Election Night

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Full Speed Ahead on Overhauling California Recalls

Posted By on Thu, Sep 16, 2021 at 9:33 AM

A Gavin Newsom supporter holds up a sign against the recall election at a campaign event at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. - PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF, CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
  • A Gavin Newsom supporter holds up a sign against the recall election at a campaign event at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021.
With the wreckage of the failed recall attempt against Gov. Gavin Newsom still smoldering, California Democrats have reached a new consensus: They really don’t want to do that again.

On the morning after voting ended and recall candidates conceded, the chairpersons of the election committees in the state Assembly and Senate said they’re kicking off a public debate to overhaul California’s recall process.

“Californians are very frustrated that we just spent $276 million on this recall election that, from the looks of it, certified what voters said three years ago and what voters could have said next year,” Assemblymember Marc Berman of Los Altos said at the virtual press conference Wednesday.

In unofficial and partial statewide returns, 5.8 million Californians voted to keep Gov. Newsom in office, compared to 3.3 million who voted to remove him. Newsom, himself, says the recall has been “weaponized.”

“The voters want to see a more democratic process put in place that keeps elected officials accountable, but prevents political gamesmanship,” added Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda.

Berman and Glazer said they plan to hold joint hearings as soon as next month. They also want the discussion to be bipartisan.


The Little Hoover Commission, a nonpartisan, independent state oversight agency, also announced this week that it would be looking into possible changes to the state recall.

But it’s not clear if any Republicans, who put so many electoral chips on the recall, will get on board.

“Democrats continuously try to manipulate the rules to support their political interests, so it’s not surprising to see them trying to do it again at the expense of voters they were elected to serve,” California GOP Chairperson Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement. “They wouldn’t have to worry about a recall if they were doing their jobs and addressing wildfire prevention, homelessness, crime, taxes and fixing the broken unemployment department. You want to prevent a recall, do your job.”

Republican Kelly Seyarto from Murrieta, vice chairperson of the Assembly election committee, was non-committal. “I am looking forward to participating in these hearings to ensure that we have a recall process that continues to hold elected officials accountable and protects the rights of voters to participate in our democracy,” he said in an emailed statement.

GOP political consultant Dave Gilliard is skeptical that any members of his party will ultimately back a change to the recall rules. “There is zero chance any Republican will go along,” said Gilliard, who worked on the successful 2003 campaign to recall Democrat Gray Davis, as well as this one.

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Sen. Josh Newman, a Democrat from Brea who in 2018 became the most recent state official to be removed from office by recall, also doubts whether any recall reform will be bipartisan. “I would be tickled pink if any member of the Republican caucus on either side of the Legislature stepped up to support meaningful changes to the recall at this point,” said Newman, who was elected again in 2020.

On Wednesday, Newman said he will introduce two constitutional amendments to change the process: One to make it more difficult for recalls to qualify for the ballot, and a second that would replace a recalled governor with the lieutenant governor.

The recall’s unusual rules

Once a rarely used — and to many voters, thoroughly obscure — provision of the state constitution, California’s recall is now the subject of unprecedented scrutiny. That’s because though the state’s last Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was elected via recall in 2003, this year’s attempt put some of the system’s quirks into sharp relief.

“California laws should not allow an elected official to be recalled and then replaced by someone else who receives far fewer votes.”

Assemblymember Marc Berman of Los Altos

Unlike in 2003, when Davis was polling in the mid-20s, Newsom faced a recall despite remaining broadly popular with California voters. That’s convinced many Democratic legislators that the law makes it too easy to put a recall on the ballot.

And unlike in 2003, when Schwarzenegger won with 48 percent of the vote and had more support than the 45 percent who wanted to keep Davis, there was no such frontrunner this year. Given the quirky two-questioned structure of the recall, 2021’s fragmented field could have produced a candidate like Larry Elder who became the next governor after winning fewer votes than were cast in defense of Newsom.

“California laws should not allow an elected official to be recalled and then replaced by someone else who receives far fewer votes, and I really look forward to hearing from a bipartisan group of experts about how California’s recall process should be reformed,” said Berman.

On the Democratic side, momentum for change has been building for months. Earlier this summer, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber said the state’s recall rules deserve a “second look.” More recently, former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown called the process “awkward and cumbersome and certainly a distraction” while Davis, the state’s only recalled governor, has his own ideas for reform.

“It’s a process that was put in place about a century ago and it certainly bears looking at,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a television interview Tuesday night.

There are two reasons that Democrats will likely have an easier time changing the rules after this recall than they did in 2003, said UC San Diego political scientist Thad Kousser.

“One, the Democrats won by the rules of the game and now they can change those rules without looking like sore losers,” he said. “And two, they have the votes.”

As for Californians themselves, a recent UC Berkeley survey of registered voters found that an overwhelming majority, 75 percent, look upon the electorate’s recall powers favorably. But a consistent majority also favor making tweaks to the process.

The call for legislative hearings is only the first step in a long process. Any serious alterations would require constitutional amendments. That means getting two-thirds of both legislative chambers on board to put the question to voters. That won’t happen until 2022 at the earliest.

While Democrats have enough votes in both the Assembly and Senate to put constitutional amendments on the ballot, it would likely take some independent voters, as well as Democrats, to win approval statewide — thus at least the window dressing of a bipartisan recall reform effort.

Glazer and Berman said they were “open minded” about the range of changes up for debate. Here’s a short list of possibilities, ranked from more minor tweaks to outright nixes:

Increase the requirements for recalls

A recall election against a governor qualifies for the ballot if its supporters can gather signatures equivalent to 12 percent of the turnout in the prior gubernatorial election. This time around, that number was just shy of 1.4 million; recall proponents collected more than 1.7 million.

