There are two Californias in recall politics

Ideology splits the state along geographical lines


Categorizing and mapping recall candidates reveals something very interesting about California recall politics. Recall ideology has split the state along geographical lines.

With Doug Ose dropping out of the race, there are now 45 candidates competing to be the next governor in the recall election, scheduled for Sept. 14. Out of this lot, there are 24 Republicans, nine Democrats, 10 declaring no party preference, two from the Green Party and one Libertarian.

That’s not the interesting part. This breakdown stands to reason. Overwhelmingly, it’s the non-Democrats who want to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom. For obvious reasons. At stake is the sizable budget surplus in California — $76 billion or $38 billion, depending on who you talk to — after a historic rise in revenue. It would be great to control where the money is spent. But the very fact that there is a budget surplus tells the voting public that the state’s fiscal policies are in working order. Republicans, who are wealthier, bigger and hungrier than others, therefore need a different strategy. And along comes the recall election.

The Republicans on the recall ballot don’t have a glimmer of hope of winning a gubernatorial election in California, unless it is a recall election. In a gubernatorial recall election, one of these Republicans, some of whom have lost handily in past elections, now has a fighting chance to run the state and manage the surplus.

As Berkeley law professors Erwin Chemerinsky and Aaron S. Edlin wrote in an analysis for the New York Times, because of the way the two questions on the ballot are posed, “Mr. Newsom can receive far more votes than any other candidate but still be removed from office.”

The two questions are: 1) Shall GAVIN NEWSOM be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor? Yes/No; and 2) If so, which of the candidates on the ballot should replace him?

Outlining the scenario, the professors explained that if there were 10 million people voting in the recall election and 5,000,001 vote to remove Mr. Newsom, while 4,999,999 vote to keep him in office, he will then be removed and a new governor, the one who gets the most votes on the second question, will be instated. Of the candidates on the ballot, Republican talk show host Larry Elder leads with 21 percent of the vote, according to a recent poll. Therefore, Elder would likely receive the votes of 2.1 million people in this scenario. Without any consideration made to the 5 million people who opted to keep Newsom in office, Elder would become governor.

So, the number of Republicans offering themselves up as candidates in the recall election is not surprising, since this “back door entrance” is likely the only way to the governor’s office.

What is remarkable is that only 12 out of the 45 candidates come from northern California and a staggering 29 are from the Los Angeles and San Diego spread. (See listing below.)

It’s true that the south is more populous than the north. But the candidate distribution is not exactly proportional. San Jose, the third most dense city in the Bay Area, offered up no candidates. And the Bay Area, with 3.3 million people, has produced only five contenders, none of whom have any real skin in this recall game. From San Francisco, we have Democrat Joel Ventresca and Michael Loebs and Major Singh with no party preference. East Bay candidates David Moore and Denis Lucey are also independent candidates.

As expected, most of the candidates from the south are Republicans. The tally shows 16 Republicans, six Democrats, one Green party candidate, one Libertarian and five professing no party preference. In contrast, the majority of candidates from the north are independents.

The prominent frontrunners in this recall race Larry Elder, Kevin Paffrath, John Cox, Kevin Faulconer and Kevin Kiley. All but one are from the southern part of the state. All but one are Republicans, and all but one are Trump positive or Trump adjacent candidates.

Elder, besides extolling Trump’s cruel immigration policies, is the “Beyond Trump” candidate, with extreme positions on a multitude of issues. In his book, “The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America,” he rejects the idea of systemic racism against Blacks, members of his own community, declaring that “The real danger lies with the NAACP not with the KKK.” And he displays a misogyny that’s pretty absurd: “Women know less than men about political issues, economics and current events.”

Paffrath, a Democratic candidate from Ventura, is the lone anti-Trumper among this lot. Faulconer, a moderate conservative, has expressed support for Trump and voted for him in the 2020 election. Cox, who ran and lost against Newsom in 2018, was endorsed by Trump. Assemblyman Kiley has refused to concede that Biden was legitimately elected in the 2020 presidential election.

While there are Trumpians fueling this recall everywhere, it appears that SoCalers are far more energized and motivated to replace the governor.

So, perhaps this is the moment for the entire state to be outraged at the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on this political travesty. This is the moment to unite and vote no on the recall. Over 7.7 million voters elected Newsom to office two years ago, and he has been consistently working on critical issues affecting Californians from the pandemic to wildfires to affordable housing. We must see these through. And it’s worth noting that Newsom has been instrumental in maintaining the budget surplus, despite the lockdowns of the previous year. I vote to keep him in office for the remaining days of his term. I hope you do, too.

Candidates in the 2021 California Governor Recall Election, by region

Candidates in the 2021 California Governor Recall Election, by region

Jaya Padmanabhan is a guest columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner. Twitter: @jayapadmanabhan.

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