By middle of August, voters in California will receive a recall ballot asking two simple questions: Should current Governor Gavin Newsom remain in office, and, if not, who gets the job? Recalling a sitting governor is a difficult task but not impossible. Most constituents are angry at elected officials for one reason or another and like to reassert a tiny bit of power in the election booth. So after enough Golden Staters determined that Newsom is ripe for an ousting because of his handling of the pandemic, voters now have to bounce the guy and pick a successor. Sounds easy enough, right?
After All the Hubbub — Should We?
A new poll released by UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times shows the electorate is closely divided on whether Newsom should be led to the gallows. Forty-seven percent of “likely” voters support recalling Newsom, while 50% claim to be opposed — uncomfortable numbers for both the governor and the laundry list of wannabes waiting in the wings. And the September 14 voting day fast approaches.
Giving hope to California Democrats is “all voters” are trending in favor of keeping the incumbent – or just they are less likely to get off the couch or return a mail-in ballot. Of course, the parameters are vast in this category of respondents. Nevertheless, when the percentage of those who want a recall drops 11-percentage points to 36%, Democrats can at least breathe a bit easier. Or can they?
The wavering mindset of California voters instead speaks of promise to Republicans. Turnout is critical for Democrats to keep Newsom in office, and as Republicans make up about a third of all voters – extremely motivated voters – that could lead to an upset. According to Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS Poll, “The governor’s in jeopardy among those most likely to be voting.”
DiCamillo went even further by using the “C” word to make a dramatic point:
“There’s greater complacency among Democratic voters. Nearly all of them think Newsom is going to survive this, and I think that’s holding back some of their voters from thinking it’s important to vote. Republicans are much more confident that they think they can turn the governor from office.”
Ah, “complacency” is where the trouble begins in California. But is it good trouble?
The Wannabe List So Far
It’s the second question now causing heartburn for Newsom’s declared opposition. The line of hopefuls for the highest office in California has recently grown to four decent prospects, although a whopping 40 candidates could appear on the ballot. Workhorses John Cox, a successful businessman, and former two-term Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego are sitting pretty at 10% support as potential new occupants of the Sacramento mansion. And Caitlyn Jenner, the 1976 Olympic Gold medalist, holds her own at 3% for her moderate approach.
But a Johnny-come-lately guy with enormous name ID is conservative radio talk show host and syndicated columnist Larry Elder, who may be the biggest threat. Entering after a court battle, he has a solid 18% support.
It’s Not What But Who You Know?
Will it come down to who you know or what you’ve accomplished? Republicans haven’t won a statewide election since 2006, and to say they may be prematurely licking lips in anticipation is an understatement. Democratic Governor Gray Davis was successfully recalled by the California electorate, who then installed Arnold Schwarzenegger.
If 50% of voters say “yes” on question number one, and Newsom is tossed, the winner just needs to top the list in votes counted. Percentages be damned.