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California's gubernatorial recall is coming

Californians will vote on whether to recall Governor Gavin Newsom Sept. 14, and voters are encouraged to get out and have their voices heard.

The date was set early in July by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat, after election officials certified that enough valid petition signatures had been turned in to qualify the election for the ballot earlier this year.

Republicans are hoping for an upset in the heavily Democratic state where the GOP hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006, according to published reports.

The recall election could have national implications indicating the mood of the voting public before the 2022 elections when a closely divided Congress will be in play.

Going into the recall election, it is important for voters to be informed as to the who, what and why of the election

What is a recall election

A recall is a way for voters to remove an elected official from office through a simple majority vote at any time during their term. California is one of 20 states that permits the recall process, and it has been used successfully in California only once before when Governor Gray Davis, a democrat, was replaced by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.

California requires valid signatures from registered voters totaling at least 12% of the vote count from the previous election. In the case of Governor Newsom, that signature threshold was 1.5 million, a number easily surpassed. The recall campaign submitted 2.1 million signatures by its March 17 deadline and Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s office found 1,719,943 signatures to be valid – more than the 1,495,970 necessary to trigger the recall election. Voters who signed the petition had until June 8 to request removal from the petition and 43 signatures were removed during the removal period, leaving 1,719,900 valid signatures on the petitions, according to Ballotpedia.

Why a recall now?

Recall supporters said Newsom mishandled the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic, did not do enough to address the state's homelessness rate, and supported sanctuary city policies and water rationing, according to the Recall Governor Gavin Newsom petition.

In a March 2021 email, Newsom, who was first elected in 2018, called the effort a "Republican recall – backed by the RNC, anti-mask and anti-vax extremists, and pro-Trump forces who want to overturn the last election and have opposed much of what we have done to fight the pandemic," Ballotpedia said.

“The 2003 recall that resulted in the installation of Governor Schwarzenegger illustrates what could happen with a 2021 recall. In 2003, opponents of second-term Democrat Gov. Gray Davis launched a recall over his management of the state’s electricity industry. In the special election, voters opted to remove Gov. Davis with 55% of the vote and replace him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who got 49% of the vote. Gov. Schwarzenegger enjoyed two terms in office,” Courage California Institute reported.

“Schwarzenegger’s time in Sacramento was impactful,” the nonprofit, which provides residents the resources needed to participate in the democratic process and create change for the betterment of their families and communities, said. “And the effects of his administration’s policies have had a lasting effect on the political landscape of the state. For instance, upon taking office, he immediately repealed a law that allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in 2003, then vetoed a 2004 attempt by the state Legislature to pass a similar bill. Schwarzenegger endorsed the top-two primary system, which allows the top-two vote-getters in a state level primary election to advance to a run-off election, regardless of party ... .”

What can I do?

The answer is simple, vote your beliefs and values. 

The recall ballot will ask voters two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required.  In the 2003 recall of Davis, 135 candidates ran with Schwarzenegger receiving 48.58% of the vote.

As of July 12, 70 individuals had filed to run in the recall election. Among those are former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox, former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose, and Caitlyn Jenner, all Republicans. As of press time, no democrats had declared their candidacy.

The recall is the fifth of six recall petitions filed against Newsom since 2019, but according to Ballotpedia, the other five recall campaigns were inactive as of Feb. 3, 2021.

The recall election is expected to cost $276 million for the state.


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