Could Newsom recall the elections in August?
There will be two questions when California voters go to the polls later this year for the recall election: Should Governor Gavin Newsom be kicked out of office? And if a majority of voters say yes, who should replace him?
But there is another big question looming before this date: when exactly are the elections held?
While the answer is still pending, it looks like the recall could take place as early as August, months earlier than originally planned.
In part, that’s because the ruling party has a lot to say about when to plan a recall election – unlike the dates set in stone on the first Tuesday in November for the general election. And with the disappearance of the coronavirus crisis and the reopening of the state, Democrats have every reason to push for an earlier election, as many voters will enjoy their relatively normal first summer in over a year. .
Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a Newsom ally, is the one who ends up setting the election date after a series of other steps – a boon to the governor.
“With the exception of COVID recovery, its greatest asset is that the timing is completely controlled by its allies,” said longtime political strategist and observer Dan Schnur.
Residents who signed the recall petition have until June 8 to change their mind and request that their name be removed. Promoters have produced more than 2.1 million signatures, well above the roughly 1.5 million needed to trigger a recall, so it would be highly unusual for him to fail to meet that threshold. Assuming this is the case, the finance ministry has 30 working days to estimate the cost of the election. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee then has an additional 30 days to consider the cost before Kounalakis sets an election date.
But nothing says the government needs to take the allotted time, and some Democratic lawmakers have indicated they may be able to move faster.
State Senator Nancy Skinner, an East Bay Democrat who chairs the Joint Budget Committee, said at a recent press conference that the 30 days her committee has to consider the cost “may not be necessary “.
In part, that’s because most county election officials have already indicated how much they expect the election to cost, and, Skinner said, “we’ve looked at that before.”
Earlier this spring, the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials said it expects the cost to be around $ 400 million.
So suppose the Department of Finance and the Legislature spend two weeks on their budget review rather than two months. The law then orders Kounalakis to fix an election between 60 and 80 days from the conclusion of these reviews.
The result is that Californians could go to the polls (and send out the ballots) at the end of the summer.
Schnur thinks this will only help Newsom as the fall brings the possibility of disastrous forest fires, more time for incidents like the now infamous French Laundry Dinner, and it gives opponents more time to climb up. their file. An earlier election would also limit a renegade Democrat’s ability to race to challenge Newsom. The governor, Schnur pointed out, will soon be signing a flurry of bills, and each is sure to upset someone.
“By moving faster, they can minimize these risks for him,” said Schnur. “If he loses, it will be because of an extraordinary event. With fewer days before a vote, the less chance that something extraordinary will happen. “
Newsom leads the polls, with 36% of voters supporting the recall and 49% opposing it, according to the most recent poll from the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.
“I think Governor Newsom is in a good position to beat the recall,” Senator Steve Glazer, a Democrat who represents East Bay, said in a telephone interview. “And the sooner that is done, the better he can focus on other state issues.”
But Newsom reviews say August looks good to them.
The pro-recall campaign is “not at all” concerned about a fast-track timeline, said Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager for Rescue California, one of the leading pro-recall groups. “I think picking a date at the end of the summer recognizes he’s having problems.”
Like Schnur, Dunsmore pointed out that Newsom could see more opposition when the bill is signed, and an election in August could see low voter turnout with people on vacation and busy at summer activities, which it says it would particularly strike the governor.
“We have been ready for a very long time,” she said, noting that Newsom’s handling of homelessness and looming drought were issues where supporters of the recall can gain support for their cause.
Terry Christensen, professor emeritus of political science at San Jose State University and co-author of a book on the Gray Davis recall in 2003, said that while it is true that Republicans, who constitute the most of the supporters of the recall, have traditionally been more likely to vote, that is changing.
“The Republican turnout advantage has diminished with a larger and easier postal ballot,” Christensen said, adding that an earlier election “would be very much to Gavin Newsom’s advantage.”
Newsom himself has brushed aside questions about the timing of the recall, saying only he will work to beat the effort and devote his time to issues such as getting the coronavirus vaccine to more residents and rebuilding the economy.
“Regarding decisions on timetables,” the governor said at a recent press conference, “I will leave that to others.”