LOS ANGELES – The recall effort against California Governor Gavin Newsom is already showing signs of transformation into another circus like the one that ultimately brought down Gray Davis in 2003.
On Tuesday, Axios reported that Caitlyn Jenner, former reality star, Olympian and even more famous Kardashian mother-in-law, was considering entering the gubernatorial race if a recall petition qualifies for voting. NBC did not verify if Jenner intended to run, and she did not publicly announce a decision.
Jenner’s potential candidacy marks the first of what many strategists believe to be a long line of celebrity and newcomer nominees that may closely mirror what California voters experienced in 2003 when adult film star Mary Carey, child actor Gary Coleman and “Hustler” editor Larry Flynt added their names to a list of more than 100 future governors. Action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger ultimately won this election.
Almost 20 years later, the comparisons end there.
None of the three Republican contenders who have announced their intention to run for governor have statewide name recognition similar to Schwarzenegger. Kevin Faulconer, considered the favorite as of now, is the former mayor of San Diego and is not well known outside of Southern California. Businessman John Cox lost to Newsom in double-digit 2018 and Doug Ose, a former congressman, also briefly ran for governor in 2018 before dropping out of the race, the Associated reported. Press.
“The biggest thing Newsom has to do is stop a Democrat from running,” said Rob Stutzman, Republican strategist and former spokesman for Schwarzenegger. “So far so good, but it’s also easy at the moment. We wait several months. “
The organizers of the recall say they have collected more than 2 million signatures, well above the 1.5 million needed to reach the state threshold. Counties have until the end of April to verify signatures and report their counts to state election officials. The California Department of Finance will take about 30 days to produce an election cost estimate before a legislative committee reviews the results. Only then will an election date be set.
If a recall qualifies for the ballot, voters will be asked two questions: the first would be whether they want to recall Newsom and the second would be who should replace him. There is no limit to the number of people who can show up, and whoever gets the most votes wins.
Since Davis’ recall in 2003, California’s political landscape has shifted more and more to the left. Registered Republican voters made up 35% of the California electorate in February 2003, according to the California Secretary of State’s office, while this year they represented 24%.
In contrast, 44% were registered Democrats in 2003, and this year it’s 46%. In 2003, 15% refused to indicate which party they belonged to, while this year 24% of voters registered under “no party preference”.
“Politically, we are a completely different state than we were in 2003,” Katie Merrill, a Democratic strategist, said Wednesday during a Facebook Live panel hosted by the Sacramento Press Club. “If you look at the races statewide, the Republican Party has effectively become a third party in California.”
Democratic strategist Ace Smith added during the panel, “It’s a different time. We’re in a state where, frankly, there were Republicans who were somewhat moderate. Trump’s Republican Party lost [its] path.”
Former President Donald Trump, whose name has been repeatedly referred to as some sort of political scarecrow, marks another notable difference between the recall effort against Newsom and the campaign against Davis.
Since the effort to oust Newsom first surfaced, Democrats in California have rallied around the idea that the recall campaign is a takeover by bitter Trump loyalists over the loss of the White House for the benefit of President Joe Biden.
Dan Newman, a campaign adviser for Newsom, last month called the recall campaign “pure partisan politics,” while Newsom said white supremacists and right-wing militias, including the Proud Boys, were part of the campaign. supporters of the recall.
“We’re just concerned that the violence is moving into the future as we move further and further away from the January insurgency and let our guards down. We must remain vigilant about these groups and their seriousness, “Newsom told MSNBC in March.” All you need is about a quarter of the people who backed Trump to just sign a petition and it looks like they did. “
In 2003, Davis didn’t have such a specter to distract from his office. He was already embroiled in various crises when he won a second term in 2002. Davis had been heavily criticized for reacting too slowly to an energy crisis that cut power to more than a million residents across the state. between 2000 and 2001. He later apologized. for his handling of the situation, but the debacle damaged his reputation.
Davis won re-election in 2002 with 47 percent of the vote. In 2003, only 27% of California voters approved of his professional performance, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. The option to recall Davis received 55 percent of the vote.
In contrast, 40% of California voters said they would choose to recall Newsom and 79% of those respondents identified themselves as Republicans, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, a non-partisan research organization. Newsom’s approval rating is also higher than Davis’s on a recall. Last month, Newsom’s approval rate among likely voters was 53%, with 42% of respondents saying they disapproved of his professional performance.
“If no other Democrats enter the race and it stays that way – the economy is picking up, the coronavirus isn’t going up anymore, and all of that looks good – then he won’t be as unpopular as Davis was,” Stutzman said. .
Unlike Davis, whose administration was bogged down by a $ 38 billion budget deficit, Newsom boasted of a one-time surplus of $ 15 billion at the start of the year, according to its 2021-2022 budget proposal. During the pandemic, wealthy Californians made $ 185 billion in capital gains income, or money from the sale of assets, which translated into $ 18.5 billion in tax revenue for state, The Associated Press reported. Because of the surplus, Newsom’s plan would spend $ 25 billion more than last year.
But homelessness and record unemployment have continued to plague California throughout the pandemic, and now experts are warning this summer could spark another series of catastrophic fires in the state. As residents battle crises on multiple fronts, donors say it’s too early to celebrate victory.
“What a disconnect,” said Anne Dunsmore, a fundraiser. “Do you have people living on the streets who are inundated with their tents, and we’re going to brag about a surplus?” Go spend it.