Among Recall Reactions: 'Let's Not Do This Again'

Newsom's big victory gives both parties plenty to chew over
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2021 7:15 PM CDT
Newsom's Victory Gives Both Parties Lots to Chew Over
California Gov. Gavin Newsom meets students at Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Nick Otto)

Both parties looked for lessons Wednesday in California Gov. Gavin Newsom's resounding victory over an attempt to toss him out of office. In the aftermath, one of the biggest questions the recall election has posed is: Why? Because of a California law that is all its own, a small minority of voters was able to force an election 14 months before Newsom would be on a ballot again anyway, at a cost of $276 million, CNN reports. And the vote turned out to not even be close. Democrats are calling for changes, and some Republicans see drawbacks for their party, as well. The issues being considered Wednesday include:

  • What's next for Newsom. The governor won a mandate to forge ahead with his policies on health care, climate change, immigration, and other issues, per the Los Angeles Times. But there's a misleading simplicity here, former California Gov. Jerry Brown said. Newsom had a state surplus and a ton of federal pandemic money to use in solving problems last year, per the New York Times. The needs now, Brown said, are: "Reducing carbon emissions. Reversing the gross inequalities. Being able to keep the crime rate down. Dealing with so many people who have so little that their lives and families are disintegrating." The difference is that "these are problems that take time," Brown said.
  • The recall law. Two Democrats in the legislature plan to hold bipartisan hearings on possible changes, per NBC. "That money can be spent on housing, on homelessness, on combating climate change and forest fires, early childhood education— you name it," one of them said. A possibility is to promote the state's lieutenant governor to the top job if the governor is recalled, rather than going through the exercise of choosing a replacement who may not take office anyway.

  • The campaigns. One GOP strategist called the exercise mostly a waste because "it never became about the big issues confronting California," Steve Lopez writes in a Los Angeles Times column. There were no debates, for example, and the GOP didn't endorse a possible replacement. In a way, this yes-no election was right for these times, another consultant said, because Republicans don't seem to know what their party stands for. "They can only tell you what they're against. … And you can’t build a movement based on what you're against."
  • The national effects. Newsom's aides urged Democrats everywhere to learn from his victory. "Larry Elder is on the ballot here on the recall, but a version of Larry Elder is going to be on the ballot all over the country," the governor's campaign manager said. But with the uniqueness of the campaign and the GOP's top contender—Larry Elder is a talk show host with a record of unpopular statements—as well as California's Democratic dominance, "It's very hard to see any real inferences that could be made from the California results," a party leader in Virginia said.
  • The celebrity factor. What Republicans really needed, former Gov. Gray Davis said, was a major celebrity in the race. A show business star might have been able to change the outcome, per Politico. "It matters more in California than some other place," Davis said.
  • Caitlyn Jenner. The attention the Republican's candidacy received had no connection to the viability of her candidacy. Preliminary results show Jenner pulled 1.1% of the vote on the "Who do you want to replace Newsom?" part of the ballot, per SFGate. She finished behind Elder, Kevin Paffrath, Kevin Faulconer, John Cox, Kevin Kiley, Jacqueline McGowan, Patrick Kilpatrick, and Holly Baade. When you add in the fact that almost half of the ballots didn't pick a favorite, Jenner's total falls to 0.6% of the vote.
(More recall election stories.)

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