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Essential California: The recall is on

Newsom speaking from Dodger Stadium with TV screens showing images of fires behind him
First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, left, watches Gov. Gavin Newsom deliver his third State of the State address to the Legislature and public virtually from an empty Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on March 9.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, April 27, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

It’s finally official: Gov. Gavin Newsom will face a recall election in the fall.

Newsom is only the second governor in California history and the fourth in U.S. history to face a recall election. The first election to recall a California governor was in 2003, when voters recalled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis from office and elected Hollywood action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, the last Republican to serve as the state’s chief executive.

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As my Sacramento colleagues Phil Willon and Taryn Luna report, barring intervention by the courts, Newsom will face a statewide vote of confidence by year’s end.

[Read the story: “Gov. Gavin Newsom to face recall election as Republican-led effort hits signature goal” in the Los Angeles Times]

State officials announced Monday afternoon that the Republican-led drive to remove the first-term governor from office had collected enough verified voter signatures (more than 1,495,709 — equal to 12% of all ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election) to force a special recall election.

How the recall qualified

The likelihood of a special election had begun to seem all but inevitable in recent weeks, after recall proponents boasted of collecting more than 2 million petition signatures and local election officials plugged away at their signature verification efforts. But as Sacramento bureau chief John Myers wrote last week, success was far from likely when the effort was launched by retired Yolo County sheriff’s Sgt. Orrin Heatlie.

Longshot recall attempts are a dime a dozen in the Golden State. They are so plentiful that, in one illustrative detail, a campaign to recall several members of the San Francisco school board actually included a clarification on its website, explaining that it was separate from the Newsom recall, as well as a campaign to recall the San Francisco district attorney. (L.A.'s district attorney is also facing a potential recall campaign, but now we’re really digressing....)

Anyway, suffice it to say, every California governor in modern history has faced recall attempts to oust them from office, and — up until today — only one had ever qualified for the ballot.

But the coronavirus changed everything for both Heatlie and Newsom.

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As Phil and Taryn report, the pandemic was still in its infancy when recall proponents launched their effort, and criticism of the governor’s pandemic response was conspicuously absent from the petition that actually placed the gubernatorial recall on the ballot. But present on the official petitions or not, Newsom’s pandemic response became the primary force driving the fledgling recall campaign forward.

The governor’s first-in-the-nation stay-at-home order and state coronavirus policies brought him soaring job approval ratings in the spring. But as Californians grew frustrated with economically devastating government-mandated restrictions to stem the spread of the virus, those same actions galvanized the campaign against him.

Another turning point came in November, when Newsom sat down for one of the more fateful meals in California political history. The optics of opulent hypocrisy — a wealthy, telegenic governor celebrating a lobbyist’s birthday at an ultra-exclusive restaurant after pleading with Californians to stay home — catalyzed a groundswell of anger. And, as Phil and Taryn report, supporters of the Republican-led recall effort seized on the misstep, using it to supercharge their signature gathering.

What happens next

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The coming special election is likely to be held in late fall, but the exact date remains unclear. As my colleague John Myers reports, the process for a recall election deviates from the rules governing other elections in California. There are a few extra steps (including a set period of time for voters to have a change of heart and remove their names from the recall petition, though odds remain low that enough Californians will change their minds to derail the effort; and another period of time for state officials to calculate the cost of the special election) that need to be completed before the election can be scheduled. John posits that election probably won’t be held until November, though there’s a chance voters could decide the governor’s fate in October.

John reports that local elections officials believe the cost of conducting the election could run as high as $400 million — four to five times higher than rough guesses bandied about in recent months and equal to a cost of about $18 per registered voter.

[See also: “The recall circus is back in California. Here’s how it will probably play out for Newsom” in the Los Angeles Times]

The actual ballot

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California voters will be asked two questions on their recall ballots: First, do you want to recall Newsom from office? And second, which of these candidates should replace him? Newsom is barred from being listed among the candidates who can be considered if the recall passes.

A Republican has not won statewide office in California since 2006, but several are already challenging Newsom. The list includes former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox, former Northern California Rep. Doug Ose and Olympic medal-winning reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner.

[Read more: “Q&A: Who wants to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in the recall election?” in the Los Angeles Times]

As my colleagues report, one pivotal question that remains unclear is whether a Democrat will jump into the race, either in support of ousting Newsom or hoping to serve as a safety valve to block a Republican from being elected if Newsom is recalled.

