The ongoing effort to recall Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom from office has secured nearly two million signatures just a week before the final deadline. Past recall efforts have shown that an estimated 85% of submitted signatures are valid, leading most experts to predict that the number of signatures in the current campaign is more than enough to have the recall officially adopted on a ballot. Depending on how long the certification takes, some speculate that there may be a recall election as early as May, while others predict it will occur in November.
Open season for the governorship has already been declared, with multiple candidates beginning to fundraise and target one another. Some of these candidates include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox, and even right-wing media personality Mike Cernovich. Faulconer is seen as the most prominent Republican challenger to Gov. Newsom, with competing Republican candidate John Cox already running attack ads on the perceived frontrunner.
Gov. Newsom seems to feel immensely threatened. His decision to fast-track reopening plans and create new COVID tier guidelines much more lenient than before appears to stem from his administration’s fear of sinking approval numbers in recent weeks.
A Tough Test
Although naysaying Democrats seem hellbent on playing defense for the elitist governor, history does not have Newsom’s back. In the past, 60% of recall efforts that have made it onto ballots have resulted in the removal of the government official from office. It is important to note that when on the ballot, the recall vote is as follows: “Should Newsom be removed from office? If so, what replacement candidates should be chosen?” Newsom’s ability to beat out other candidates is about to face a very different test. Simply put, the only requirement to removing Newsom from office would be for more than 50% of voters to answer “Yes” to the first question about the governor’s removal from office. It isn’t Newsom v. one Republican; it’s Newsom v. anyone else.
Despite historical precedence, the statistics are firmly on Gov. Newsom’s side. Gray Davis, a former governor also from the Golden State, held an abysmal 24% approval rating in February 2003 when he was recalled in October of that same year, while Newsom hovers around the 50% approval mark. Despite the governor’s failure with homelessness, COVID-19 shutdowns, school closures, and many more hot topic issues, he continues to remain popular with Democrats in the state. This conflict between history and statistics is hard to reconcile and makes it difficult to tell whether skepticism or optimism should be on the minds of those opposing Newsom’s failed legacy.
Top Democratic politicians have already begun throwing support behind the failing governor to bolster his reputation before the election. California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks labeled the recall movement as a mere “coup” by Trump supporters that somehow found its way into California election law. At the national level, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the Biden administration, and the mainstream media more broadly have also thrown their support behind Newsom, accusing recall effort supporters of being undemocratic, partisan activists.
In the wake of harsh lockdown restrictions and less-than-impressive supportive evidence that the right choices were made in balancing business and health, it is ultimately the public’s reaction to the governor’s seemingly heavy-handed proclamations that will decide his eventual fate.
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