An offbeat week for Newsom ahead of the recall election

Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news briefing in Sacramento last year.
(Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, July 28. I’m Justin Ray.

Every California governor in modern history has faced recall attempts to oust him from office. Only one attempt has been successful: On Oct. 7, 2003, Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him.

The Republican-led petition to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom initially cited high taxes, the crisis over unhoused people and the governor’s position on issues such as immigration and the death penalty. But over time, Newsom’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly became the justification.

He’s been in the headlines this week with three odd and unexpected events that tie into the recall election on Sept. 14:

  1. In a rare rebuke, Newsom denounced high-profile conservatives, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, at a media briefing Monday as he encouraged more of the state’s residents to get vaccinated. “We’re exhausted by the politicalization of this pandemic, and that includes mask wearing that has been equated to the Holocaust. It’s disgraceful, it’s unconscionable and it needs to be called out,” Newsom said. A professor of political and legal communication at San Francisco State told The Times that criticizing conservative pundits could be a play to excite the governor’s base.
  2. Results of a poll about the recall election may surprise you. Californians who say they expect to vote in September are almost evenly divided over whether to remove Newsom from office. The new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times suggests that voter turnout will be pivotal in deciding the governor’s political fate. The findings dispel the notion that California’s solid Democratic voter majority will guarantee he stays in office.

    The poll found that 47% of likely voters supported recalling the Democratic governor, compared with 50% who opposed removing Newsom from office — a difference just shy of the survey’s margin of error. The poll also found that among the dozens of candidates in the running to replace Newsom, conservative talk radio host Larry Elder leads the race.

  3. The last story is perhaps the most offbeat. Newsom’s office said Tuesday that he removed his kids from a summer day camp that did not require kids to wear masks, a stance that violates state policy. Newsom’s spokesperson said the governor and his wife missed that part when reviewing communication from the camp. The incident could be seen as another instance of Newsom saying one thing and doing another.

    Signatures in support of the recall increased back in November when Newsom was caught dining maskless at the expensive Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry, going against the safety guidelines and precautions he has asked Californians to adhere to during the pandemic.

The rise of the Delta variant has put Newsom in an uncomfortable political position; those championing the recall have criticized sweeping statewide orders and business restrictions. With the election less than two months away, ordering new mandates could risk upsetting some voters. But a lack of statewide action could also come at a human cost if conditions continue to worsen in some parts of California.

Here’s more to know about the recall, including how Democrats have responded to the effort.

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

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Shooter behind confrontation identified. A hostage situation Sunday left five people dead, including a deputy with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities attempted to free the hostages held inside a home in Wasco, a town 24 miles northwest of Bakersfield. Phillip Campas, a Marine veteran who had served the county on patrol, as an honor guard and on the SWAT team, lost his life. The hostage-taker and shooter, identified Tuesday as Jose Manuel Ramirez Jr., was fatally shot by Kern County sheriff’s deputies. He had a history of arrests on domestic violence offenses and a restraining order was supposed to have prohibited him from having guns. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles will require city employees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing to show they don’t have the coronavirus, Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martinez said Tuesday. Many details about the plan remain to be worked out, but city departments will be directed to gather and report information about whether their employees are vaccinated by Aug. 13, a Garcetti spokesperson said. San Francisco and Pasadena have also announced future vaccination requirements for their employees. Los Angeles Times

‘As journalists, you understand what the headline will be if you do not pass these bylaws.’ The group behind the Golden Globes — the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. — is close to voting on proposed new bylaws after a Times investigation unearthed ethical lapses. The HFPA’s crisis PR consultant sent a memo to members last week asking them to “consider what will happen if you do not pass the bylaws.” James Lee, the founder and CEO of the Lee Strategy Group, also argued that the group will continue to be cut off from “celebrity interviews or other talent for the foreseeable future.” Lee explained to The Times why he sent the memo. Los Angeles Times


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A Bakersfield mattress retailer will pay $63,034 in penalties and back payments for collecting recycling fees, then failing to send the mattresses to California’s recycling program. Valley Mattress will have to pay an additional $49,098 in penalties if the company violates California’s recycling law over the settlement term of three years. A request for comment to Valley Mattress was not returned in time for publication. Sierra Sun Times


Former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer was assaulted and robbed of her cellphone in Oakland on Monday afternoon. Boxer, 80, a Democrat who represented California in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2017, said in an interview with The Times that she was robbed while walking near her apartment in the area of Jack London Square. “If he had said, ‘Give me your phone or else,’ I would have given my phone. He didn’t have to shove me,” she said. Los Angeles Times

Democratic megadonor Ed Buck was convicted Tuesday of supplying the methamphetamine that killed two men during encounters at his apartment. After about four hours of deliberations, the jury found Buck guilty of every charge in a nine-count indictment that also accused him of maintaining a drug den, distributing methamphetamine and enticement to cross state lines to engage in prostitution. Los Angeles Times

Two men were arrested on suspicion of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter mural painted on a street in Santa Cruz. The men allegedly took turns performing burnouts with their cars along the mural on a downtown street, defacing it with tire tread marks. “The Black, the community at large, the people of color in our community felt this was a personal attack,” Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills said. “Let’s face it, of the 5,000-plus street segments in our city, that was the only one? We can see what took place here.” KTLA

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An unwanted reminder of racism. A Times reporter went to Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Flea Market for some Sunday fun. Instead she was confronted with racist rag dolls and minstrel piggy banks from the Jim Crow era. “With clownish red lips, ears pointing straight out, eyes fixed in a dazed stare and hands outstretched, the figurines were grotesque caricatures of Black men,” Makeda Easter writes. Los Angeles Times

Anti-Black figurines sit on a table
A vendor selling antiques at the Rose Bowl Flea Market also sells racist, anti-Black memorabilia.
(Makeda Easter/ Los Angeles Times)

A restaurant in Stockton is using a robotic food runner to make up for a shortage in staff. “Right now, I send food to the table right there in the middle while I get drinks for somebody else,” said Ana Ortiz, general manager of Sugar Mediterranean Bistro. Staff places meals onto the robot’s trays and the machine delivers. “I thought it was great,” said a customer. “We were excited when it brought us our food. We even took a picture because we were so excited. It was the first time we’ve ever had that.” KCRA

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Los Angeles: Go biking! 85. San Diego: Sunny, 79. San Francisco: Cloudy, 68. San Jose: Nice and warm, 84. Fresno: Get a cold can of Diet Coke. I don’t know why but canned Diet Coke is the best Coke. I’m willing to hear counterarguments. 104. Sacramento: Yikes! So hot. 103.


Today’s California memory is from Larry Mayer:

Our son Phil was about 7 years old when the family visited a popular cafe in Point Reyes for brunch one Sunday in the early 1990s. It was his first time ordering from a menu, and he planned on taking full advantage. When it was his turn to order, he sang out, “I’ll have the Hangtown Fry!” — eggs, bacon, oysters and more — which was followed by a chorus of groans and cries of, “No! No! No!” or “Have an omelet instead.” Grandma suggested the strawberry waffles. Auntie thought the ham and eggs would be more suitable. But it was unanimous: “Anything but a Hangtown Fry!”


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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