Top California Republicans are emphasizing that a non-endorsement by the state party this weekend in the upcoming gubernatorial recall election will actually boost turnout needed to oust embattled Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The California GOP voted overwhelmingly to not back any of the four Republican gubernatorial recall candidates who had qualified to be considered by the state party. Instead, delegates voted for party unity as they aim to oust Newsom in next month’s recall election.
“We are squarely focused on putting California back on track by recalling the worst governor in California history,” state GOP chair Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement on Saturday.
Patterson charged that “Newsom is arrogant, incompetent and a desperate politician who has failed Californians in every possible way.”
The California GOP decided against backing any of the candidates who had qualified to be considered – conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, former two-term San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, state assemblyman Kevin Kiley, and former Rep. Doug Ose – after two Californians on the Republican National Committee urged against making an endorsement.
The influential officials, Harmeet Dhillon and Shawn Steel, argued that backing one of the four contenders would possibly divide Republicans and depress voter turnout among those supporting the candidates that didn’t land the party’s endorsement.
The move comes as the most recent polls indicate those likely to vote in the recall contest are divided on ousting Newsom. One of those surveys, a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll conducted two weeks ago, indicated that 47% of likely California voters supported recalling Newsom, with 50% opposed.
The poll pointed to how crucial turnout will be in the Sept. 14 election in a state where registered Democrats greatly outnumber registered Republicans, but Republicans appear to be more motivated to cast ballots in the recall contest. Although Republicans only account for roughly a quarter of all registered voters in California, the poll indicated they made up a third of those most likely to vote in the recall election.
“The governor’s in jeopardy among those most likely to be voting,” Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS Poll, told Fox News a week and a half ago.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom talks during a news conference at Universal Studios in Universal City, Calif. on July 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)
Voters will be asked two questions on the Newsom recall ballots, which will be mailed to California voters starting in about a week. The first question is whether the governor should be removed from office. If more than 50% support removing Newsom, the second question offers a list of candidates running to replace the governor.
The recall push was launched in June of last year over claims the governor mishandled the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The effort was fueled by the state’s COVID restrictions on businesses and houses of worship, school shutdowns and even opposition to the state’s high taxes. But the effort surged in the autumn after Newsom’s dinner at an uber-exclusive restaurant, which – at best – skirted rules imposed by the governor to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
State election officials announced in April that the recall effort had garnered more than the 1.5 million valid signatures needed to make the ballot.
Republicans see the recall election as their best chance to topple a politician who has never lost an election during his years as San Francisco mayor, California lieutenant governor and now governor — and their first chance to win a statewide contest since the 2006 gubernatorial reelection victory by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a moderate Republican.
Three years earlier, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis became the second governor in U.S. history to be successfully recalled and was succeeded by Schwarzenegger, who won the recall election. Schwarzenegger captured nearly 50% of the vote on the second question, even though he was one of 135 candidates listed on the ballot.
This time around there are 46 candidates listed on the second question of the recall ballot.
Elder, who reports hauling in a whopping $4.5 million in fundraising in the first 19 days after launching his campaign on July 12, was the front runner at 18% support, according to the UC Berkley poll. Faulconer and businessman and 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Cox were each at 10% support. And Republican Caitlyn Jenner, the 1976 Olympic gold-medal-winning decathlete turned transgender rights activist and nationally known TV personality, was tied for fifth place with 3% support. Forty percent were undecided.
If Newsom is recalled, his successor doesn’t need to win a majority of the vote on question two to become governor. He or she just needs to come in first, which means its possible California’s next governor could be elected with just 25% – or less – of the vote.