“How can anybody with a straight face argue that it’s too easy or it’s being abused when it’s happened twice in 108 years?”

GOP political consultant Dave Gilliard

Of the 19 states that allow voters to put a recall on the ballot, only Montana makes it easier, with a 10 percent threshold. Other states put the requirement between 15 percent and 40 percent.

The current cutoff may have made sense in 1913 when the recall was introduced as a popular check against the political influence of railroad interests, Newman said. But in the age of social media, he said he’d like to see the requirement set at “something more rigorous” to “adjust for political inflation.”

Gilliard, however, dismissed the suggestion that it’s too easy to put a recall on the ballot.

“In 108 years, two gubernatorial recall elections have qualified for the ballot,” he said. “How can anybody with a straight face argue that it’s too easy or it’s being abused when it’s happened twice in 108 years?”

UC Berkeley Law school Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who has argued that the state’s recall may be unconstitutional, countered that Californians live in a more polarized political environment in which Republican activists are more likely to use the recall to win in low-turnout off-year elections when they can’t succeed in regularly contests.

“We should realize that we may be in an era where there’s going to be more and more efforts to use recalls if changes aren’t made,” he said. “I hope that this is not going to be a situation where people breathe a sigh of relief and just forget about it until the next time this happens.”

Add a ‘cause’ requirement

In the governor’s office, as in any job, California is an at-will employment state. Any governor can be recalled at any time for any reason. No justification required.

While no-cause recalls are the norm, that isn’t true in every state. Rhode Island, for example, requires that the governor have broken a law or gotten into trouble with the state’s ethics commission before booting them from office.

Without weighing in on the idea directly, Berman said the debate over whether “criminal misconduct or malfeasance should be a kind of threshold issue is something that we’re going to discuss.”

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis waves to the crowd as she walks toward the podium at an anti-recall campaign event for Gov. Gavin Newsom at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis waves to the crowd as she walks toward the podium at an anti-recall campaign event for Gov. Gavin Newsom at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Make the lieutenant governor the replacement

Unlike the ballot pairing of candidates for president and vice president, the lieutenant governor is elected separately and serves independently.

Newman, for one, favors elevating the lieutenant governor if a governor is removed and going without the second question on replacement candidates.

“We have a number two constitutional officer in California,” he said. “If you think the governor’s malfeasant, by all means, let’s have a plebiscite and remove him or her from the office. But let’s not use that as the pretext for getting a hidden ball trick do-over.“

Unlike some more expansive reform proposals, this one would only apply to recall efforts against the governor.

Go beyond ‘yes’ or ‘no’

As many confused California voters only recently learned, Newsom was not listed among the candidates vying for office on the recall ballot. That wasn’t an oversight; election law doesn’t allow an incumbent to run as his or her own replacement.

Sen. Ben Allen wants to change that. He introduced a constitutional amendment last year in response to Newman’s recall that would nix the first question altogether. If a recall qualifies, the state would go straight to a snap election. The idea: Avoid the counter-intuitive possibility that a recall winner could earn fewer votes than those cast to keep the incumbent in office.

A potential downside: There would be no requirement that the winner receive a majority. In a large field of candidates, like the 46 on this year’s recall ballot, the next governor could win with a sliver of the vote.

So why not hold a run-off election between the top two vote-getters, as in regular elections?

“Two rounds of recall elections on top of our regular election cycle?” asked Allen. “It would certainly be fairer than the current model, but I’m not sure that it would be particularly satisfying. In this case we would have had Elder versus (Democrat Kevin) Paffrath — would that really have solved everyone’s problems?”

Just get rid of the recall

Maybe one gubernatorial election every four years is enough?

This proposal isn’t likely to go anywhere, no matter what some political commentators might say. The recall remains popular as a general concept, even if there’s criticism of the specifics.

“Neither of us,” Glazer said with Berman, “are suggesting that the recall process be eliminated.”

CalMatters reporter Laurel Rosenhall contributed to this story.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The California Recall: The 2022 Campaign Starts Now

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2021 at 5:12 AM

Gov. Gavin Newsom gives a speech following his projected victory in the recall election at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento on Sept. 14, 2021. - ANNE WERNIKOFF, CALMATTERS
  • Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom gives a speech following his projected victory in the recall election at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento on Sept. 14, 2021.


Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to keep his job after months spent lambasting the recall as a Republican power grab; feverishly fundraising, wooing likely supporters and wrangling fractious progressive activists; sweating the odd, unexpectedly close poll; fusing policymaking and politicking; and calling upon big-name D.C. Democrats to come stump out west

And after all that, it wasn’t especially close. After initial returns showed the recall failing by a nearly 70 percent to 30 percent margin, the Associated Press and TV networks called the race for Newsom.

Now begins a new contest: To spin the results most favorably for the 2022 election — which starts right now. 

For Gov. Gavin Newsom and his political team, the last six months of campaigning offer an electoral blueprint to seek four more years. 



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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Live California Recall Election Results

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2021 at 8:00 PM

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Decision Time: Three Ways the California Recall Election Could Go

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2021 at 9:13 AM

For nearly 25 years, Gov. Gavin Newsom rose the ranks of California politics without ever losing an election, buoyed by connections to powerful San Francisco Democrats and a willingness to take risks — like sanctinoing same-sex marriage — that put him at the vanguard of his party.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor’s attention-grabbing style — implementing the nation’s first stay-at-home order in March 2020, then dining at an exclusive wine country restaurant as he told people to stay home to avoid a winter surge — rubbed enough Californians the wrong way that 1.7 million voters launched the second gubernatorial recall in state history.

And yet to fight back, the Democratic leader of one of the nation’s bluest states returned to what helped him succeed in the early days: connections to fellow Democrats and well-calculated policy risks — this time, to fight COVID-19.

