Can Government Newsom keep his job? A recall effort in California shows a dead summer.
President Biden sent an urgent message Last week in the most populous state in the country: Put Governor Gavin Newsom “on the job.” On the airwaves, Massachusetts’ prominent Progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren has repeatedly warned that “Trump Republicans” are “coming to seize power in California.”
Text messages – half a million a day – are spreading the word on cell phones. Campaigners at suburban front doors are doing their bit. With nearly 22 million ballots arriving in the mailboxes of active registered voters this week in anticipation of the September 14 election, Mr Newsom – the Democrat elected in a landslide of 2018 – is just pulling all the stops to keep his position.
The vote is expected to fall short of whether Democrats can mobilize the state’s vast base enough to counter Republican enthusiasm for Mr Newsom’s ouster. Recent polls of potential voters appear to be a dead heat, despite math that suggests the governor should ultimately win.
Less than a quarter of voters are Republican. Mr Newsom has raised more campaign cash than all of his four dozen or so challengers. And the governor’s most serious opponent is talk radio host Larry Elder, who has called global warming “a crock,” says the minimum wage should be “zero-point-zero-zero” and gave Stephen Miller a hard-line Trump administration. Immigration Advisor, his first major public forum.
But the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been particularly favorable to the governor. This month’s polls show approval for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is waning as deaths and hospitalizations continue to rise in the state.
And Mr Newsom’s supporters are facing an astonishing level of ambiguity and distraction.
Anamaria Young, 53, said recently in El Dorado Hills, east of Sacramento, “I think he’s done as well as any governor, given the last year of the pandemic, but I’m not a fan.” ” Ms Young, a Democrat, said removing the governor more than a year before the end of her first term seemed undemocratic, but she also disliked her lack of progress on homelessness and her respect for teacher unions.
“When my ballot arrives,” she said, “I really don’t know how – or if – I’m going to vote.”
Launched by Republicans who took issue with Mr Newsom over the death penalty and immigration, the once-long-running effort to recall the governor gained undue traction as the coronavirus continued to spread. First, pandemic-related shutdowns prompted a judge to extend the measure’s signature-gathering deadline, and then word leaked that the governor urged Californians to cover their faces and stay at home. After that had dinner with the lobbyists at a special restaurant.
If a majority of voters decide to recall Mr Newsom, the new governor will be the one who gets the most votes among his 46 challengers, even if no opponent gets a majority.
Critics of the state’s recall rules have long worried that 49 percent of voters may vote to keep an incumbent, only for a small plurality of voters to choose a replacement. Mr Newsom is urging Democrats not to vote on the recall and not to bother answering another question, asking who should replace him. Among potential voters, recent polls have shown support for Mr Elder, the current front-runner, at around 20 per cent.
Paul Mitchell, vice president of the bipartisan data firm Political Data Inc. in Sacramento, said “no intellectually honest analysis” would predict a governor’s defeat. But in February state lawmakers dealt with the wild card by providing pandemic-related accommodations to voters.
The rules only allow voting by mail—compared to the 2020 presidential election—which appears to be a Democratic advantage, although off-year participation is harder to forecast. Only one other attempt to recall California’s governor has been voted on, and 18 years have passed since the state replaced Gray Davis with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr. Mitchell said.
Nathan Click, a former spokesman for the governor, agreed, “The swing voters in this campaign are not typical of which party to vote for.” “They are the Democrats who are choosing whether or not to vote.”
Mr. Elder, 69, a black “little-L liberal” lawyer who rose to national stature from Los Angeles, where he has been a talk radio fixture for decades, said in an interview that he was “not some wild-eyed fanatic. ,” and that he entered the race at the behest of “ordinary people” such as his hairdresser and dry cleaner as well as like-minded friends such as his right-wing broadcast mentor Dennis Prager. His priorities – public school choice, high housing costs and rising crime – go beyond the party label, he said.
He said his opposition to abortion was irrelevant in a state that supports abortion rights as much as California, and that his view that the minimum wage stifles job creation is mainstream economics. He made comments such as discounting global warming on “Larry King Live” in 2008 only to criticize “alarmism”, he said, acknowledging that climate change is happening, but falsely adding, “No one really To what degree I don’t know” It is caused by humans.
He said he has voted for every Republican presidential candidate since the 1970s, not just Donald J. Trump.
“Why bring in Stephen Miller? Why bring abortions? Why bring in the minimum wage?” Mr. Elder said. “Because Gavin Newsom can’t defend his record.”
Polls indicate that the majority of Californians accept Mr. Newsom’s policies, but when polls are narrowed down to the most likely voters, his margins shrink.
A statewide poll in mid-July by the Institute for Government Studies at the University of California, Berkeley found that potential voters were almost equally divided on whether to oust the governor, with 47 percent saying they would vote to recall him and 50 percent were saying. They would keep that, an edge that barely crossed the pole’s margin of error. Subsequent polls have confirmed those results.
That’s why Mr Newsom has spent a lot to evict 46 percent of his party’s electorate. His remembrance campaign received some $46 million in contributions as of July, far more than Mr. Elder ($4.5 million); former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulkner ($2.1 million); John Cox, a businessman campaigning with a bear ($9.4 million, mostly self-funded); reality television figure and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner ($750,000); or any other candidate.
The mere reminder that the ballots are headed to the mailbox should turn many tune-out Democrats into potential voters, Mr. Click said, and the team of supporters is texting about 500,000 Democrats daily. Representative Barbara Lee, co-founder and co-chair of the Women Against the Recall group, said the National Democratic Party is looking at such grassroots efforts as a potential model for future campaigns.
But Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles, said Democrats were playing catch-up as voters of the Delta version.
“People are procrastinating,” she said, comparing the governor’s team to overconfident students who failed to study for a final. “Delta has made it clear that you are not ready for the test.”
In Palmdale, northeast of Los Angeles, campaigners for an immigration advocacy group presented the governor to voters last week.
Ashley Reyes, 27, a registered Democrat who was watching her child and her cousins play in her gated driveway, said she didn’t know the recall qualified for a ballot. She said her parents and in-laws were immigrants, adding that she would vote to retain the governor.
Peeking through his metal screen door into the 101-degree heat, Edgar Robleto, 62, a Republican, replied “I wish he was gone” when canvassers mentioned Mr. Newsom. The state GOP, which represents 24 candidates, voted against backing one contender last weekend, lest any Republicans choose not to vote.
Experts predict slugfest. “Negative partisanship is the biggest driver of political decision-making right now,” said Mike Madrid, a longtime Republican adviser.
Democratic adviser David Townsend agreed: “It’s going to be totally tribal.”
“It’s not going to be about Newsom,” he said. “It will be about whether Democrats want Trump to be governor in California.”
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