Thursday, September 16, 2021

HumCo Records 83rd COVID-19 Death, 37 New Cases

Posted By on Thu, Sep 16, 2021 at 3:13 PM

A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test. - PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Public health
  • A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test.


An 83rd Humboldt County resident has died of COVID-19, Public Health reported this afternoon, while also confirming 37 new cases and two new hospitalizations.

After a state data glitch derailed yesterday's COVID-19 case count, Humboldt County Public Health reported today that it has confirmed 90 new cases of the virus since Monday — making 261 so far this week — with four new hospitalizations.

The new cases — which make 298 so far this week and push the county's cumulative total past 8,000  — were confirmed after laboratories processed 459 samples with a test-positivity rate of 8.1 percent.

The county also announced today that, effective immediately, testing for COVID-19 will be offered at Public Health's vaccine clinics, free of charge.

A state database shows 18 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with two under intensive care. The slow decline in hospitalizations — which peaked at 42 Sept. 3 — is welcome news for local hospitals, which had been pushed beyond capacity amid a brutal August that saw 2,000 new cases confirmed, 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths.

Last week, Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman announced that, due to staffing limitations, Public Health will shift its resources away from communitywide contact tracing to places with the most vulnerable populations and with greater ability to control the spread of the virus through vaccination, masking, distancing and ventilation, including schools, long-term care facilities, shelters and other congregate living settings.

After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 15.9 percent in August. Through the first 15 days of September, it has jumped to 17.3 percent, far outpacing state (3.4 percent) and national (15 percent) rates.

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North Coast Journal Inc. Purchases Ferndale Enterprise

Posted By on Thu, Sep 16, 2021 at 12:39 PM

enterprise-masthead.jpg
The North Coast Journal Inc. has purchased The Ferndale Enterprise, keeping the 143-year old weekly newspaper in local hands, and will take over publishing the paper next month.

Caroline Titus, who has served as editor and publisher of the award-winning Enterprise for 25 years, said she’s excited to start another chapter in life and to have found a local buyer for the iconic paper.

“After putting to bed more than 1,300 consecutive issues, it’s time I take a break,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier that such a reputable and prestigious publication has purchased Ferndale’s history book and the oldest business in town. It just feels so right.”

Titus, who purchased The Enterprise in 1998 and has served as its editor — and essentially its one-person staff — since 1995 plans to continue reporting for the Enterprise as a contributing editor.

Journal Publisher Melissa Sanderson, who purchased North Coast Journal Inc. from its longtime owners in April, plans to expand the Cream City’s paper to cover the entire Eel River Valley, which has been without regular newspaper coverage since the Humboldt Beacon closed in 2011.

“As a lifelong resident of the Eel River Valley, I’m honored to be trusted with this amazing piece of Humboldt County history,” Sanderson said. “I can’t thank Caroline enough for her 26 years of dedicated work and keeping this important First Amendment publication alive and thriving for our community."

The Enterprise, which published its first edition in May of 1878 and has continuously published since, has earned renown throughout the journalism industry for its unflinching coverage of local issues while stacking up more than 35 state and national awards. In 2019, Titus was named the Cal Press Foundation’s Justus F. Craemer Newspaper Executive of the Year and, in 2016, she won freedom of information and government transparency awards from the First Amendment Coalition, the Nor Cal Society of Professional Journalists and the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

“Caroline Titus’ news operation has served Ferndale with honor,” said Joe Wirt, director of affiliate relations with the California Newspaper Publishers Association. “It has also inspired and impressed publishers throughout the state and across the country. May The Enterprise continue to uphold the ideals of California newspapers.”

Journal news editor Thadeus Greenson said the Journal’s editorial staff is excited to take the baton from Titus and help write the paper’s next chapter.

“I’m humbled to carry on The Enterprise’s 143-year tradition of gathering the news that Ferndale needs to know, and excited to work toward bringing regular, reliable and impactful news coverage back to the entire Eel River Valley,” he said.

Sanderson, who can be reached at Melissa@northcoastjournal.com or 498-8370, said she is excited about the expansion of North Coast Journal Inc. and what the future holds for its publications. She is happy to answer any questions — and to hear any ideas — the community may have.

For information on purchasing subscriptions to the Journal and The Enterprise, visit www.ncjshop.com. For information about advertising opportunities, contact North Coast Journal Inc. Sales Manager Kyle Windham at kyle@northcoastjournal.com or 496-2950.
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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

Public Health Confirms 90 New COVID-19 Cases, Four New Hospitalizations

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2021 at 4:14 PM

PUBLIC HEALTH
  • public health
After a state data glitch derailed yesterday's COVID-19 case count, Humboldt County Public Health reported today that it has confirmed 90 new cases of the virus since Monday — making 261 so far this week — with four new hospitalizations.

The new cases were confirmed after laboratories processed 368 samples with a test-positivity rate of 24.5 percent.

A state database shows 16 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with two under intensive care. The slow decline in hospitalizations — which peaked at 42 Sept. 3 — is welcome news for local hospitals, which had been pushed beyond capacity amid a brutal August that saw 2,000 new cases confirmed, 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths.