At a campaign rally in Long Beach on Monday night, President Joe Biden heaped praise on Newsom’s management of the pandemic. Newsom this summer made California the first state in the nation to require vaccines for health care workers and state employees.

“Gavin Newsom has had the courage to lead, to stand up for science,” Biden said. “He’s been one of the leading governors in the nation protecting people and vaccinating his state.”

Echoing Newsom’s campaign message framing the GOP-led recall as an act of “Trumpism,” Biden described the leading Republican candidate — talk radio host Larry Elder — as “the clone of Donald Trump.”

“Can you imagine him being governor of this state? You can’t let that happen,” said Biden, who beat Trump in California last year by 30 points.

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Hosting the president the day before the election is just one sign of how much the power of incumbency has boosted Newsom in this race. With no legal cap on his fundraising against the recall, Newsom raised five times as much as all his opponents combined. His haul included $5.5 million from the Democratic Governors Association, $3 million from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and more than $7.6 million from public employee unions. He ran ads featuring nationally-known Democrats including former President Barack Obama and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

And the governor used the trappings of his office in unusual, attention-grabbing ways. He blasted critics “promoting partisan political power grabs” during a State of the State speech on the field of Dodger Stadium that served as an unofficial campaign kickoff. He used an enormous $76 billion state budget surplus to address pandemic-induced hardships, sending $600 stimulus payments to most Californians — checks that landed just before the election.

In the final days of the campaign, Newsom leaned into COVID even further, contrasting his vaccine and mask requirements with his GOP opponents who say they’ll repeal them — and hammering a message of fear. “What’s at stake in the Sept. 14 recall? It’s a matter of life and death,” one Newsom ad says.

Having persuaded prominent Democrats to stay out of the race to replace him, Newsom finished the campaign betting that the pandemic that fueled populist angst to take him down will also stimulate the support he needs to keep his job.

“One of the ironies of this recall is that COVID got him into trouble and COVID is going to, in the end, probably help him defeat this thing in a landslide,” said GOP consultant Rob Stutzman.

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Did Newsom’s strategy work? We’ll find out after polls close tonight at 8 p.m. It may take elections officials a few days to determine the results, depending on how close the race is. Here’s a look at the three possible scenarios:

Newsom wins by a lot

Newsom’s effort to win reelection in 2022 kicks off as soon as the recall votes are tallied. If the governor beats back the recall by a double-digit margin — as recent polls indicate is likely — he could claim a mandate that could empower him in at least two ways. He can continue governing the final year of this term with the same priorities he’s had all along — for enacting progressive social policy and taking a relatively strict approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic. And he can coast toward the 2022 campaign without fear of a credible challenger from his own party.

An overwhelming victory also could demonstrate to other Democrats on the ballot next year that leaning into COVID vaccine mandates — and painting GOP resistance to them as a public health danger — is a successful strategy.

“It’s a great thing when good public policy winds up with good politics,” said Ace Smith, Newsom’s longtime political strategist.

Stutzman agreed, saying that a big win by Newsom would show that voters favor his strict approach on vaccines.

“His team figured out that once a majority of voters were vaccinated, it becomes a popular idea to put forward policies that are in the best interest of those who are vaccinated,” said Stutzman, who worked on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful campaign in the 2003 recall.

“They figured it out before the White House did.”

President Biden required federal government employees to get vaccinated days after Newsom’s first announcement. He then followed it up last week with a broader mandate for employees at private companies.

Gov. Gavin Newsom supporters hold up signs urging voters to vote “no” on the recall during a campaign event at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Gov. Gavin Newsom supporters hold up signs urging voters to vote “no” on the recall during a campaign event at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

But even if Newsom wins by a lot, a show of strength now does not guarantee long-term political success. Any ambitions Newsom may have to run for president will be shaped by a lot more than defeating this recall, said Democratic strategist Paul Maslin.

“What he does on a host of issues that are very difficult over the next year — or the next five years if he has a second term — will be much more important to how he is judged,” Maslin said.

“Ultimately I don’t know that it will mean that much in the story of Gavin Newsom or California. It will be sort of a diversion that he had to respond to.”

Maslin, who worked on campaigns against the 2003 recall of former Gov. Gray Davis and for the failed recall of Republican former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, pointed to the example of Walker. He beat back a recall in 2012, won reelection in 2014 and was seen as a strong contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. But his presidential campaign flopped. And then in 2018, he ran for reelection as governor — and lost.

“Newsom was always going to be the huge favorite for reelection, and if he does win by a significant margin it will reinforce that status,” Maslin said. “What it says about the rest of his career is unknowable.”

Newsom wins by a little

Defeating the recall by a narrow margin — significantly less than his 24-percentage-point beatdown of Republican John Cox in 2018 — could weaken Newsom as he heads into reelection next year.

“If he limps out of this, there will be some blood in the water,” said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic political consultant. “Another Democrat will think they could do better and they can take him on.”

“He’s taking it seriously and he’s using a lot of resources to combat us… We’ve already won. We’ve made our point.”

Anne Dunsmore, a recall campaign manager

Republicans who backed the recall could claim a kind of victory from weakening the governor, even if they failed to throw him out of office. Some of them already are.

“He’s spent $80 million, he’s in the fight of his life, he’s called in the president and the vice president,” said Anne Dunsmore, a recall campaign manager.

“He’s taking it seriously and he’s using a lot of resources to combat us… We’ve already won. We’ve made our point.”

A narrow win would also likely trigger lawsuits over the validity of the election results. Conservative commentators have already begun saying, with no evidence, that voter fraud will be to blame if Newsom wins. Former President Donald Trump issued a statement Monday calling the recall “another giant Election Scam.”

