What’s Happening in California?
On Tuesday, millions of California voters will fill out ballots to decide whether or not Gavin Newson will keep his job as the Governor of California. How exactly did this happen, and what does it mean?
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Gavin Newsom has been in front of the national response: apart from being the governor of the most populous state in the country, his restrictions were among the most stringent and unpopular. This was seen as incredibly hypocritical when pictures of Newsom, maskless and mingling, at a Napa Valley French restaurant spread like wildfire across the internet. While Newsom later apologized, the aftermath of the incident saw the largest influx in recall petition signatures. It’s for this reason that the Republican base in the Golden State have banded together to trigger the recall in California.
Due to Progressive Era reforms, when California first approved the recall process, it is relatively easy to recall a California official. In fact, every governor in the past sixty years has faced an attempted recall. To trigger a recall election for Newsom, for instance, activists had to acquire under 1.5 million signatures in a state where 12.7 million people voted in the last gubernatorial elections; that’s a remarkably lower proportion than any other state that allows recalls.
Here’s some basic information on the recall.
How Does it Work?
On Tuesday, voters will see two questions on the ballot. The first will ask whether or not the voter would like to recall Newsom. The second will ask, from a list of forty-six candidates, who the voter would like to replace Newsom with if he is ultimately recalled.
If a majority votes “no” on the first question, the second is moot. However, if a majority votes “yes,” the candidate with the plurality of votes in the second section will be elected as governor.
There are very few significant candidates running, most of whom are Republican. Up until the emergence of Larry Elder, conservative radio talk show host, in late July, many knew little about the replacement candidates. However, some of the other prominent options include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulcone, businessman John Cox, state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner.
Why’s the Election Getting So Much Attention?
While California is a solidly Democratic state and will likely remain so for a very long time, Gavin Newson is incredibly unpopular among Republicans and has weary support from many Democrats. If the full electorate came out to vote, the election would probably have little to no substance to cover, but recent polling has shown that the excitement (and probably turnout) is on the Republican side.
Due to the pandemic, many Democrats were unaware that the recall was even happening. Still, according to one CBS News/YouGov poll, 72% of Republican voters said they were “very motivated to vote” compared with just 61% of Democrats. That’s significant and making many Democratic strategists apprehensive for Tuesday’s returns.
What’s Going to Happen?
While polls have been inaccurate in the past, California’s vote “no” on the recall has increased its lead by ten points since mid-August, raising its average total lead to over fifteen points. According to one CNN estimate, only two percent of gubernatorial recall elections with polling data in the last two weeks were off by more than fifteen points. In other words, it would take a polling miracle for California conservatives to overcome that margin.
For anything to change, something would have to come out in the following two days that puts Newsom in an incredibly bad light, or Republican turnout will have to be extremely large relative to the strong Californian liberal base. While that wouldn’t exactly be unprecedented, it seems incredibly unlikely, and thus, Newsom’s loss is incredibly unlikely, at least for now.