Magazine Magazine News Volume 71, Issue 1

Newsom to Remain Governor After Recall Election

Written By: Cam Lippincott

Graphic By: Yiying Zhang

Democrat Gavin Newsom survived the September 14th recall election and will remain in the office of Governor of California. The result did not come as a surprise in the deep blue state, which voted for current President Biden over former President Trump last year by a margin of 29.2% of voters.

For a recall election to occur in California, an equivalent to 12% of the total voters in the last gubernatorial (Governor) election must sign a recall petition. The recall supporters had 160 days to obtain the signatures. A total of 1,719,900 signatures were collected, far more than the 1,495,970 required.

There have been multiple attempts to recall Newsom ever since his inauguration in 2019, but these attempts were futile. Nevertheless, a surge in support for a recall came during the pandemic, mainly due to anger over COVID-19 restrictions such as mask mandates. The final nail in the coffin came when Newsom attended a birthday dinner at the French Laundry, an exquisite five-star restaurant in Napa, during November 2020, breaking his state’s then-COVID-19 restrictions. 

The recall ballot featured two questions: should Gavin Newsom be recalled as Governor of California? Furthermore, if he is, who should replace him? The first question only had “Yes” and “No” options. However, the latter had an astonishing 46 candidates on the ballot, nearly all Republicans.

The only other recall election of a Governor in California occurred in 2003 when former Governor Gray Davis was successfully recalled from office and replaced by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The only two other attempted recalls of Governors in the United States occurred in 1921 and 2012, in North Dakota and Wisconsin respectively.

The Newsom campaign referred to the election as the “Republican Recall,” backed by “a partisan, Republican coalition of national Republicans, anti-vaxxers, Q-Anon conspiracy theorists and anti-immigrant Trump supporters.” Moreover, the campaign ran advertisements featuring democratic politicians such as Senators Bernie Sanders plus Elizabeth Warren and even former President Barack Obama to encourage the Democratic base to vote. 

Newsom’s most notable opponent was conservative radio host, Republican Larry Elder. Elder ran on ending COVID-19 restrictions, cutting taxes, school choice and other conservative policies. Elder consistently led in every single poll since his campaign announcement as a replacement candidate on July 12th. Due to the Democratic supermajority in the state senate and assembly, it would be effectively impossible for Elder to pass any legislation. However, the Governor’s responsibility to appoint replacements to the United States Senate in the event of a resignation or death became the centerpiece of the race, due to the rumored deteriorating health of California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat. If Elder appointed a Republican in her place, the senate majority would flip from Democrat to Republican, effectively ending President Biden’s legislative agenda.

“I want to focus on what we said ‘yes’ to as a state. We said ‘yes’ to science. We said ‘yes’ to vaccines. We said ‘yes’ to ending this pandemic. We said ‘yes’ to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression. We said ‘yes’ to women’s fundamental, constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body and her fate and future. We said ‘yes’ to diversity. We said ‘yes’ to inclusion. We said ‘yes’ to pluralism. We said ‘yes’ to all those things that we hold dear as Californians,” said Newsom during his election night victory speech.

“I’m very pleased to see that the election to recall Governor Newsom failed. Recalls should be used for reasons that include crimes or significant ethical improprieties. The use of the recall because the minority party wants their own candidate, is an abuse of the recall system. This was the sixth recall attempt in Governor Newsom’s two and a half years and the only one to come to the ballot because the recall petitions were allowed to circulate for an additional 4 months. It was a serious waste of time and hundreds of millions of our tax dollars,” said Walnut Creek Mayor Kevin Wilk in a statement to The Page.

Senior Moxie Marsh was not surprised by the results, saying, “…I didn’t really expect Elder to win, but also it’s Newsom so I didn’t weep with joy.” Marsh also expressed her dissatisfaction with Newsom: “He’s awful and compels people to be complacent with the status quo but at least he kind of tried sometimes to put peoples lives above profits…he could focus on supporting people in California with things like better and more affordable housing and actually listening to and supporting the needs of people instead of just doing what will look good for him in a photo or on paper and actually dedicating effort to make California a better place [and] not just look better on paper.”