Elder has said he plans to file lawsuits over election irregularities. His website links to another site that asks voters to sign a petition “demanding a special session of the California legislature to investigate and ameliorate the twisted results of this 2021 Recall Election of Governor Gavin Newsom.”

Newsom called Elder’s stance “an extension of the Big Lie” that Trump stoked about his loss last year.

“The election hasn’t even happened and now they’re all fanning election fraud,” Newsom said Friday. “I encourage voters to come out in overwhelming numbers… So we can put all this nonsense to rest.”

Newsom is thrown out of office

More recent polls have consistently indicated that it’s unlikely the recall will prevail. If voters do throw Newsom out of office, it will show how difficult it is for pollsters to predict an unusual election such as a gubernatorial recall, where it can be hard to measure how many voters will turn out.

So far, older and white voters are returning their ballots at a higher rate than other demographic groups, according to tabulations by Political Data Inc. If the recall is successful, it may be because younger voters and Latino voters — key blocs in the Democratic coalition — don’t cast ballots, or vote to recall Newsom.

Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager for Rescue California, a pro-recall organization, said President Biden and Vice President Harris should be attending to matters in Washington, D.C., rather than campaigning for Gov. Newsom during a media availability on Sept. 9, 2021 at the state Capitol. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager for Rescue California, a pro-recall organization, said President Biden and Vice President Harris should be attending to matters in Washington, D.C., rather than campaigning for Gov. Gavin Newsom. Dunsmore spoke on Sept. 9, 2021 at the state Capitol. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

A successful recall would be a huge victory for the California GOP, which has been beleaguered and shrinking for many years. If Newsom is recalled, the new governor — most likely talk radio host Elder — would be sworn in by the end of October.

Though a Republican governor would face many hurdles enacting new laws because of the huge majority Democrats have in the Legislature, he could have the chance to make a significant political appointment, should Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is 88, become unable to finish her term. Elder has said he would appoint a Republican to her seat.

That’s why Democrat Christine Pelosi said that if Newsom is recalled, California lawmakers should immediately call a special session and change the rules for how political vacancies are filled in the Senate and state constitutional offices. Right now, there are few limits on who the governor can appoint to those positions. Pelosi, the daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an officer with the California Democratic Party, said the rules could be changed to require replacement by someone from the same party as the outgoing official.

“The Legislature can do that,” she said. “And in my view they should.”

Every governor since 1960 has faced an attempted recall, but most of them fell short of the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Would liberal activists try to recall a Republican winner of this recall?

It’s possible. But it seems unlikely, given the time involved in mounting a recall and the regularly scheduled gubernatorial election next year.

“Timing-wise it doesn’t make sense,” Pelosi said.

And no matter what

Expect California lawmakers to begin working on possible changes to the recall process. Whether there will be bipartisan support for an overhaul is unclear. But Democratic leaders said they intend to start examining the recall rules later this year or early next year.

“We’ve heard that people want change, and we in the Legislature will take a look at that,” state Senate leader Toni Atkins told reporters on Friday.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon echoed her view, saying the recall system “was set up a century ago. The extent to which it’s still valid in its current form… merits discussion.”

Surveys have shown that California voters support changing the recall rules. Potential changes could include a runoff if no replacement candidate receives a majority of the vote, making it harder for recalls to qualify for the ballot and limiting recalls to situations where a public official has broken the law.

Such changes would require approval from voters. So any plan that lawmakers come up with would likely go on the ballot next year in the form of a statewide initiative.

That’s right: Voting in the recall election ends today. But recall rules may be on the ballot next year.

CalMatters reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn contributed to this story.

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Monday, September 13, 2021

Polling error: How One Survey Changed the Newsom Recall Campaign

Posted By on Mon, Sep 13, 2021 at 2:20 PM

Gov. Gavin Newsom prepares to vote in the recall election at the Secretary of State building in Sacramento on Sept. 10, 2021. - PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF, CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom prepares to vote in the recall election at the Secretary of State building in Sacramento on Sept. 10, 2021.
The panic started to set in for California Democrats in the last week of July.

First, there was a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll on July 27, which showed that likely voters were just about evenly split on whether or not Gov. Gavin Newsom deserves to keep his job.

A few days later came an even more alarming set of figures from SurveyUSA: A majority of likely voters, 51 percent, wanted to fire Newsom, compared to a mere 40 percent who did not. It came at a pivotal moment in the chaotic recall, just hours before the first televised debate. And it showed the power of polls — not just to offer a snapshot of the race, but to shape it.

This one poll upended the conventional wisdom that pundits and political consultants had been spouting for months: The Democratic governor of the reliably Democratic state had little reason to fear the Sept. 14 recall. “Shock poll shows Gavin Newsom losing recall vote by double digits,” read one headline. The widely monitored poll average at FiveThirtyEight snapped from the “no” on recall campaign leading by 7 percentage points to a tie. With a relative scarcity of large statewide polls, that single survey “kind of swung the numbers a lot,” polling guru Nate Silver said in a podcast last week.

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For California Democrats, the prospect of Newsom succumbing to a conservative-led recall campaign was the stuff of nightmares.

But it was also exactly what Newsom and the “no” campaign needed to rouse liberal-leaning voters. They immediately blasted out the bad news like a statistical bat signal for apathetic Democrats.

“This recall is close,” read the fundraising email to supporters on Aug. 5, the day after the SurveyUSA poll was released. “Close enough to start thinking about what it’d be like if we had a Republican Governor in California. Sorry to put the thought in your head, but it’s true.”

Only maybe it wasn’t.

In its next poll, released at the end of August, SurveyUSA issued a mea culpa in a memo addendum that said the prior poll may have misworded a question and inadvertently inflated the “yes” on recall numbers.

