Californians will decide on Tuesday whether to keep Gavin Newsom in power as a recall election that has left the Democratic governor fighting for his political life draws to a close.
The gubernatorial recall effort is only the second in California history to go to the polls and a rare chance for Republicans to take control in a deep blue state. Voters are asking two questions: Should Newsom be removed from office and, if removed, who should take his place? Millions of Californians have already voted, either by mail or at early polling places, and registered voters will have until Tuesday night to make their choice, in a special election costing the US $ 276 million. State.
Newsom, who has been a hugely popular governor since being elected in 2018, found himself in a special position after a Republican-led recall effort gained momentum amid the worst of the state’s pandemic .
He looked confident heading into the home stretch, spending Monday campaigning with Joe Biden. Polls that had flagged him in peril over the summer recently gave him a more comfortable lead. Meanwhile, the main Republican challenger, right-wing radio host Larry Elder, has laid the groundwork for disinformation to falsely imply that the election, if he loses, has been rigged against him.
Early returns show that among those who have already voted, most are Democrats likely to oppose the recall. More Republicans are expected to vote in person on election day.
No major Democratic candidate is running against Newsom, who has encouraged his supporters to leave the question of his replacement blank on their ballots. If even a hair’s breadth of over 50% of voters choose to launch Governor, Elder or any other challenger with a plurality could take office and turn politics upside down in a majority Democratic state.
Such an outcome would spark national reverberations by placing a potentially antagonistic Republican leader as the head of the country’s most populous and economically productive state, and potentially condemning Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. The implication that a Republican could topple a Democrat in deep blue California would fuel criticism that the party is out of touch with voters. An upheaval in the Golden State “could also encourage potentially nationwide recall elections,” said Mindy Romero, who heads the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of Southern California.
After initially dismissing the recall as a Republican-led distraction, the Democrats and Newsom’s campaign has pivoted in recent weeks to characterize it as a referendum on Trumpism in California, with “life or death” consequences. Meanwhile, prominent Democrats in California and Washington DC, including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, Progressive Representatives Barbara Lee and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Vice President Kamala Harris, all came in. help Newsom.
Elder has pledged to remove mask and vaccine requirements, calling for a reminder of donors whose efforts gained momentum last winter amid the state’s worst pandemic wave, which has forced businesses to close and keep public schools closed. Among those who support the recall, 38% of likely voters said they preferred Elder, in a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll released on Friday. Former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, a moderate Republican whom the Los Angeles Times called a “less bad option” to replace Newsom, was however supported by only 8% of likely voters. More than 40 contestants are running against Newsom, including reality TV star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner and YouTube personality Kevin Paffrath.
During election rallies, Newsom stressed that his first lockdown measures and his first statewide mask mandate for schools had saved lives. But the governor is still struggling to overcome several missteps: Under Newsom’s watch, the state’s unemployment service has struggled with large backlogs, while paying about $ 31 billion in fraudulent claims. The state’s rollout of the vaccine was initially chaotic and slow, leaving behind some of the most vulnerable frontline workers.
An untimely, lobbyist-laden dinner at the Michelin-starred French Laundry restaurant, and the governor’s choice to send his own children back to private school before many public schools reopened, fueled residents’ frustrations. Meanwhile, after California’s worst year of wildfire year on record in 2020, and as catastrophic fires continue to blaze statewide, Newsom has tried to allay concerns it has vastly overestimated the effort. prevention of forest fires.
Voters who remained lukewarm on Newsom said they still saw it as the best of bad choices. “I’m with a lot of people who might like to remember Gavin, but who aren’t necessarily sympathetic to the presence of Larry Elder,” John Friedrich, a retiree living in Stockton, Calif., Said about an hour away. south of the capital. , Sacramento.
“All kinds of things happened last year – just devastating things,” he added. “Any governor would have a tough job. “