OAKLAND, California – Strap in, California.
Election officials reported Monday that they had received enough valid signatures to trigger a recall vote on Governor Gavin Newsom. That means America’s most populous state will hold only the second gubernatorial recall election in its history – a once unimaginable result for the deep blue Democratic governor of California. Here are some basic things to know:
What happend today? The California Secretary of State’s office reported that the counties had approximately 1.62 million valid signatures. That is well above the 1.5 million or so required to trigger an election and does not include another 140,000 countless signatures, which means that the margin will increase.
What happens next? Technically, the recall has not yet qualified. There remains a deadline for those who have signed recall requests to remove their signatures, although the likelihood that this will block the recall is virtually zero. The Newsom team does not have access to the names and information of the voters who signed the petitions – a group that is heavily Republican – and the governor’s team has admitted they cannot withdraw enough signatures to avert an election .
After this period, the state must analyze the cost of an election and the legislature must weigh that financial analysis. The lieutenant governor would then schedule an election within the next 60 to 80 days, and likely call the November recall election, and candidates have 59 days to officially vote.
Voters will answer two questions: whether to call Newsom back and who to replace him. If Newsom wins a majority on the first, the second is controversial. If it falls short, look for a voice that is fragmented among numerous candidates.
How did we get here? The pandemic, stupid. A judge gave supporters of the recall more time to collect signatures as the coronavirus hampered their signature-collecting efforts. This proved critical, and ensured that recall backers enlisted assistance when Newsom pulled the state on winter lockdown and it became known that he had attended a top aide’s birthday dinner at an opulent restaurant.
Frustration with restrictions and closed schools, as well as anger at Newsom’s apparent hypocrisy, rocked the campaign, drawing national interest and money, and pushing the effort across the finish line.
Who are Newsom’s opponents? A growing field of Republicans will replace Newsom. These include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former MP Doug Ose, and Newsom’s 2018 opponent, businessman John Cox. Transgender celebrity and Olympian Caitlyn Jenner joined the fight last week.
Since there is no limit on callback candidates, you can expect more candidates to fill in. These might include Hollywood B-listeners, wealthy self-financiers, and random candidates like former adult actress Mary Carey, who is starting again after finishing tenth in 2003. Candidates just need to be a registered voter and pay around $ 4,000 for an application fee – or collect 7,000 signatures.
The most critical question hanging over the field is whether another Democrat will step in as a setback if Newsom doesn’t survive the first recall question. Some Democrats believe it would be foolish not to have a fallback because a Republican could run by multiple votes.
But Newsom and his team have acted aggressively to project the party’s unity and prevent other Democrats from running. They believed that another participant would pull Newsom down and make it easier for a Republican to claim governorship.
Will Newsom Survive? The signs currently point to Yes. A recent statewide poll found Newsom had a positive job approval rating and that California voters would vote to keep it a double-digit percentile ahead. He had overwhelming support among the Democrats – a critical buffer in a state where the Democrats have all the leverage and the number of registered Republicans by nearly five million voters – and led among the independent voters, who make up about a quarter of the electorate. He can collect unlimited money from allies.
Time and trend lines are on Newsom’s side as the state emerges from its long battle against the coronavirus. California currently has a relatively low infection rate and Newsom is aiming for a major reopening of the economy by June 15. If it succeeds and voters spend months acting relatively normal before voting, critics will be deprived of their worst stick.
However, one lasting lesson from coronavirus-era politics is that things can change instantly. Just ask Newsom, who received a record approval rating and national praise for their confident moves at the start of the pandemic. Most major school districts have not yet committed to full-time reopening this fall, and Republicans see this as a potential wedge problem. If the virus recurs and California has to re-impose restrictions – or if Newsom makes another serious informal mistake – all bets could be void.