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The Democratic panic of early August has since subsided. A UC Berkeley poll out Friday shows the recall failing by 22 percentage points. The latest from SurveyUSA gave Newsom a solid 13-point lead. Now a new conventional wisdom has taken hold: The recall faces long odds because Newsom’s Democratic base of voters has woken up.

SurveyUSA CEO Jay Leve admits that their earlier poll could have acted as an alarm clock. “It was not our intention to cause Democrats to suddenly sit bolt upright in their chairs,” he told CalMatters. And yet, “that, I think, happened.”

There are other factors that likely snapped complacent anti-recall voters to attention: A $70 million get-out-the-vote campaign from Team Newsom, the decision by every major GOP hopeful to vocally oppose popular vaccine mandates, a surprise U.S. Supreme Court decision restricting abortion rights, the arrival of ballots in the mail to every active registered voter and an increase in media coverage as Tuesday’s election approached.

And then there was the emergence of right-wing provocateur Larry Elder as the leading replacement candidate, at 38 percent in the latest poll. The conservative radio host secured a place on the ballot at the last minute, and only thanks to a judge’s ruling that wiped out a requirement that candidates disclose tax returns. He became a useful foil for Newsom, especially after Elder’s ex-fiancée alleged that he waved a gun at her while high on marijuana — which Elder denied — and reporters began digging through his long history of controversial comments on women, race and other issues.

“There are two ways in which the polls, potentially, not only reflected but shaped the campaign: One was through this creation of crisis, which motivated Gavin Newsom’s donors, his political allies and his base,” said UC San Diego political scientist Thad Kousser.

“The second and perhaps more important thing was the polls over the past month have made it clear that Larry Elder would be the next governor, if the recall is successful. Since then Gavin Newsom seems to be gaining ground. Those two facts are not unrelated.”

‘A contrarian story’

UCLA political scientist and public opinion researcher Matt Barreto is happy to knock other pollsters for their work on the recall (“It was conducted by drunk clowns,” he said of an August Emerson College survey that showed a close race).

But he also said the media deserves some blame for mischaracterizing the state of the race earlier in the summer.

“People in your industry don’t put any effort into it,” he told CalMatters. “A really poor quality poll comes out…and you think, ‘This is a contrarian story, let’s start repeating this!’ Instead, people should have looked at it and laughed it out of their news feed.”

San Francisco Labor Council member Kim Tavaglione, center, participates in a protest against the recall election along with members of various labor groups outside the San Francisco County Superior Court on Aug. 12, 2021. Demonstrators gathered in response to a press event by Rescue California, one of the groups supporting the recall. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
San Francisco Labor Council member Kim Tavaglione, center, participates in a protest against the recall election along with members of various labor groups outside San Francisco County Superior Court on Aug. 12, 2021. Demonstrators gathered in response to a press event by Rescue California, one of the groups supporting the recall. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

But in early August, there were plenty of data points to support the contrarian narrative that Newsom could be in trouble. And that trouble had a name: the “enthusiasm gap.”

The July Berkeley poll showed that though Newsom maintained a healthy lead among all registered voters, “likely voters” — those the pollster assumed would actually return their ballots — were evenly divided.

To find likely voters for its early August poll, SurveyUSA asked each respondent if they planned to cast a ballot “in the recall election to remove the Governor.” That phrasing, the pollster’s later memo noted, could have been interpreted not as an inquiry about the respondent’s general voting plans, but about whether they intended to specifically vote “yes.” That would have weeded recall opponents out of the pool of likely voters.

“It was not our intention to cause Democrats to suddenly sit bolt upright in their chairs.”

SurveyUSA CEO Jay Leve

The poll put its thumb on the scales in another way. Rather than list all 46 replacement candidates, the survey included only seven, along with “other” and “undecided” as choices. Only one of the listed candidates, YouTube real estate advice personality Kevin Paffrath, was a Democrat. That led some Democratic respondents to choose him, whether or not they knew who he was, making Paffrath the top replacement candidate with 27 percent support.

“The balloon that SurveyUSA had initially shown for Paffrath was just — what’s the right word?” Leve said, pausing. “Indefensible.”

Still, that surprise number earned the candidate a series of national media profiles — and more coverage in California, including in CalMatters. He later qualified for a televised debate, and still hit 10% in the latest poll.

Contrary to popular belief, polling has not gotten more inaccurate over the years. But as Trump-supporting Republicans in particular have grown more distrustful of the news media, they are often undercounted in surveys.

Sorting out who is, and isn’t, likely to vote is among the messiest tasks facing pollsters. They generally start by asking respondents about their voting plans. The Berkeley poll also takes into account a voter’s reported interest in the race and their past history of participation. The Public Policy Institute of California, another prominent pollster, also factors in whether someone has been following the news, their education, their interest in politics and when they last moved.

Anticipating who is actually going to cast a ballot is especially difficult for the Newsom recall. California typically doesn’t hold a statewide election in an odd-numbered year, and certainly not in September. The last time we had a statewide recall was 2003.

“People are just less reliable in assessing their own likelihood of voting” in such an odd election, said Will Jordan, director of research at Global Strategy Group, a national Democratic pollster.

What enthusiasm gap?

The focus on “enthusiasm” as an indicator of a likely voter may have been misguided, said Dean Bonner, associate survey director at the Public Policy Institute of California.

He pointed to the institute’s survey released Sept. 1, which found that only 40 percent of Democrats reported being more “enthusiastic” than usual about voting in the Newsom recall, compared to 54 percent of Republicans. But Democrats were more likely to say the outcome of the race was “very important.”

Given that many Democrats see the entire recall as an unjustifiable waste of time and money, it’s no surprise even committed voters don’t report feeling enthusiastic, he said.

But “with all the discussion about how Larry Elder is going to replace (Sen. Dianne) Feinstein with a Republican…you might look at the outcome as very important.”