Last week, Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman announced that, due to staffing limitations, Public Health will shift its resources away from communitywide contact tracing to places with the most vulnerable populations and with greater ability to control the spread of the virus through vaccination, masking, distancing and ventilation, including schools, long-term care facilities, shelters and other congregate living settings.

After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 15.9 percent in August. Through the first 15 days of September, it has jumped to 18.2 percent, far outpacing state (3.5 percent) and national (15 percent) rates.

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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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System Glitch Derails COVID Case Count, Public Health Reports No New Hospitalizations, Deaths

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2021 at 4:27 PM

PUBLIC HEALTH
  • public health
A "data transmission failure" between two state computer systems derailed the local COVID-19 case count today, leaving Humboldt County Public Health "unable to confirm additional positive case reports."

Public Health also noted in a press release that, for the first time in a month, it had no new COVID hospitalizations or deaths to report.

A state database shows 18 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally — the lowest tally in weeks — with one under intensive care. The slow decline in hospitalizations — which peaked at 42 Sept. 3 — is welcome news for local hospitals, which had been pushed beyond capacity amid a brutal August that saw 2,000 new cases confirmed, 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths.

Wednesday, Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman announced that, due to staffing limitations, Public Health will shift its resources away from communitywide contact tracing to places with the most vulnerable populations and with greater ability to control the spread of the virus through vaccination, masking, distancing and ventilation, including schools, long-term care facilities, shelters and other congregate living settings.

After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 15.9 percent in August, far outpacing state (4.5 percent) and national (10.6 percent) rates. Through the first 13 days of September, it has jumped to 17.7 percent.

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Del Norte Sheriff Release Video of Fatal Police Shooting

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2021 at 12:12 PM

Robert Anderson. - FACEBOOK
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  • Robert Anderson.
The Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office has released body-worn camera footage that shows police officers fatally shooting Robert Anderson on Aug. 25 after he lunged at an officer with a kitchen knife and sprinted toward a woman at the scene.

Police who responded to the 911 call on Parkway Drive and Sherwood Lane at about 2:45 p.m. on Aug. 25 reporting a disabled vehicle in the roadway reported arriving to find Anderson, 38, holding a knife and “walking in the traffic lanes.”

A press release from the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office issued that day states, “The male subject advanced toward the officers and an officer-involved shooting occurred. The subject died as a result of the incident.” In the ensuing days, the woman at the scene, Sequoia Annette, who identified herself as Anderson’s wife, disputed the Sheriff’s Office account on social media, saying he “got shot while running towards me” and there “was no reason for him to die on the ground the way he did period.” Anderson, who was Black, would not have been shot if he had been white, she wrote.

On Sept. 2, the North Coast Journal filed California Public Records Act requests with the California Highway Patrol and the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office seeking video footage of the shooting. On Sept. 11, the Sheriff’s Office responded, saying that a couple of hours earlier it had posted two videos pulled from the body-worn cameras of deputies at the scene and posted them online. The CHP, meanwhile, said it will not release its video footage of the incident until next month, saying doing so now could jeopardize an investigation into Anderson’s death.

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UPDATE: Firefighter Memorial on Clarke Plaza Restored

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2021 at 11:25 AM

Restoration work at the Fallen Firefighter Memorial. - HUMBOLDT BAY FIRE
  • Humboldt Bay Fire
  • Restoration work at the Fallen Firefighter Memorial.
UPDATE:

The Fallen Firefighters Memorial statue on Clarke Plaza in Eureka has been restored to its original state with the help of the city of Eureka, Advanced Security Systems and Richard Geisel.

"RESTORED: Thank you so much for all the community support and for everyone who helped restore the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Eureka, CA to its original glory," Humboldt Bay Fire wrote in a Facebook Post.

See the Facebook post below.


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The bronze helmet is spray painted black. - HUMBOLDT BAY FIRE
  • Humboldt Bay Fire
  • The bronze helmet is spray painted black.
Earlier today, Humboldt Bay Fire found the Fallen Firefighters Memorial on the Clarke Plaza in Eureka had been vandalized, with the statue's bronze helmet spray painted black and illegible words sprayed on the brick ground surrounding it.

"We are discouraged, disheartened and disappointed that someone would deface this important memorial, especially right after the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a date that is held so dearly in the hearts of the fire community and American public," states a release sent by Humboldt Bay Fire. "If anyone has information or camera footage related to the vandalism of the Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Eureka, CA, please contact the Eureka Police Department to update the open case."

Graffiti on the brick surrounding the memorial. - HUMBOLDT BAY FIRE
  • Humboldt Bay Fire
  • Graffiti on the brick surrounding the memorial.
According to the release, this is the fourth offense directed toward local fire departments within the last month. On Aug. 15, the Rio Dell Volunteer Fire Department was broken into and a 4-wheeler was stolen. On Sept. 9, Samoa Peninsula Fire District was broken into and several tools were taken. On Sept. 12, Telegraph Ridge Volunteer Department was broken into, resulting in broken windows, damaged property and stolen cash.

All incidents are currently under investigation. Anyone with information related to them is asked to contact local law enforcement agencies.

Read the full press release below.

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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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