MICHAEL R. BLOOD and KATHLEEN RONAYNE, Associated Press
The California Democrats played by speeding up the state’s September deadline.
14 remember elections that could cost Governor Gavin Newsom his job. Their hope is that the economy will continue to recover over a relatively short period of around 10 weeks, coronavirus cases will remain low, and the embattled Democratic governor can avoid politically embarrassing missteps.
The risk is that it doesn’t work out that way.
The mid-September date was confirmed on Thursday by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat and ally of Newsom, formalized after election officials confirmed that enough valid petition signatures were submitted to qualify for the election.
Their decision came after political maneuvers in the Democrat-dominated legislature that cleared the way for a late summer election rather than the fall contest that many had expected.
Newsom has cemented its public profile since the tumultuous depths of the pandemic when its popularity waned. With recent polls showing Newsom would fight back the recall, Democrats believe the earlier date will improve their chances.
Businessman John Cox, a leading Republican in the race, shrugged off the strategy.
Newsoms “Insiders and allies did their best to rig the election date … but it doesn’t matter,” Cox said in a statement.
Forest fires “are starting to rage, we’re still not sure if schools will open on time, homelessness is out of control and taxes are way too high,” added Cox. “We have a shortage of electricity and water. Crime is out of control. … Newsom is being called back. “
The election in the nation’s most populous state will be a marquee competition of national importance, closely watched as a barometer of public sentiment for the 2022 elections, when a tightly divided Congress is again involved.
The announcement is set to spark a furious outburst of election campaigning during the California summer, a time when voters typically ignore politics to enjoy vacations, barbecues, and travel.
It’s not uncommon for California residents to request callbacks, but they rarely get to vote – and even fewer succeed. Only once was an incumbent governor removed in the state, when the unpopular Democrat Gray Davis was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Many voters have not yet paid attention to the upcoming elections. And while polls have shown Newsom survived the recall, the same polls show signs of an unsettled public. Independent voters, for example, are skeptical about his job performance and most say the state is going in the wrong direction.
Amid a homeless crisis and an ongoing pandemic, the election will give voters in the heavily democratic state a choice between Newsom’s liberal policies or a change that could bring a Republican to governor for the first time since Schwarzenegger’s tenure.
Republican candidates have portrayed Newsom as an incompetent fop whose botched leadership caused unnecessary financial pain nationwide, while Democrats sought to shape the competition as being driven by right-wing extremists and supporters of former President Donald Trump eager to stop Newsom’s agenda.
Newsom’s campaign has described the election as “a bare attempt by Trump Republicans to take control of California.” Kevin Faulconer, a former San Diego mayor and another leading Republican in the running, predicted that “Gavin Newsom will be retiring”.
Although a final date was not set until Thursday, the campaign has been going on for months after it became clear that the organizers collected more than the 1.5 million petition signatures required to get the recall on the ballot.
Conservative talk show host Larry Elder, 69, said in a statement Wednesday night that he was seriously considering taking part in the race and would announce his decision early next week. His candidacy would add another celebrity flash to the Republican field – he is best known for his nationally syndicated radio show and appearances on Fox News.
Along with Faulconer and Cox, who were defeated by Newsom in 2018, are other Republicans who have declared they want to run, including former US MP Doug Ose and reality TV personality and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner.
The GOP field is expected to continue to grow: candidates have until July 16 to submit papers to declare their candidacy.
On re-election, voters will be asked two questions: first, whether Newsom should be ousted and, second, who should replace him on the list of candidates if he is deleted.
Tom Del Beccaro, a past chairman of the state Republican Party that chairs Rescue California, one of the groups promoting the recall, said Elder would help build support for the critical first issue in his home neighborhood of Los Angeles, the most populous of the state.
“State-wide races in California are often won or lost in LA,” said Del Beccaro, who does not agree with any candidate. Elder “will bring a constituency that will help us answer” Yes “to Question # 1.”
Elder, being black, would also add diversity to the republican ranks.
Jack Pitney, political scientist at Claremont McKenna College, said Elder’s entry into the race would be a setback for Cox because “Elder would appeal to the Republican conservative base that would have been Cox’s base.” Faulconer is considered to be GOP-moderate.
Pitney doubted Elder’s race would play a significant factor as the black voice was usually heavily democratic. Elder “has a reputation for being a provocative conservative, not an advocate of African American interests,” Pitney said.
Blood was reported from Los Angeles.