Potential for Recall Election of California Governor Grows

By Meghan Imperio

The recall election for Governor Newsom gains momentum as more signatures are verified.

The recall of California Governor Gavin Newsom started as a petition driven by Republicans during Trump’s presidency but has quickly gained support from both Democrats and Republicans alike. Californians say their displeasure stems from the prolonged closure of small and large businesses, Newsom’s failure to adequately address the growing homeless population, the delay of reopening schools, and his general conduct and response to the pandemic.

For the movement to recall the Governor to be successful, the petition needed at least 1,495,709 valid signatures by March 17th, 2021, and the state received the recall petition with 2.1 million signatures.

According to Ballotpedia, the California Secretary of State has verified 1,188,073 signatures, which leaves more than 900 thousand signatures left to be counted, of which only 307,636 need to be valid signatures. If the petition receives the number of valid signatures required, there will be a recall election within 60 to 80 days of signature verification.

However, the recall will continue to be an uphill battle based on the history of recalling California governors.

An article by The Economist describes that if enough of the signatures on the petition are verified, Californians will be asked two questions: Do you want the Governor to be recalled, and who do you want to replace the Governor? However, due to the demographics of Republicans and Democrats, The Economist states that it’s unlikely that people will want to replace Governor Gavin Newsom at all:

“The polling also suggests Mr. Newsom may elude dismissal. In a Probolsky Research poll, only 35% of likely voters said Mr. Newsom should be recalled; 53% said he should not be. Californians’ voting preferences have changed since Mr. Davis’s recall. In 2003, 35% of voters were registered as Republicans; today, 24% are.”

The article goes on to say that anyone associated with the Republican party is permanently tainted and highly unlikely to win in California, which contributes to the belief that the recall election will not be successful.

Further, The Economist article describes that since 1913, there have been 179 attempts to recall elected state officials in California, only 10 of which received enough signatures to qualify for an election. Of the 179 attempts to recall state officials, 55 were movements to recall a California Governor.

The only successful recall of a California Governor since 1913 was the recall of Democratic Governor Gray Davis in 2003, who was replaced by Republican Governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was the last Republican Governor to be elected in California.

In an interview with POLITICO, former Governor Schwarzenegger articulates his feelings about the recall and how it relates to the 2003 recall that led to his election.

The article states: “In his first-ever interview on this year’s California recall drive, which is expected to be certified soon, the Republican former governor tells POLITICO that the same voter frustration and yearning for effective leadership and post-partisan cooperation are still clearly at play in the nation’s most populous state”

Schwarzenegger describes that he sees the same growing tension that he did in 2003. People are growing dissatisfied with the state government’s failure to fulfill the promises made by elected officials. He also states that the breaking point for both Republicans and Democrats was when the press saw Newsom at an expensive, indoor dinner at the French Laundry.

Further, when asked about whether Newsom should take responsibility for how the reopening of pandemic and the regulations regarding COVID-19 has gone, Schwarzenegger responded:

“I’m very sensitive about one thing — and this is when we go and pretend it’s only happening in California. I was in the mid-60s with my approval rating when I was Governor in 2007. Then in 2008, in the recession, my poll numbers plummeted.

So today is the same thing. We have to be careful. The whole nation and the entire world is fighting over, ‘Should we take the kids to school or not? What is risky?’ The virus is a world phenomenon. And people are just angry — angry that the kids are not in school, angry that we’re supposed to follow science, and there’s a whole crisis going on here and nationwide.”

Schwarzenegger’s response suggests that the anger towards Newsom due to his handling of the pandemic is largely anger at the world’s current condition as a whole rather than a reaction to the individual actions of Gavin Newsom.

Schwarzenegger concludes by giving advice to Newsom. He states that the recall is an outlet for people to release their anger and that Newsom has already made progress towards repairing his relationship with Californians in order to prevent his recall:

“The only advice I have for him is that he’s doing a good job now. That he has improved his connection with the people, and that he should continue on being real — being himself, and to really always just think about the people — and not about the unions, not about the party, not about any of that — just the people. And to solve the problems. Solve the problems.”
Although Schwarzenegger states, he does not support the recall and encourages Newsom to address the problems he can reasonably address.

Ultimately, the growing potential of a recall leads to concerns about how Newsom’s actions will play out within the next few months as a result of his potential removal.

As the article by The Economist states: “Whatever the outcome, the recall drive means Mr. Newsom will spend the year campaigning rather than governing, at a time that the state has urgent needs.”

Meghan Imperio is a writer for the LA Vanguard’s social justice desk. She is an English major at UCLA, originally from Glendale, CA.


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