California voters should start preparing for a recall election
Opponents of the Democratic Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, were to collect 1,495,709 valid signatures in order to trigger a recall election against him. And on April 26, the state announced that it had returned at least 1,626,042. As a result, a statewide governor’s recall election (only the fourth in U.S. history) will likely have take place in the fall – but it’s not yet a safe bet.
Indeed, in 2017, Democratic lawmakers changed the rules to give supporters of the recall 30 working days to reconsider and request that their names be removed from the recall petition. (The change was an attempt to bypass a brewing recall effort against a Democratic state senator; however, he was recalled anyway, only to reclaim his seat in last year’s election.) So , if Newsom’s supporters can convince enough signatories to the recall to retract by June 8, it can avoid a referendum. That said, California political watchers don’t think this is happening.
However, it could still be some time before the recall election hits the ballot. If the Secretary of State finds that there are enough signatures left to trigger a recall, the California Department of Finance then has 30 business days to estimate the cost of the election, and the state legislature has until 30 more days to review this estimate. Once that is done, the lieutenant governor will set the recall election for a date between 60 and 80 days, possibly in October or November. A logical choice might be November 2 – already election day in many states across the country. Then again, the Democratic legislature and the lieutenant governor may try to schedule the recall on the date that they believe gives the Democratic governor the best chance of winning. (As long as they stick to the legislated window of time, they have the discretion to affect the date they choose.)
At this point, the recall would go before the voters, with two questions on the ballot: first, a yes-no question about whether to remove Newsom from office, and second, a question about who should replace him. if more than 50% vote. yes ”to delete it. As we wrote in February, there’s a good chance Newsom will win out on the first question. No recall election poll has been released since late March, but two polls found only 35-40% of likely voters wanted to remove Newsom, while 53-56% said they would vote to keep it. .
This is a very different position from that of fellow Democrat Gray Davis before he was successfully recalled as governor of California in 2003. A poll taken in April 2003 found that 46% of registered voters were in favor of Davis’s recall. vs. 43% vs. – and Davis’ poll numbers only got worse from there.
This year, however, the long delay between the signature collection (which ended on March 17) and the recall election may take the wind out of the sails of Newsom’s detractors. The recall campaign garnered so many signatures in large part because Tories were angry at Newsom’s coronavirus restrictions, and his public image had taken a hit after he broke his own rules by attending a dinner party at the French Laundry, an exclusive Napa Valley restaurant. But with vaccination rates on the rise, California, like every other state, is reopening, and in November it will be a full year since the French Laundry incident.
But if things turn rather south for Newsom and more than 50% of voters vote “yes” on the first question, the second question on the ballot would determine his replacement. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would be elected the new governor of California; there is no runoff. This means that, in a large number of candidates, even a small plurality of votes might be enough to win. And a wide range of candidates is very possible: In 2003, voters had 135 candidates to choose from.
Already, several prominent Republicans have announced their intention to run. The strongest potential – at least judging by his electoral record – is Kevin Faulconer, a moderate who has twice been elected mayor of Swingy San Diego. Businessman John Cox, a perennial candidate who lost to Newsom by 24 points in 2018, and former Rep. Doug Ose, who last won an election in 2002, are also in the running. But perhaps the biggest name in the race is former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, who threw her hat in the ring on April 23.
Jenner quickly drew comparisons to fellow celebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action star who won the 2003 recall election to replace Davis. But while Jenner’s fame could certainly help her, she doesn’t have the kind of fans Schwarzenegger had. In February 2003, Gallup discovered that Schwarzenegger was one of the most popular people the 68-year-old company had ever surveyed, with a favorable rating of 72% nationwide. A California-specific CNN / USA Today / Gallup poll also found that Schwarzenegger launched the recall campaign with a huge 82% favorable rating and only 10% unfavorable among likely voters. No pollster has yet asked Californians about Jenner, but a national YouGov poll from January to March 2021 gave her only an 18% favorable rating – with a 48% unfavorable rating.
At this point, no major Democratic candidate has announced a campaign, although there are indications that former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and 2020 presidential candidate Tom Steyer are planning to run. (Newsom himself cannot run in the replacement election.) So if just one top Democrat ran, that could serve as an insurance policy for Democrats in case Newsom is recalled: with the split Republican vote d ‘At least four ways, it’s easy to imagine a Democratic candidate finishing first, especially since you don’t have to vote “yes” on the first question to vote on the second question. In other words, Democrats could vote ‘no’ on Newsom’s recall, but then choose Villaraigosa or Steyer as their preferred replacement.
However, Newsom allies are working hard to ensure that no leading Democrats enter the race, fearing this will encourage Democrats to vote ‘yes’ on the recall if they see a chance to replace him. by someone they love even better. It would also undermine Newsom’s strategy of fighting the recall, which involves portraying it as a partisan witch hunt by supporters of former President Donald Trump, who is hugely unpopular in California. But as long as the recall remains a Democrats versus Republicans contest, Newsom should win easily. If the Democratic base is not united behind the governor, however, things could get interesting.