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Endorsement: The many reasons to vote no on recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom amid signs that read "by Sept. 14: vote no."
Gov. Gavin Newsom at a rally on Wednesday. The Times editorial board urges Californians to vote no to his recall.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

If you are a registered voter in California, you should have received a ballot in the mail for Tuesday’s recall election.

You may have filled it out and mailed it back as millions of Californians have already done or cast a ballot in person at one of the early voting centers. Good for you. You can stop reading now. This editorial is for those who haven’t voted yet, especially those who aren’t sure if they will.

Please do so — and soon. California allows ballots mailed on election day a full week to trickle into election headquarters and still count if they are postmarked no later than Tuesday. But why wait and tempt fate that something will come up and prevent you from mailing back that super important ballot? There’s too much at stake to sit out this election, not just for California’s immediate future but possibly the political direction of the nation.

And — please, please — mark no on the first question that asks if Gov. Gavin Newsom should be kicked out of office. No matter how you feel about Newsom’s performance, voting yes will unleash months of political chaos that will be bad for the state at a time when it needs its leaders focused on responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Our editorial board urges a NO vote on Question 1, whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. On Question 2, we think former Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego is the only responsible option.

And frankly, Newsom does not deserve to be unceremoniously dumped from office before his term is up. He’s been a strong, decent leader of this complicated, high-maintenance state during a really tough time in history. Remember — Newsom had been governor for only about one year when the world was struck by the most serious public health crisis in a century.

And while it’s easy to criticize him now for not being the perfect pandemic governor, he and his Cabinet performed quite admirably while in the midst of a public health crisis for which there was no modern playbook. He listened to health experts, followed the ever-evolving science and worked very hard to craft policies that would protect the health of Californians and the state’s economy.

Many people are mad about how the pandemic upended their lives, but that’s not Newsom’s fault, and punishing him will not fix anything. In fact, it likely would make things worse for everyone in the state.

That’s because none of the 46 people who are listed on the ballot to replace Newsom would do better job — including and especially conservative radio host Larry Elder, who is the leading replacement candidate despite not having a lick of experience in government. Elder doesn’t want to lead, not really; he wants to do what President Trump did at the national level — to stoke division and undermine the state’s institutions.

A close look at Larry Elder, the top challenger in the California recall election: his life, his beliefs and his sudden political rise.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board interviewed the leading recall candidates and has written in-depth editorials about their stands on various policy topics. Generally speaking, the top candidates — most of whom are Republicans — have positions that are at odds with California values, which we define as those that build a more welcoming, tolerant, prosperous, healthy and equitable state.

Here’s a quick recap of the many reasons that we find the leading recall candidates ill-suited to serve out the remaining months of Newsom’s term as governor.

Most do not support the public health measures that have protected California from suffering as much sickness and death from COVID-19 as the similarly warm and populous states of Texas and Florida — both of which have governors who have blocked common-sense efforts such as mask mandates and vaccine verification.

The leading Republican recall candidates also oppose policies that have made California a global leader on climate change. Newsom has aggressively pushed for a fossil-fuel-free future for the state, and the leading candidates to replace Newsom would almost certainly slow the state’s ambitious efforts. Or worse, they would reverse them by embracing more fracking and oil drilling.

The biggest threat to Gov. Gavin Newsom aren’t the recall candidates. It’s voters who may skip this election altogether.

They also would seek policies to undermine important criminal justice reforms taken in recent years. Recall candidates and supporters have been trotting out versions of the false, fear-based argument about rising crime in California, and how it’s all Newsom’s fault. That is just plain wrong.

When it comes to homelessness, none has anything to offer beyond sweeping but ill-conceived plans that would swoop up homeless people into shelters, no matter whether that’s legal, effective or the most humane response to people struggling with poverty, mental illness or substance abuse. By contrast, Newsom has directed billions toward the acquisition of hotels, motels and apartment buildings to turn into housing for homeless people.

On education the candidates fall back on simplistic notions that school choice, mainly charter schools, will fix everything. It won’t. Furthermore, their ideas for addressing pandemic-affected education simply repeat steps Newsom has already taken to reopen schools and direct more funding for teachers, counselors and extra tutoring.

California is facing an epic water shortage, but most recall candidates don’t offer anything more than shallow and outdated solutions and say that water conservation efforts are unnecessary. They clearly don’t fully grasp the challenges to the state’s hydrology system. They seem to think the solution is simply to build more dams to capture water that doesn’t exist or more desalination plants, as if removing salt from water was as easy as pouring it through a sieve.

This brings us to the second question on the ballot, which asks voters to choose Newsom’s replacement should the recall pass. Even if you vote no on the recall, you can vote for a replacement — and you should, just in case.

But who? Since the law bars Newsom from running as a replacement to himself, we think the only candidate who comes close to being qualified to run a state the size and complexity of California is Kevin Faulconer.

The recall election is only the most recent effort by those with an ideological or political stake in opposing criminal California’s achievements in reforming the criminal justice system to attack those reforms. But voters know what they’re doing.

Faulconer is moderate Republican, and as the former mayor of San Diego, the state’s second largest city, he has experience running a large government. While he’s the best of a bad lot, he’s still not as innovative and forward-thinking as Newsom.

So go vote — and say no when you do.


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