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And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

California will lose one seat in Congress for the first time in state history, while Texas and Florida are among the states that will see its representation increase, according to population data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Monday that give the first glimpse of the coming decade’s congressional landscape. Los Angeles Times

California lawmakers approved the last part of a COVID-19 economic recovery package on Monday, sending the governor a bill he supports that provides up to $6.8 billion in state tax breaks for California businesses. Los Angeles Times

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

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L.A. STORIES

Judge hits pause on his request for L.A. to immediately put up $1 billion for homelessness: A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles says in a new court order that he will give the city 60 days to detail how its planned $1 billion in funding for homelessness will be spent. Judge David O. Carter had previously ordered the city to put the money into an escrow account within seven days. Los Angeles Times

Roderick Sykes, co-founder of L.A. Black art enclave St. Elmo Village, dies at 75. Sykes’ Mid-City art enclave and community center nurtured generations of creative minds and served as a gathering place for the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. Los Angeles Times

A black-and-white photo of a man painting a mural
Roderick Sykes at work on one of his murals in an undated photo.
(Jacqueline Alexander-Sykes)

After 20 years, you can hike from Crenshaw to the beach: A visual guide — and some tips — for the various segments of L.A.'s Park to Playa trail. LAist

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ICYMI: My wonderful colleague Gustavo Arellano filled in for me yesterday and wrote about “The Times,” the L.A. Times’ new news podcast that he will be hosting. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

EPA to restore California’s power over car pollution rules, reversing Trump: The action is a huge win for California’s fight against climate change. It could also pressure automakers to accept tougher national car pollution rules. Los Angeles Times

Justice Department will investigate Louisville policing practices after Breonna Taylor’s death: The Justice Department is launching a broad inquiry of the police department in Louisville, Ky., the second such investigation into a local law enforcement agency in the last week. Los Angeles Times

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Sacramento Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert will challenge newly appointed California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta for the AG post in the 2022 election. Politico

CRIME AND COURTS

California has opened hundreds of investigations into unemployment fraud involving incarcerated people: A California task force formed five months ago to investigate fraudulent unemployment claims involving incarcerated people said that there have so far been 68 arrests and it has opened 1,641 other inquiries. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

As the San Joaquin Valley braces for yet another season of drought, some growers are openly questioning the future of farming there. Los Angeles Times

“Long haul” COVID-19 sufferers take a page from AIDS/HIV activism to be heard: As more organizations focus on long COVID, a common agenda has emerged: clinical education, so healthcare providers are informed of symptoms; an expansion of disability benefits, so those with the disease can be supported in their recovery; and a revision of the disease classification code, so insurers can reimburse physicians and patients for treatment. Los Angeles Times

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CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Eastern Coachella Valley teen Elizabeth Esteban’s school-provided Wi-Fi device cut out right in the middle of her Harvard admissions interview. But despite the same internet issues that made it difficult to learn virtually from her rural mobile home community in Mecca, Esteban still won a full ride to the prestigious university. The daughter of Purépechan farmworkers has “gone viral” in recent days, as people across the world celebrate her success. NBC Palm Springs

Barack Obama joined the L.A. Times book club, plus the 10 most-watched events from this year’s Festival of Books. Los Angeles Times

A poem to start your Tuesday: “Paper Cuts” by Natalie Scenters-Zapico. Poets.org

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: somewhat cloudy but hopefully not in an overpowering way, 66. San Diego: partly cloudy, 63. San Francisco: an invigorating afternoon wind, 63. San Jose: largely sunny, 70. Fresno: weather so nice it deserves to perform at Carnegie Hall, 75. Sacramento: also a lovely sunny day, but a bit more pedestrian in terms of the caliber of the performance, 81.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Emily E. Niblick:

I grew up in a cozy little neighborhood in Venice. During my very young youth, my hero of heroes was that black-garbed champion of law and order, Hopalong Cassidy. I was crazy about him; I had a Hoppy bicycle, decked out with holsters for my shootin’ arms. I even had an official Hoppy savings account! I was absolutely thrilled when Hoppyland, his amusement park, opened very near to my neighborhood, in what is now part of Marina Del Rey. How excited I was to go, and I will never forget sitting on my dad’s shoulders so I could get a good look when my hero actually appeared!

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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