What you need to know heading in to California’s recall election

CALIFORNIA DECIDES the future of the governorship on September 14. Larry Elder is the leading challenger to Newsom’s defending campaign. Irfan Khan / Genaro Molina

Harrison York | Editor-in-Chief & Lucas Rapeepat | Head Editor

September 10, 2021

On September 14, millions of Californians will have casted their ballots, deciding if Governor Gavin Newsom will remain in office. The recall vote is the result of widespread criticism regarding his policies on issues ranging from immigration, criminal justice, and homelessness to his recent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recall organizers secured almost two million verified petition signatures, enough to successfully open the vote to the state. During the process, Newsom made several mistakes that tarnished his image, such as a pandemic scandal with several of his officials at a luxury restaurant – against his own lockdown orders.

“Newsom’s dinner party definitely gave him a negative look,” San Clemente High School senior Michael Milner said. “He was even with some of his top medical officials, showing a disregard for the pandemic restrictions.” Recent events including massive wildfires and business closures have been the turning point for many citizens. “Events that are not necessarily under his control, like the fires, still hurt his image. People are hoping that a new governor would try and fix [the issues],” Milner said.

With enough support for the recall, the attempt will make the ballot for the second time in state history. In 2003, 135 candidates ran to replace Governor Gray Davis, who was ultimately succeeded by Arnold Schwarzenegger. This time, there are fewer names to choose from on the ballot, with 46 candidates striving for the position. The group includes members of both political parties, with polls showing the front runners being talk show host Larry Elder (R, 27.6% of poll), 29-year-old financial YouTuber Kevin Paffrath (D, 7.0%) , and Republicans Kevin Faulconer (5.3%) and John Cox (5.1%).  The poll data is based on who responders would want to replace Newsom if he is recalled. More information can be found here.

Elder, a conservative radio host, entered into the race late but was able to quickly take the Republican lead from Faulconer, a former San Diego mayor. Despite being criticized for a lack of political experience, Elder claims that his 30 years of leading a talk show has prepared him to face political problems from a governing position. 

Campaigning with promises to remove mask and vaccine mandates, Elder has often repeated that he is “a small-L libertarian” and wants to push back against the intrusiveness of California’s government. Another point of controversy in his campaign is his refusal to debate his fellow Republican candidates. “The only person I want to debate is Gavin Newsom,” he said.

Elder and Faulconer both agree that Newsom should be removed. “This state is in deep, deep trouble; people are in pain,” Elder said. Faulconer echoed his sentiment, citing emigration and the loss of businesses in the past few years.

Just behind Faulconer in polling data is Cox, who ran against Newsom in the 2018 election and lost. Cox is a self-made politician who promises to “rip up the corruption from the roots to pass the beastly changes California needs.”

Triton senior Gavin Stay expressed his view on the recall. “With unemployment and taxes rising, the highest homelessness rate in the nation, ongoing shutdowns, loss of business, and jobs, California needs a change in leadership,” Stay said. “If California votes no on the recall, these problems will persist and cause the state to suffer.”

Apart from the Republican challengers, Paffrath is running as a Democratic alternative to Newsom, although he claims to be a centrist. Paffrath has led perhaps the most interesting campaign in the recall, threatening to sue CNN, crashing Newsom’s campaign events for media attention, and generally using social media to spread his message to voters. From creating videos on investing in stocks and real estate to his audience of 1.6 million subscribers, Paffrath’s strategy has put him in second place among candidates who voters would like to see replace Newsom.

TENSIONS FLARE as Californians once again take sides in the upcoming election. Lucas Rapeepat

But the Governor has not stood still throughout the turmoil wracking the Golden State. Dubbing it the “Republican Recall,” Newsom describes the leaders of the movement as anti-vaccine activists, far right extremists, and massive GOP characters who detest California’s politics. His campaign does not have to abide by the restrictions of the challengers, giving him the advantage of virtually infinite funding.

And, despite the amount of opposing candidates, polls show that about 56% of voters want to keep him in office. In a predictably blue state, Newsom is by no means an underdog, and has consolidated support from most Democrats, compared to the split between leading Republicans.

The recall ballot will contain two questions: “Should the elected official be removed from office?” and “If the official is removed, who should take their place?” If the majority replies with “Yes” to the first question, the candidate with the most votes from the second will be the one to take Newsom’s place. Otherwise, Newsom will retain his gubernatorial role. 

President Biden and Vice President Harris are scheduled to campaign in California in the final days before the election. A defeated Newsom could have major implications for the White House and Democrats nationwide. In addition to the dismay of losing a heavily Democratic state to the right, control of the Senate could be on the line. If 88 year old Diane Feinstein resigns before her term ends in 2025, the governor has the power to choose her replacement.

CAMPAIGNING by both parties and the dozens of candidates intensifies in the final weeks before the vote. Harrison York

This recall election, taking place in an especially odd voting year, will reflect some of the sentiment towards the Biden administration following events such as the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan, where 13 young American troops were killed in a terrorist attack, and the handling of the pandemic. With some Democrat voters disappointed in President Biden, either for his decisions overseas or his lack of progressive change, the recall will test the blue waters of California.

Both sides are aware that the outcome of the recall has the ability to affect politics on a national level. With tensions high and the future of California hanging in the balance, citizens can do their part by casting their vote.

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