LOS ANGELES – The campaign to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom is already showing signs of becoming a circus like the one that toppled Gray Davis in 2003.
Axios reported on Tuesday that Caitlyn Jenner, the former reality star and Olympian and step-parent of the even more famous Kardashian clan, is considering entering the governor’s race if a recall qualifies for the vote. NBC News has not verified Jenner’s plans to flee, and she has not announced a decision.
Jenner could be the first of what many strategists think will be a long line of celebrities and novelty candidates who could closely mirror those who ran in 2003, when adult film star Mary Carey, former child actor Gary Coleman and Hustler publisher Larry Flynt added their names on the list of more than 100 future governors. Action movie hero Arnold Schwarzenegger eventually won the election.
Almost twenty years later, the comparisons end there.
None of the three Republican contenders who have announced they want to flee have statewide brand awareness comparable to Schwarzenegger’s. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is considered the likely front runner, is not well known outside of Southern California. Businessman John Cox lost double digits to Newsom in 2018 and Doug Ose, a former member of Congress, briefly ran to governor in 2018 before falling out of the race.
“The most important thing Newsom needs to do is stop a Democrat from fleeing,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican strategist and former Schwarzenegger spokesman. “It’s been good so far, but it’s also easy now. We have to wait for months. ‘
Recall organizers say they have collected more than 2 million signatures, well above the 1.5 million needed to pass the state threshold. Provinces have until the end of the month to verify signatures and report their views to election officials. It takes state finances about 30 days to prepare an election cost estimate before a legislative panel reviews the findings. Only then would an election date be set.
If a recall qualifies for the vote, voters will be asked two questions: the first is whether they want to recall Newsom and the second is who should replace him. There is no limit to the number of people who can run, and whoever gets the most votes wins.
Since Davis was recalled in 2003, California’s political landscape has increasingly shifted to the left. According to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, registered Republican voters made up 35 percent in February 2003, compared to 24 percent this year.
By contrast, 44 percent were registered as a Democrat in 2003, and this year it is 46 percent. In 2003, 15 percent refused to say which party they were in; this year, 24 percent of voters registered under “no party preference”.
“Politically, we’re a very different state than we were in 2003,” Katie Merrill, a Democratic strategist, said Wednesday at a Facebook Live panel hosted by the Sacramento Press Club. “If you look at the statewide races, the Republican Party has basically become a third party in California.”
Democratic strategist Ace Smith said during the panel, “It’s a different time. We are in a state where, frankly, there used to be Republicans who used to be moderate. Trump’s Republican Party has lost. [its] way.”
The shadow of former President Donald Trump, who has been repeatedly invoked as some sort of political bogeyman, is another notable difference between the recall against Newsom and the campaign against Davis.
Ever since the attempt to oust Newsom, California Democrats have collectively rallied around the idea that the campaign is a seizure of power by Trump loyalists bitter about the loss of the White House to President Joe Biden.
Last month, Dan Newman, a campaign advisor for Newsom, said the recall campaign was “pure party politics,” while Newsom said white supremacists and right-wing militias, including the Proud Boys, are among the recallers.
“We are only concerned about the violence going into the future as we move farther and farther away from the January uprising and we are putting down our guard. We need to remain vigilant about these groups and how serious they are,” Newsom said last month on MSNBC. . “All you need is that about a quarter of the people who supported Trump just signed a petition, and it looks like they did.”
In 2003 Davis had no such ghost to distract. He was already embroiled in several crises when he won a second term in 2002, after being heavily criticized for being too slow to respond to an energy crisis that cut power for more than a million residents in 2000 and 2001. He apologized, but the debacle took its toll on his reputation.
Davis won reelection in 2002 with 47 percent of the vote. In 2003, just 27 percent of California voters approved of his achievements at work, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. The option to recall Davis won 55 percent of the vote.
In contrast, 40 percent of respondents said they would choose to recall Newsom, 79 percent of whom were identified as Republicans, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, an impartial research organization. Newsom’s approval score is also higher than Davis’s – with 53 percent among likely voters last month, compared with 42 percent who said they disapproved of his job performance.
“If no other Democrat comes into the race and it stays that way – the economy is recovering, the coronavirus is stopping and that all looks good – he won’t be nearly as unpopular as Davis was,” Stutzman said.
Unlike Davis, whose administration was hampered by a $ 38 billion budget deficit, Newsom had a one-time surplus of $ 15 billion at the start of the year, according to its budget proposal for 2021-22. During the pandemic, wealthy Californians made $ 185 billion in capital gains, or money made from the sale of assets, resulting in $ 18.5 billion in tax revenue for the state, The Associated Press reported. Because of the surplus, Newsom’s plan would spend $ 25 billion more than last year.
But record levels of homelessness and unemployment continued to plague California during the pandemic, and experts warn that this summer could set off another catastrophic series of fires in the state.
As residents are fighting crises on multiple fronts, recallers say it’s too early to celebrate the victory.
“What a lost connection,” said fundraiser Anne Dunsmore. ‘You have people living on the street, flooded from their tents, and we’re going to brag about a surplus? Go spend it. ‘