Updated: Oct 15, 2021
On Tuesday, September 14th, incumbent California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) blocked the recall effort to remove him from office, defeating 46 other opponents.
GOP-led recall efforts date back to last year; conservative Californians have attempted to recall five of the Governor’s past policies but have been unsuccessful in doing so. However, due to voters’ dissatisfaction of Newsom’s pandemic policies, Republican-led organizers collected over 2.1 million signatures in favor of a recall, and in June, the California Secretary of State confirmed 1.7 million signatures, exceeding the 1.4 million needed.
The recall supporters have cited specific policies such as the Governor’s high tax rates (going as high as 9.5% in counties like Los Angelous and Contra Costa) and criticized his response (or lack thereof) to the homelessness crisis and the state’s infamous, raging wildfires. Newsom’s progressive stance on on controversial issues such as immigration and the death penalty have also made him a target of the GOP.
The Governor’s pandemic policies only added to the discontent. In May, a poll published by Survey USA and the San Diego Union Tribune showed that only 36% of respondents supported recalling Newsom, while 47% were opposed. After the Governor implemented the shutdown of schools/business and strongly enforced the state’s vaccine rollout, these numbers shifted dramatically. After just a couple months, a poll conducted in August by the same organizations found that 51% of Californians favored recalling Newsom, while only 40% hoped to keep him in power.
Further worsening his outlook was a poll that showed a big enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats. Almost 90% of Republicans showed great interest in the recall election, while only 58% of Democrats showed the same level of interest. Additionally, the Delta-variant of COVID posed another obstacle for Newsom as well. The surge in COVID cases made it harder for his team to campaign on the ground. All eyes were on Newsom and his pandemic response to see how they hold up against the second wave of COVID, especially as they were the very reason why he faced reelection in the first place.
Experts predicted the misleading voting procedure of a recall election ballot might have affected Newsom’s candidacy as well. On Tuesday, California voters were asked two questions, the first being, “Shall the governor be recalled?” The phrasing of this question might have confused voters, especially if they don’t realize that “recall” means to oust rather than to keep in office.
The first question is a yes or no question, and therefore a simple majority was needed to recall Newsom. The second question is a bit more complex — essentially asking who, out of 46 candidates, should replace Newsom, if he was to be recalled. Newsom’s team told voters to leave this question blank, but on the off-chance that he was not reelected, only a small plurality could’ve elected any of the other candidates. Despite the many obstacles he was facing, Governor Newsom was reelected and will continue to serve as the governor of the people of California until the end of his term. “‘No’ is not the only thing that was expressed tonight,” said the Governor on Tuesday night. “We said yes to science, yes to vaccines, yes to ending this pandemic.”