Californians will almost certainly vote this year to oust Governor Gavin Newsom. But when?
There is surprisingly little certainty about the date of an election that could potentially upend the leadership of the world’s fifth largest economy and disrupt the lockdown Democrats have exerted on the state Capitol for the past 11 years.
The range of likely dates shows up as a Tuesday between mid-September and early November – with signs indicating the likelihood of an election sooner rather than later.
One of the reasons for the confusion is that the procedure leading to a recall election involves a few steps that can take up to three months or as little as a few days, depending on how the officials involved decide to deploy things.
“These processes that remain now are totally in the hands of the Democrats. If they want to truncate it, they can truncate it. And in my opinion, they should do it,” said Garry South, a Democratic political consultant who has handled the campaigns of Gray Davis, the only governor of California to be recalled.
“Let’s end this thing.
Senate Elections Committee Chairman Steve Glazer suggested that the elections should take place in August because Newsom is doing well in the polls as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. But it seems more likely officials would wait until after Labor Day, when summer distractions set in. And recent activity on Capitol Hill indicates that the election will likely be called earlier than the traditional first Tuesday in November.
State finance officials and lawmakers who control the budget have already started figuring out how much it will cost counties to hold the election – a step they could drag into August if they wanted to. Last week, the Department of Finance received cost estimates from election officials in nearly all of California’s 58 counties. And Senator Nancy Skinner, the Berkeley Democrat who heads the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters she might not need the full 30 days the law gives her panel to examine the costs of recall elections because “we already know” the price.
County election officials said last month that holding the recall election would cost them around $ 400 million, five times more than Newsom had estimated. As last November, all registered voters will receive mail ballots and counties can also offer mail and in-person voting.
If lawmakers include county funding in the budget they will pass by June 15 – which seems likely, since they have received the cost estimate and have a massive surplus – it could be a major indication that the elections will probably take place in September. instead of later in the fall.
But if the funding isn’t included in the budget, that means lawmakers and Newsom’s finance officials could spend more than summer analyzing costs, delaying a vote. The recall legislation gives them a lot of leeway – finance officials and the legislature each have up to 30 days for this phase of the process.
Democratic lawmakers added more steps to California’s recall process in 2017, as they unsuccessfully tried to push back the Democratic state recall Senator Josh Newman from Fullerton. In addition to adding two months for tax analyzes, they also added six weeks for voters who signed the revocation petition to withdraw their signatures if they wish, a period which, in Newsom’s case, ends on Tuesday. .
“There has been a lot of delay,” said Joshua Spivak, a fellow of the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York City, who lives in the Bay Area and writes on Reminder of the election blog.
“It was this change in the law that gave some uncertainty to the procedure.”
Newsom answered questions about when he would like the election to take place saying it’s not his decision, and he will work hard to defeat the recall by focusing on vaccinating Californians and restarting the economy. While touting a return to “business as usual” when the state reopens on June 15, Newsom said on Friday that he would not lift the official state of emergency on that date. Emergency status allows the state to waive certain rules and speed up federal funding even if businesses reopen more completely.
“This disease has not been extinguished,” Newsom said after drawing lots for the first winners in his vaccine lottery. “It’s not about taking time off in the summer months.
His opponents campaigning for the recall jumped at the comment, saying it would add fuel to their movement, which started out as a conservative critique of Newsom’s liberal policies but has evolved to include voters frustrated with his law-induced restrictions. pandemic.
“It seals the coffin,” said Anne Dunsmore, recall campaign manager, of Newsom’s decision to retain her emergency powers. “People don’t feel like he understands the pain they’ve been through.”
Dunsmore said an election later in the fall is slightly better for recall supporters because it gives candidates more time to get into the race, which could attract more voters. It also allows Newsom to anger voters with its response to potential disasters – think wildfires, droughts and power outages – or its own blunders, like french laundry dinner which increased recall support.
“Timing is more of a problem for him than for us,” said Dunsmore.
Opinions vary as to whether holding the election earlier is better for Newsom – or even if the recall date matters a lot. There isn’t much of a playbook since only two governors in modern American history have been recalled – Davis, who was expelled from office in 2003, and the former Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, who defeated a recall in 2012.
Spivak believes Newsom would benefit from holding the election later, arguing that enough time to raise campaign funds helped Walker win. Newsom is already overtaking the supporters of the recall, who has collected and spent most of his money collecting signatures, and he looks set to dominate the race for money.
“The more time he has, the more he can use that money and overwhelm the opposition,” Spivak said. “The air war hasn’t started and when it does he could have a big advantage.”
In addition, holding the elections in early November could help Newsom by increasing the turnout, as voters are used to voting at that time. On the flip side, Spivak said, holding it on an unusual date could help Newsom gain more support by pointing out that this is an irregular election and an additional cost to taxpayers.
South says Newsom would be better off if the election were earlier – before he faced the intense period of signing and vetoing bills from September 11 to October 11. His decisions could irritate some voters. And an election slated for shortly thereafter could lead to further scrutiny of its influence on how Newsom assesses bills involving a range of powerful interests.
“It was a huge mess for us in 2003,” South said, as Davis faced a recall on Oct. 7.
“Watching him go through these bills with his reading glasses, the whole room was fraught with the specter of recall.”
Ultimately, South said, this prompted Davis to sign legislation he had vetoed and veto some bills he wouldn’t otherwise have. For example, just before the recall, Davis signed a bill to give drivers’ licenses to undocumented migrants – something he had opposed twice before, South said. The vetoes had cost Davis the approval of the powerful Latin American caucus in the Legislature in a previous election, and he didn’t want to risk that again on recall.
“Even if Newsom goes through all these thousands of bills, vetoed them and signed them all in good faith, he will be accused by both right and left of playing politics,” South said.
The decision on the election date rests with Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat and Newsom ally. The recall law says it must call an election between 60 and 80 days after Secretary of State Shirley Weber – who was nominated by Newsom – certify that a sufficient number of people have signed the recall petition to trigger an election, which follows the Legislative Assembly’s cost analysis.
“Frankly, it’ll probably be somewhere in the middle,” Kounalakis said in an interview. “It’s my job to set that date in this narrow window, in a way that serves the public interest, and that’s what I will do.”
One thing Kounalakis said she wouldn’t do? Follow in the footsteps of Cruz Bustamante, who held his post when Davis was recalled and decided to run right after the election was called.
“I’m absolutely not going to put my name on the recall ballot,” she said.