“The polls over the past month have made it clear that Larry Elder would be the next governor, if the recall is successful. Since then Gavin Newsom seems to be gaining ground. Those two facts are not unrelated.”

UC San Diego political scientist Thad Kousser

Garry South, a Democratic political consultant who managed Gov. Gray Davis’ unsuccessful effort to avoid a recall in 2003, said it was always predictable that Democrats would show up, no matter how checked out some may have seemed in July.

“You get a ballot mailed to your house, you fill out ‘no,’ you put it back in the envelope and you put it in the mail — postage paid. This doesn’t require enthusiasm, folks.”

True or not, the narrative of listless Democrats may have acted like a self-reversing prophecy. As Democratic pundits and elected leaders began freaking out, Newsom’s defenders kicked into gear.

In late July, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren hit the airwaves with an ad not only imploring Californians to vote no, but giving detailed instructions how to do so. That same week, the California Teachers Association, the governor’s biggest financial backer in his 2018 election victory, launched a get-out-the-vote campaign and invited the governor to give the keynote address at its summer convention.

The two days after the release of the Berkeley poll in July were among the top five biggest fundraising days for the “Stop the Republican Recall” committee. Between Aug. 1 and 28, the campaign pulled in another $19 million.

Progressive advocacy groups also began a full-court press. Ludovic Blain, the California Donor Roundtable’s executive director, went on a media tour urging Democrats to take the mobilization of voters of color seriously. And on Aug. 12, a constellation of progressive groups, including Courage California, the California League of Conservation Voters and NARAL Pro-Choice held an online get-out-the-vote rally. Some of the speakers were enthusiastically pro-Newsom. But the prevailing sentiment was anti-recall.

“Whatever problem you have with Gavin Newsom, unfortunately this recall is a binary choice,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee, a San Jose Democrat and a frequent critic from Newsom’s left. “Do you want Gavin or do you want something objectively worse than Gavin?”

A Gavin Newsom supporter holds up a sign against the recall at a campaign event at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
A Gavin Newsom supporter holds up a sign against the recall at a campaign event at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

The new UC Berkeley poll, which found the recall trailing by double digits, looked like a return to “normal” California politics, pollster Mark DiCamillo said in a panel discussion on Friday.

As of Friday, 33 percent of registered voters had already turned in their ballots, according to Political Data Inc., which is tracking the voting. Of those 7.3 million ballots, 53 percent came from registered Democrats.

Though Republicans, and therefore “yes” voters, are more likely to vote in person on Tuesday, as they did in November 2020, “the recall needs a big red shift,” said Political Data vice president Paul Mitchell. “At some point this becomes a math problem….A high-turnout election ensures that Newsom beats this.”

Not that the Newsom campaign is taking anything for granted. The California Democratic Party tweeted Friday: “Ignore the polls.” After all, it knows as well as anyone what happens when voters begin to take the polls seriously.

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Friday, September 10, 2021

California Recall Candidates Stretch the Truth on COVID, Climate Change and More

Posted By on Fri, Sep 10, 2021 at 6:26 AM

IMAGE VIA ISTOCK
  • Image via iStock
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.

That holds true for politicians, including the candidates in California’s Sept. 14 recall election and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Campaigning during a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic and deadly, unprecedented wildfires, their approaches to the state’s problems can vary.

But the facts behind some of those issues don’t change. We look at some of the claims being made on the campaign trail and how they match up with reality:

COVID-19 masks

What the candidates said:

Larry Elder: In press conferences and interviews, he has said that young people are less likely to contract COVID-19, and that even if they do, their symptoms are likely to be mild: “The idea that we’re requiring children to wear masks, to me, is against science.”

Kevin Kiley: In an Aug. 25 debate, said that the harms of masks to a child’s development “far outweigh any benefits, and those benefits aren’t even very clearly established.”

The facts:

Earlier in the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there was a lower incidence of COVID among children, but that was likely due to less exposure with schools closed and to less testing. But more recent studies once schools reopened show that infection rates can be comparable, and in some settings higher, than in adults. According to the CDC, about 1 in 3 children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. were admitted to the intensive care unit — similar to the rate among adults.

Studies cited by the CDC show that masks and physical distancing have helped limit the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

COVID-19 vaccines

What the candidates said:

John Cox: In the Aug. 25 debate and in an interview with CalMatters, he said that COVID is 99.9 percent survivable and that vaccines work, so “if I’m vaccinated — which I am — do I really care if someone is unvaccinated?”

Cox also told CalMatters that natural immunity from having COVID-19 might be better than being vaccinated: “There’s a whole number of studies … that say that natural immunity is possibly superior to the vaccines.”

The facts:

The death rate from COVID-19 depends on a number of factors, including underlying health conditions and exposure levels based on where one lives or works. The World Health Organization cautions that estimating survival rates can be complex, given differences in how governments report coronavirus cases, plus asymptomatic cases that are never reported.

What we do know: There have been 4.5 million reported deaths worldwide out of nearly 220 million known cases, or about 2 percent of cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

And according to a CDC study in Kentucky, unvaccinated people were more than twice as likely to contract COVID-19 a second time, compared to those who had gotten COVID-19 one time and were fully vaccinated.


Medical assistant Letrice Smith fills syringes during a community COVID-19 vaccination clinic run by Ravenswood Family Health Network at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021.
Medical assistant Letrice Smith fills syringes during a community COVID-19 vaccination clinic run by Ravenswood Family Health Network at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Kiley: In the Aug. 25 debate, said California was the only state with a vaccine mandate.

Kiley also said that Gov. Gavin Newsom cast doubt on the COVID vaccines last October to score political points by saying he would not “take the FDA’s word for whether the vaccine is safe.” Kiley cited the U.S. Senate Health Committee chairperson as criticizing Newsom for “discouraging Americans from taking the vaccine” and “costing lives.”

