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What You Need to Know About the Election to Recall Governor Newsom

The deadline to submit your recall ballot is September 14, 2021.

Left: Larry Elder, a YouTube talk show host, wearing a pink tie and black pinstriped suit

Right: Governor Gavin Newsom, the current California Governor, wearing a deep blue suit and tie
(Photos via Wikimedia Commons / Flickr)

One of the biggest elections is happening this month and you might not be planning to vote: it’s the recall of California Governor Gavin Newsom. If, like me, you knew about the election but had no clue who was running to replace Newsom, let me introduce you to the current leading frontrunner, Larry Elder.

Elder, a lawyer turned talk show host, is running on a truly remarkable platform centered around his belief that the minimum wage should be — wait for it — zero dollars. 

Elder is baffled by the idea of the government establishing fair wages. “Why two people who are adults can’t determine what the price of labor ought to be, is beyond me,” Elder said on August 3, adding, “and why a third party feels it is his or her business to interfere with that is also beyond me.”

Elder also excoriates the importance of paid family leave, saying that mandating it would only make employers deduct that amount from their wage — a problem he may not realize wouldn’t happen if there were a fair minimum wage.

Elder, a registered Republican, has been downplaying his loyalty to President Trump in order to secure more centrist voters. But LA Times Reporter Jean Guerrero pointed out on Twitter that Elder has a proven record of mentoring Trump prodigies, notably Stephen Miller, who called Elder his “one true guide.” That praise was lavished after Elder told Miller that he “[hoped] to live to see the day when you [Miller] become president.” He is against any and all mask mandates and will repeal the statewide mandate on vaccines for state workers. 

The Republicans who propelled the recall to the ballot are unsurprisingly raring to cast their votes. Democrats less so. Polls published in the last week of August show Newsom with a double-digit lead, recovering from a narrow single-digit lead in the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll released in July. 

In California recall elections, the winner of the most votes wins — even if that’s a small percentage of the vote, far short of a majority. The incumbent (Newsom) isn’t an option if the recall passes, and almost every poll shows Elder with a double-digit lead over other candidates on Part 2 of the ballot — even though no poll shows Elder above 21% of the vote.

Yes, this recall election is truly a wild charade of who’s who in the state’s floundering, pathetic GOP, but the recall is now “within striking distance,” IGS Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said in an interview. 

A lot of folks don’t know that this recall election is happening, so many, MANY people aren’t going to vote. Politico notes that Republicans represent a quarter of the overall electorate but comprise a third of the most likely voters, while Democrats and no-party-preference registrants are disproportionately less likely to vote, the poll found. A resounding 87% of Republicans expressed the highest level of interest in the election, versus a little over half of Democrats and independents. 

Grassroots organizations, who typically do the best voter outreach and public information campaigns, are dealing with quite a few crises right now, from the long-term effects of COVID on the housing crisis, to vaccine outreach, among other extremely pressing issues. All of these crises are vastly more urgent to deal with than Newsom’s recall campaign, but it means that fewer people are out there doing the work of getting voters crucial information. It’s hard to overstate the importance of door-to-door canvassing and phone banking in state and local elections, and we cannot count on the Democratic Party apparatus to put money behind these efforts (as previous elections have shown time and time again). 

Democrats have 75% majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, so they could block a Republican governor’s actions and appointments and override vetoes, but there’s no guarantee that they will.

Newsom’s Record as Governor

Unlike the utter dumpster fire that is Larry Elder, Newsom’s record is a mixed bag from a progressive perspective. He promised Medicare for All during his campaign, but failed to even ask legislators to vote on it during the COVID-19 pandemic. He placed a moratorium on executions and is closing two state prisons. After criticism for approving many permits for fracking, he announced bans on fracking by 2024, on gas-powered cars by 2035, and on oil extraction by 2045. He agreed to limit rent increases to 7% per year. He opposed canceling rents from the lockdown, but allowed a moratorium to stop evictions if renters pay at least 25% of their rent on time each month and can prove hardship.

More recently, “Newsom applauded the removal of homeless camps from Echo Park Lake and Venice Beach in Los Angeles, staking out a position that reflects a change in the public political dialogue about homelessness in California,” according to Los Angeles Times, promoting a problematic narrative that harms unhoused people.

Are There Any Progressive Candidates on Part 2 of the Recall Ballot?

Whether you vote yes or no to the recall on Part 1 of the ballot, or even if you don’t vote on it, on Part 2 you may vote for any listed candidate. Among these are David Moore, a socialist public school teacher from the San Francisco Bay Area; Dan Kapelovitz, a criminal-defense attorney who teaches at People’s College of Law in Los Angeles; and Michael Loebs, a San Francisco political science lecturer, all of whom support Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. The only Democrat to receive at least 6% support in any poll, Kevin Paffrath, is a real estate speculator who is a self-described centrist and calls for more funding for cops.

When Is the Recall Election?

Tuesday, September 14, but local election offices started sending out mail ballots by August 16. Like previous elections, you can vote by mail as soon as you get your ballot.

How Do You Vote? 

Every registered voter will get a ballot in the mail. You can track your ballot — when it’s mailed, when it’s received once you vote, and when it’s counted — by visiting https://california.ballottrax.net/

There will also be in-person polling sites that open September 4, plus drop-off boxes in your neighborhood. You can check your registration status here and can update your registration here. If you have not yet registered to vote, you may still do it on Election Day at any vote center in the county in which you reside.   

What Does the Ballot Say? 

Part 1 asks: “Shall GAVIN NEWSOM be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?” 

A “yes” vote is against Newsom and is to kick him out of office. A “no” vote is for Newsom and to keep him as governor.   

Part 2 has: “Candidates to succeed GAVIN NEWSOM as Governor if he is recalled: Vote for ONE.”

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