In January, my conservative cousin formerly from New York, currently from California, alerted me to the possibility that Governor Gavin Newsom might face a recall election. I posted my cousin’s observations in a post called “California Dreaming.”
Now, as the Mamas and the Papas once sang, California dreaming is becoming a reality. State officials have certified that enough valid signatures have been gathered to put the question of recall to voters.
The Washington Post reports:
In certifying the more than a million and a half petition signatures, state election officials started the clock on what will almost certainly be California’s second gubernatorial recall election. The first, held in 2003, saw voters recall second-term Gov. Gray Davis (D) and, on the same ballot, elect Hollywood movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who served in the office until early 2011.
Newsom seems more popular than Davis was. A recent poll found that only 40 percent of the state’s electorate would vote to recall him. 56 percent oppose recall.
Thus, it seems likely that only part of the California dream will be realized. If fewer Republicans had fled the state, who knows?
The recall campaign has been fueled by Newsom’s extraordinarily lax immigration policies and by concern over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Immigration is likely to remain a hot button issue. However, with the pandemic receding dramatically in California and Newsom lifting some of his restrictions on activities, the governor is in a better place politically than he was a few months ago.
Maybe California voters will forgive him for keeping children out of schools for more than a year, longer than most states did. Maybe they will even forgive him for violating his own restrictions by dining at one of the poshest restaurants in the state.
The recall vote will present two questions. First, voters will be asked whether Newsom should be recalled. Second, they will be asked who should replace him. The second question will be relevant only if voters answer the first question in the affirmative. If they do, the person with the most votes on the second question will become governor.
It’s possible, however, that the recall election won’t go forward. According to the Post, anti-recall forces have about six weeks to persuade those who signed the petition to withdraw their support. If enough do so to drop support below the required number, the question will not make the ballot.
However, the Post calls this possibility “a longshot.” The California secretary of state’s office has certified 1.62 million valid signatures, about 125,000 more than needed.
Who might replace Newsom if voters favor a recall? The Post identifies three Republican possibilities: Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego; Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender rights activist and former Olympic gold medal winner; and John Cox, a San Diego businessman who lost to Newsom in 2018.
No prominent Democrat has shown an interest in running, presumably because doing so would seem disloyal. The absence of a prominent Dem on the ballot might help Newsom stave off recall.
For his part, Newsom claims the recall campaign is fueled by White supremacists, anti-Semites, and people “opposed to immigration.” No high road for this pol.