The facts:

At least a dozen other states had announced vaccine mandates at the time of the debate, though not all were in effect.

Newsom’s comments last October came before FDA emergency use approval; the governor said California would do its own review. Sen. Lamar Alexander did call on Newsom to stop second-guessing the FDA, but he said that “could delay approval, discourage Americans from taking the vaccine and cost lives.”


Gavin Newsom: An ad from the anti-recall committee says that voting yes means electing an “anti-vaccine Trump Republican.”

The facts:

The highest polling replacement candidates — Republicans Cox, Elder, Kiley, Kevin Faulconer and Caitlyn Jenner, plus Democrat Kevin Paffrath — all say they oppose state-imposed vaccine mandates.

But they have also said they are all vaccinated, and encourage Californians to get the shot.

Climate change

What the candidate said:

Cox: In an interview with CalMatters, Cox said: “China and India have produced more pollution than the rest of the world combined.”

He proposed reducing their use of fossil fuels by shipping those nations liquefied natural gas produced in California. He also said: “The burning of natural gas does not significantly produce greenhouse gas.”

The facts:

According to the Global Carbon Project, China’s 2019 emissions were 11.2 billion tons a year, followed by the U.S. at 5.8 billion tons, the European Union at 3.2 billion tons and India at 2.9 billion tons. That means China and India together would total 14.1 billion tons per year, compared to 49.1 billion for the rest of the world.

On the impact of natural gas, the U.S. Energy Information Association says that while it is a relatively clean-burning fossil fuel, methane leaks from natural gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines and processing plants are a strong greenhouse gas.

Crime and justice

What the candidates said:

Faulconer: In an Aug. 4 debate, said that Newsom has “enabled the ‘defund the police’ movement.”

The facts:

Newsom has said that he wants to see police reform, but hasn’t said he supports defunding the police. In June 2020, he said he “supports legislation to track excessive use of force by police, and to require more training on implicit bias.”

In a July 2021 interview, he reiterated his position: “Don’t ever confuse me with the defund police movement.”


Elder: In an interview with The Sacramento Bee editorial board and in a Sept. 2 press conference, said that he doesn’t believe the police disproportionately use deadly force against Black people: “This business about the police engaging in systemic racism is false, it’s a lie. There have been many studies showing, if anything, that the police are more hesitant, more reluctant, to pull the trigger on a Black suspect than a white suspect.”

The facts:

A 2019 study found that Black men were 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men, according to data from 2013 to 2018. For black women, the rate was 1.4 times more likely. And a study of data between 2015 and early 2020 showed that police shootings of unarmed Black people in the U.S. were three times higher than that of white people


Elder: In the CalMatters interview: “During this coronavirus pandemic, 20,000 convicted felons have been released under early release, presumably for compassionate reasons. I think it’s one of the reasons why crime has gone up.”

Cox: At a May 4 press conference, said Newsom “let 76,000 inmates out of jail with almost no warning.”

The facts:

While the state is giving 76,000 inmates — including 20,000 inmates who are serving life sentences and violent and repeat felons — the opportunity to reduce their sentences, they aren’t all being released.

“These changes do not result in the automatic release of any incarcerated individual,” Dana Simas, a state corrections spokesperson, told PolitiFact. “This is not an early release program.”

Instead, it’s an expansion of an existing program that allows inmates to reduce their time served by one-third instead of one-fifth, which has been the law since 2017, for good behavior and for participating in rehabilitation programs.

Other claims

What the candidate said:

Kiley: In an interview with CalMatters, he said a lot of Californians live in “energy poverty,” which he defined as when 10 percent or more of one’s income is spent on energy.

The facts:

Energy poverty” is more broadly defined as “insufficient access to affordable energy.” What Kiley is referring to — the percentage of income a household spends on energy costs — is known as the energy burden. According to 2019 data from the Department of Energy, that number in California is closer to 4 percent to 6 percent.


What the candidate said:

Paffrath: In an interview with CalMatters said, “It’s unfortunate that we have a governor that is more interested in himself or consolidating power in his office. Look at SB 7 as a perfect example, it was supposed to accelerate housing efficiency and it just consolidates $15 million developer projects into his office.”

The facts:

SB 7, signed into law in May, was proposed by state Senate leader Toni Atkins so it wasn’t quite a consolidation of power by Newsom. While the legislation does allow the governor to expedite certain projects, it’s not a new concept. It builds on a 2011 law that relaxed strict California Environmental Quality Act regulations for eligible housing, clean energy and manufacturing projects by lowering the threshold to include projects of more than $15 million.


What the candidate said:

Elder: In an interview with CalMatters said: “The reason we’re having a net migration out of California for the first time in our state’s history — and we’re 170 years old — is that middle-class people, people making between $50 and $100K, are leaving.

The facts:

This isn’t the first time California has seen negative net migration, or out-migration. There has been out-migration between 1992 and 1996, and between 2004 and 2010, according to the Public Polling Institute of California. In 2020, the state recorded its first population decline in at least 120 years, according to Census data.


What the candidate said:

Elder: In a campaign ad, said Newsom “closed tiny stores, but kept big chains open.”

The facts:

Newsom ordered strict lockdown measures early in the pandemic in March 2020, but, by July of last year, allowed some to reopen with safety measures in place. The businesses were reopened based on industry and COVID-19 transmission rates, not size. But as a result, many smaller businesses were shut down longer.


What the candidate said:

Elder told the Sacramento Bee that he agreed President Joe Biden was elected “fairly and squarely.” One week later, he tweeted that he believed there were “shenanigans in the 2020 presidential election.”

