It’s official: California Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall election.
California is one of nineteen states that allow voters to recall state officials. But in order to do so, a sufficient number of signatures must be gathered to qualify, namely at least 12% of the voters in the last election for the office. For Gavin Newsom, that number is 1,495,709 signatures.
Since 1913, there have been 179 attempts to recall various officials. Of those 179, only ten collected enough signatures to qualify for a recall election. However, of those ten, six of the officials were recalled. The one and only time a Governor has previously faced a recall election was Governor Gray Davis in 2003. He lost that election to his successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. So historically speaking, Newsom faces an uphill battle.
The Recall Campaign has gained over 2 million signatures. After the Secretary of State verifies that all the requirements have been met, a recall election must take place 60-80 days later, which means it will likely take place during the Fall. That election will ask voters two questions: (1) Do you want to recall Governor Gavin Newsom? And if more than 50% of them say yes, (2) Who should replace him? The candidate who receives the most votes wins the election—even if they don’t receive a majority.
One of the leaders of the Recall Campaign, California Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, recently wrote a book outlining his case for recalling Newsom, who, he says, “has mismanaged the COVID crisis in a way that embodies the endemic corruption of California state government. In the process, he’s taken that corruption to new depths—with devastating consequences for millions of people.”
But Kiley, who is a Republican, claims the Recall Campaign is about much more than partisan politics and should appeal to fair minded Democrats as well. “What is exceptional about Gavin Newsom’s COVID era performance,” Kiley says, “is the pernicious combination of corruption and lawlessness. He has compromised our institutions of self-government—the rule of law, checks and balances, separation of powers, representative democracy, and the Constitution itself—to promote himself and the cash-flush Special Interests that put him in office. It is Newsom’s abuse of extraordinary emergency powers for personal political gain, with a totalizing impact on California’s life, that makes this the most meritorious recall in our state’s history.”
Two examples suffice to illustrate the outrage many Californians feel: the “French Laundry scandal,” and schools.
The French Laundry is an upscale restaurant north of Napa, California’s famous wine country. While the rest of California was locked down and indoor dining was forbidden, Newsom was caught having an indoor dinner at the French Laundry with a number of people, including a lobbyist. None of them were socially distanced or wearing masks, and the wine bill alone was $12,000. Newsom’s conduct epitomized that of an out-of-touch elite who imposes laws and rules on others that he refuses to follow himself.
And when it came to schools, while the children of California were kept from their classrooms and forced to participate in distance learning from home, Newsom made sure his own children continued to attend a private school and enjoy in-person instruction, even while he blamed Californians for the spread of the virus.
Kiley also points out the staggering incompetence of California’s unemployment agency, which was dispensing billions of dollars in benefits to prisoners posing as claimants while millions of Californians continued to wait for theirs in the midst of the worst of the COVID crisis.
And when it came to COVID itself, Newsom presided over some of the worst testing, contact-tracing, and health systems management in the country. Despite the fact that many signed up to participate in the California Health Corps, Kiley claims that Newsom “kept in place Special Interest-backed barriers to working on the healthcare front lines,” and despite surges in cases, failed to utilize 99.979% of those who had signed up for the health corps. Despite Newsom’s claim of superior numbers from California, it frequently had the highest new COVID cases per capita and nearly the worst unemployment rate in the country.
But as Kiley notes, California’s problems didn’t begin with the pandemic:
California’s problems were boiling over before COVID-19. Despite boasting the world’s fifth largest economy, we have up to half the nation’s homeless. We also have the highest rate of poverty, nearly the worst income inequality, the highest housing prices, among the worst roads and bridges, and the worst education for poor students in the continental United States. A recent survey showed a staggering 53 percent of residents were thinking of leaving. When over half of your people want out, that’s called a failed state.
These issues are not left or right, Republican or Democrat, but the basics of modern society. That’s why the Recall Campaign, led by Kiley and others, hopes to bring about a fundamental shift in California politics, and make the Golden State golden once more.