California Governor Gavin Newsom has survived the special recall election referendum and will continue to serve out his term. The referendum question was thoroughly rejected by California voters by a margin of 63 % answering ‘No’ to Recall and 36% answering ‘Yes’. Polls had been tightening in recent weeks with some observers, like “End of Days” star Arnold Schwarzenegger, feeling like the climate was similar to the Recall vote that would ultimately lead to him capturing the Governor’s Mansion in 2003. The number one candidate had the Recall gone through, conservative radio host Larry Elders, held the highest percentage of voters at 45%. It would have spelled disaster for California in a number of ways, as Elders is decidedly of the kook-servative variety of Republican: anti-vaccine, anti-mask, anti-LGBT, and anti-immigrant. Just uh-a peach of a man, really.
Elders seems to feel up for giving it another shot in 2022, when Newsom is up for re-election. But performing well amongst a clown-car of candidates in a special election is not quite the same thing as a general election. He had his shot because of California’s, erm, let’s call it ‘quirky’ system for a recall of a governor. If the Recall effort had gotten more than 50% of the vote, the candidate with the largest support in the question of who to replace Newsom with would have won. I suppose were it me, I’d have them be separate processes, with the recall vote kicking off a special election.
Or a ski race down a mountain against the sitting governor. One or the other, really.
Indeed, the recall system is seeing some renewed call for reforming the system. As it stands, the system does not require to win at least 50% of the votes case in the race. It has the lowest threshold at 19% of states that allow recalls to trigger a Recall election. Some proposals, like one circulating in Rhode Island, requires some act of malfeasance to trigger a Recall proposition. Wisconsin allows for voters to simply choose from a list of prospective candidates including the current governor, for example. Assemblymember Marc Berkman who chairs the committee on elections has made calls for a bipartisan board of experts to put forward new proposals for reforming the system. For some reason, I don’t think ‘bipartisan’ is the magic word he thinks it is, but that’s just me.
In any case, the Recall is enshrined in the state constitution. It’d be super hard to reform unless you got the voters onboard. Unless…
The fact that Newsom survived is great, not because Newsom’s been stellar or anything but it speaks to the ability to re-engage Democratic voters. I suspect that Republicans strange doubling down on opposing pandemic mitigation measures has really done a number on their image with average voters and then blatant power grabs like what happened in Texas has put Democratic voters on high alert. Might well mean that voters that remain highly stressed, but also highly responsive in elections.
Reasons to be hopeful, I think. Maybe.
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