun violence and whatever racial thing that is.’
“It’s really over the top, a city council person shouldn’t be doing that.”
Watts brought the meme up during a February City Council meeting (at the 3:16 mark).
“I understand that this is a popular meme, and I understand this is a celebrity, but I’ve never seen a sitting City Council member use this kind of imagery to present their political positions,” Watts said to the council. “This imagery is offensive, it’s about as tone-deaf as you can get, and it’s an absence of judgment.”
Maguire said Monday that public transportation is important to her, and she wanted to use the meme as “perhaps an eye-catcher” for a long Facebook post she had in response to Watts’ editorial, but the meme became more of a distraction from her point than an emphasizer of it.
“A lot of people were unfamiliar with that meme format,” Maguire said. “It was muddying my message so I decided to take it down to eliminate that confusion, but I didn’t change anything else with the post … I stand by my statement that the actions I’ve seen from Chris Watts on the City Council and DCTA board do not indicate to me that he was trying to improve the transit system or increase ridership.”
This spring, Duff went to early voting locations for 10 days, as well as Election Day to solicit signatures for the recall effort. In addition to the meme, he gave several additional reasons to recall Maguire, including that she supported fines for failing to comply with the city’s mask mandate, advocated for lessening enforcement on marijuana possession and that she “worked to save union jobs versus save sales tax dollars” with the DCTA.
“I had no problem getting people to sign the petition,” he said.
Duff acknowledged that the recall effort wasn’t just about the meme, but political beliefs are also “absolutely” a factor.
“She seems like a very nice lady, but I don’t agree with her politics at all,” Duff said.
Maguire’s term ends in May 2023, and even if she is recalled, a replacement for her may not be elected until the term ends. Duff said he thought it was too important to wait until then to try to end Maguire’s time on council, so he submitted the petition.
The petition must be verified to have the signatures of 673 qualified voters, to reach the required 25% of the number of votes cast for District 4 in the last election. If the petition is certified, the city secretary will present it to the Denton City Council on June 7. Maguire could choose to resign — she said Monday she has not decided if she will or not — but if she doesn’t, the council will order a recall election.
“There’s no question that she will be recalled, because I have the votes,” Duff said.
Duff hoped the recall election could take place 30-60 days after he submitted the petition, but state law supersedes the city charter and dictates that the election would have to be on May or November uniform election dates. If Maguire resigns, the city would add her unexpired seat to the November General Election ballot, and a candidate will be elected to finish the remaining six months of Maguire’s term. If she doesn’t resign and the city calls the recall election, the choice to recall her or not will be on the November General Election ballot. If voters choose to recall her, Maguire’s seat would then remain vacant from November until the May 2023 election.
There are rare circumstances under which the state government could allow the city to conduct a special election for this recall before November, “but it’s highly unlikely that this would qualify,” Maguire said.
Though a replacement for Maguire may not be seated on council until May 2023, when she could have been voted out anyway, Duff hopes Robson Ranch is making a statement with the recall petition.
“I’m sure a lot of people are realizing the voting bloc that’s out here,” Duff said.