The facts:

The 2020 elections were found to be “the most secure in American history,” according to a statement from a coalition of government and election industry officials.

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Friday, August 27, 2021

Register to Vote by Monday to Get a Recall Ballot in the Mail

Posted By on Fri, Aug 27, 2021 at 1:03 PM

The last day to register to vote in order to receive a mailed ballot for next month’s recall election is Monday, according to the Humboldt County Elections Office.

The Sept. 14 vote will determine whether Gov. Gavin Newsom, who took office in 2019, keeps his job. Voters are being asked two questions on the ballot. First, should Newsom remain as governor and two, if removed, who should replace him. (Read more about the recall process here.)

California residents who are already registered to vote should have received a ballot in the mail. Those not yet registered but who do so by Monday will be mailed a ballot.

Residents can register online at RegistertoVote.ca.gov or via a registration form available at post offices and the Office of Elections, with the later needing to be postmarked no later than Aug. 31 in order to be mailed a ballot.

“After the 31st, you will still be able to register at the Humboldt County Office of Elections and receive your ballot there,” a news release from the office states. “Starting Sept. 11, you will also be able to go to your Voter Assistance Center and register and vote a Conditional Ballot.”

Read the full elections office release below:

Monday, August 30, 2020, is the last day to register to vote in the September 14 Election and receive your ballot in the mail.

Register to vote online at RegistertoVote.ca.gov. Register to vote using the registration form that you can find at post offices or at the Office of Elections. If you plan to mail it, make sure that it is postmarked no later than August 31 so that you can be mailed a ballot.

After the 31st, you will still be able to register at the Humboldt County Office of Elections and receive your ballot there.

Starting September 11, you will also be able to go to your Voter Assistance Center and register and vote a Conditional Ballot.

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Thursday, August 19, 2021

Newsom Recall Election: How to Cast Your Vote (with Video)

Posted By on Thu, Aug 19, 2021 at 12:47 PM


To keep Gov. Gavin Newsom or not to keep Gov. Newsom? That is the question.

Upset by the progressive governor’s policies, his handling of the pandemic and his infamous maskless dinner at the French Laundry, about 12 percent of the number of Californians who voted in the last election for governor signed petitions to force a recall election.

On Sept. 14, registered voters will decide if the governor holds onto his job or not.

All active registered voters in California get their ballots in the mail about a month before the election.

The Newsom recall vote is a two-fer, asking voters:

  1. Should Newsom be removed?
  2. Who should replace him?

If you want Newsom to stay in office, vote no.

If you want to remove Newsom, vote yes.

Either way, you can vote for a candidate on the second question, or skip it.

If more than half of voters opt to replace Newsom, whoever has the most votes among the replacement candidates will be sworn in as the new governor in late October — even if that person doesn’t get a majority, and even if that person gets fewer votes than those cast for Newsom on Question No. 1.

You can write in a name, but it will be counted only if it’s someone who filed by Aug. 31 to appear on the certified write-in list.

So who’s running?

It’s a long list of 46 people, including some Trump-supporting Republicans and a few Democrats who have never held elected office. There are also celebrities, professors, a rapper and a pastor. Here are the top candidates:

  • Larry Elder, a Republican talk-show host from South Central Los Angeles
  • John Cox, a Republican businessman who lost to Newsom in 2018
  • Kevin Faulconer, the Republican former mayor of San Diego
  • Kevin Kiley, Republican assemblymember from Rocklin
  • Caitlyn Jenner, Republican, Olympian turned reality-television star
  • Kevin Paffrath, a Democrat YouTube star and real estate broker and investor from Ventura

If Gov. Newsom were to be replaced, you could expect to vote again, soon. The regular election for governor is in 2022. Although theoretically, Democrats could begin the process to recall Newsom’s replacement long before that.

As Shakespeare perhaps prophesied: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more?

This article was originally published by CalMatters.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Bushnell Takes Second District Supes Race in Final Tally

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2020 at 3:36 PM

Michelle Bushnell
  • Michelle Bushnell
There's a new supervisor-elect in the Second District.

The Humboldt County Elections Office released final results today for the Nov. 3 election and they have challenger Michelle Bushnell besting two-term incumbent and current Board of Supervisors Chair Estelle Fennell, having taken 52 percent of the vote to Fennell's 48 percent and winning the race by 416 votes. Bushnell, a rancher and small business owner, will be seated in January.

Down in Ferndale, former Mayor Don Hindley will get his gavel back, having fended off Robin Smith to reclaim the seat he previously held from 2014 through 2018, taking 53 percent of the vote to Smith's 47 percent.

With all the ballots counted, 69,932 Humboldt County residents voted in this election, 82 percent of those registered and 68 percent of those eligible.

See the full results copied below.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Yurok Tribe Certifies Election Results, Readies to Welcome New Board Member

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2020 at 5:51 PM

The Yurok Tribe certified its runoff election results today, with incumbent Weitchpec District Council Member Toby Vanlandingham retaining his seat and challenger Phillip Williams claiming a seat representing the board's North District.

The new council members will be sworn into office at 11 a.m. Nov. 30 in a ceremony that will be live streamed on the tribe's Facebook page.

Williams took 57 percent of the 293 votes cast in the North District to edge out incumbent Edward "Horse" Aubrey, while Vanlandingham took 57 percent of the 69 votes cast in the Weitchpec District to stave off challenger Lucinda "Inday" Myers. No one has officially challenged the results, according to a press release from the tribe.

With more than 6,000 enrolled members, the Yurok Tribe is California's largest tribe, with an ancestral territory along the Klamath River. The tribe's reservation spans 84 square miles, straddling the Del Norte and Humboldt county border.

See the full press release announcing the election results from the tribe below:

2020_eb_press_release_nov_24_certified_results.jpg
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