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The California recall election: What happens between now and Sept. 14

Candidates running to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in the recall election
Candidates running to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in the recall election include, clockwise from top left: businessman John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, retired Olympian/reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, nationally syndicated conservative radio host Larry Elder, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley and Democrat Kevin Paffrath.
1

The stage is set.

The recall election asking voters if they want to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom will take place on Sept. 14. Nearly four dozen candidates will appear on the ballot as potential replacements, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The field | The odds | The money | The GOP fight | The Vote

Newsom and the candidates vying to replace him scurried to sweep up donor dollars, endorsements and every other advantage they could before mail ballots were sent to voters in August. Now, the focus is on energizing voters so they cast ballots.

The incumbent has every advantage. But uncertainties — notably over the pandemic, wildfires and power blackouts for now — mean nothing is certain. For example, Newsom’s biggest anti-recall rally with Vice President Kamala Harris was canceled after a terrorist suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan, killed 13 American servicemen.

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Polling shows that while most Californians oppose recalling Newson, the voters most passionate about casting ballots in September are nearly evenly divided on whether to oust the Democratic governor.

Here’s what voters need to know about the recall election, the candidates who want to replace Newsom and the process that will unfurl through election day in mid-September.

The findings of the new poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and co-sponsored by the L.A. Times dispel the notion that California’s solid Democratic voter majority will provide an impenetrable shield for Newsom.

2

The field

After months of uncertainty over who was running and who was seeking publicity, the field of potential Newson replacements is now set. The secretary of state’s office announced that the certified list of candidates includes 46 people — 24 Republicans, 10 with no party preference, nine Democrats, two members of the Green Party and one Libertarian. One candidate whose name remains on the ballot — former Rep. Doug Ose — dropped out of the race in mid-August after suffering a heart attack.

The most well-known Republicans are Olympic gold medalist/reality television star Caitlyn Jenner and nationally syndicated conservative talk radio host Larry Elder. Other prominent Republicans running include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, unsuccessful 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Cox, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley and Board of Equalization Member Ted Gaines.

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The most well-known registered Democrat candidate is Kevin Paffrath, a personal finance influencer with 1.7 million followers on YouTube. He appeared in his first debate in August, labeling himself a “JFK-style Democrat” and proposing unusual ideas such as California increasing its water supply by running a pipeline to the Mississippi River.

Newsom and his allies were successful in stopping a prominent Democratic elected official from entering the race. This is a risky strategy for Democrats, because if the recall is successful, the next governor will almost certainly be a Republican.

The deadline to appear on the ballot has passed, but those who want to try their luck as write-in candidates have until 14 days before election day to file the necessary paperwork.

As the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom moves forward, candidates line up to replace him.

3

The odds

Polling shows that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting in the special election than Democrats. This motivation gap is what recall backers are counting on in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans nearly 2 to 1.

However, Newsom has an edge.

Incumbents always use their office to buoy their reelection efforts. Newsom is no different. In the midst of the pandemic, Newsom has highlighted his recovery efforts, such as offering $600 stimulus checks to many Californians that his critics call “recall refunds.”

Newsom’s allies, notably labor, have an army of volunteers to call and text voters or canvass neighborhoods. And the incumbent has an enormous financial advantage.

4

The money

Newsom and his anti-recall allies have raised more than $51 million, more than all the pro-recall forces and GOP candidates combined. Another round of finance reports is due Thursday.

Money is not determinative (just ask Gov. Meg Whitman or President Jeb Bush). But most candidates would prefer to have more money than not, particularly in a state that is as large as California and contains so many of the nation’s most expensive media markets.

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Newsom’s allies have already launched a multimillion-dollar ad blitz featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts urging voters to oppose the recall. Expect a barrage of television ads through election day.

The attempted recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom will go before voters on Sept. 14. Here are the details.

5

The GOP fight to consolidate support

The Republican candidates who want to replace Newsom have been working to consolidate support among the party’s most active members. They’ve been speaking at GOP luncheons and receptions and asking for endorsements from elected officials, donors and conservative groups.

They have tried to differentiate themselves at four major debates, but the three most well-known candidates — Newsom, Jenner and Elder — have not participated.

In an effort to maintain party unityl, the state Republican Party voted against endorsing a contender in the race. Some candidates and activists believe the process was rigged in favor of Faulconer, a favorite of the party establishment, and urged delegates to vote against an endorsement.

6

The vote

While election day is officially Sept. 14, voting has already begun.

State election officials have sent ballots to military and overseas voters, and on Aug. 16, they started mailing them to all registered voters in California as required by a 2020 law prompted by the pandemic.

Voters can return them by mail, or surrender them if they want to vote in person on Sept. 14.

The ballots contain two questions:

  • Should Newsom be recalled?
  • Regardless how you voted on the first question, if the governor is recalled, whom should he be replaced by?

If more than 50% of voters say that Newsom should be recalled, the top vote-getter in the second question will serve the rest of Newsom’s term, no matter how few votes that candidate gets.

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Readers have reported some confusion over the ballot, notably that if they vote for a candidate in the second question, would that erase a no vote on the first question? The answer is no. Even if voters oppose the recall, they have the option of voting for a replacement candidate in case the recall is successful without affecting their “no” vote on the first question.

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