A polarizing campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is in the works. Who is really benefitting?
By Allin Eris
Both Republicans and Democrats are frustrated with the leadership of Gov. Gavin Newsom as California struggles to stave off the coronavirus pandemic, which has surpassed 54,000 deaths to date statewide.
California is one of 19 states with provisions to recall a sitting governor. This is the sixth attempt to recall Newsom since he took office in 2019, but the first to gain solid traction.
Much of the criticism for logistical failures, like mishandled vaccine distribution and fluctuating plans to reopen the state, has landed squarely on Newsom’s shoulders. Supporters and detractors have clashed over whether the state has been too slow to reopen businesses or too lax with pandemic safety measures.
Personal choices have also harmed the governor’s public image. In November, Newsom attended an indoor, non-socially distanced birthday party, contrary to state guidelines. The gathering occurred at upscale restaurant French Laundry in Napa Valley, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. He has since apologized for the incident.
City College students and faculty shared their views on the apparent disconnect between public policy, private behavior and what’s good for Angelenos.
“I feel like a lot of people are angry with him,” said Jasmine Lee, who is a music major. “A lot of the restaurant owners were just like really, really pissed about how he’s handling the pandemic right now.”
State officials lifted the regional stay-at-home order on Jan. 25. Outdoor dining resumed in Los Angeles later that week and received a mixed response.
A February episode of Saturday Night Live described him as “hated by every single person in California except those ten people he had dinner with in Napa that one time.”
L.A. City College Communications Chair Sarah Crachiolo-Garcia is confident that Newsom can get back on track.
“He needs to stick to his guns,” Crachiolo-Garcia said. “For a long time, California did well in the pandemic. Then when he bowed to political pressure and started allowing things to open, that’s when the cases went up.”
The petition needs 1,495,709 signatures to appear on the next ballot. According to RecallGavin2020.com, they have already collected more than 1,825,000, but those signatures still need to be verified by election officials. A state report from early February authenticated 83% of the signatures. That puts the petition drive on schedule to make the March 17 deadline.
Despite interest from both parties, the petition to recall Newsom is primarily Republican-driven. Many firearms and tactical gear stores serve as the Los Angeles sites for signature collection in the county. The effort has also attracted significant donations, including $250,000 from the Republican National Committee.
“I have a couple of friends who moved to Idaho because they thought Gavin Newsom was like, this authoritarian,” LACC sociology and gender studies double major Tara Timberman told the Collegian. “They’re Democrats, but they are like anti-masker, anti-COVID, anti-vaxxer people. I mean . . . I feel like a lot of those signatures are probably coming from people like that.”
If the ballot initiative is successful, Newsom will face Republican opposition funded by donors ready to spend big after losing the White House. Democrats hoping for better management could end up with a wild card candidate.
The last governor recall resulted in the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.
Professor Crachiolo-Garcia says it is unlikely that California voters today would elect another Republican governor.
“They might have a strong candidate, but I don’t think he’s going to get replaced by a Republican governor,” she said. “I don’t think he should be recalled.”
Even if Newsom were to be ousted, political divisions aren’t going anywhere. In the end, it might be safer to side with ‘the devil you already know.’
Once recall organizers signatures are verified, an election date must be set within 60 to 80 days according to the voter and political information site, Ballotpedia.
“I would love a governor that is less stupid,” said one student who asked not to be identified. “But I guess we can’t risk it if we might get someone worse.”