UPDATE: The majority of voters voted against recalling Gavin Newsom, and the Democrat retains his job as governor. Read more about the election here.
“I want to oust Governor Gavin Newsom because he has shut down businesses, schools and churches for a year in a row,” Alan Curry said.
TV 2 meets Curry at a meeting organized by the Republican Party in San Diego, California.
When the pandemic first hit Curry’s state in 2020, he ran four restaurants. Now he has shut everyone down for good, and he blames the governor.
– We have had far more comprehensive corona measures here than in neighboring states. In addition, the tax level and the number of environmental regulations have skyrocketed. It has become unlivable here, he says and strikes out with his arms.
In one hand he holds a poster that reads: Our Governor is an idiot.
– We are losing our best people due to the pandemic management and all the regulations. Look at Elon Musk. He went to Texas because he could no longer do business here, says Curry.
California is one of 20 states in the United States, where it is possible for citizens to remove a governor in the middle of a term by a so-called recall election.
A recall election presupposes that a certain number of inhabitants – more precisely 12 percent of the number who voted during the last election – sign a petition to remove the governor.
Such appeals are not uncommon in California, where every governor since the 1960s has been ousted. But usually the attempts fail before one reaches the required number of signatures.
Not since Republican Arnold Scwarzenegger replaced Democrat Gray Davis in 2003 has a recall election been held in California.
So why is it happening now? California has also become increasingly democratic in recent years and in 2018 the governor won with record numbers.
Restaurant visits during the closure
There are several versions of what has happened, but the pandemic is in all cases part of the explanation.
The signature campaign, which has now taken hold, was started in February 2020, ie before the pandemic.
The reason at the time was that the taxes were too high and that Governor Newsom suspended the practice of the death penalty, despite the fact that the population voted no to just that three years before. The water restrictions in the drought-stricken state and the lack of arrests of undocumented immigrants were also cited as reasons.
However, the signature campaign first gained widespread popular support when the pandemic hit California and Governor Gavin Newsom introduced more intrusive measures than were in neighboring states.
It was particularly unpopular when he closed parks and beaches in April 2020. Many have also resented the fact that most of the state’s school children only received distance education last school year – while Newsom’s own children received regular classroom education at a private school.
In November 2020, while it was still in full swing, Newsom was also pictured inside a Michelin-starred restaurant, where he enjoyed a better dinner with family and friends from two other households.
The latter scandal gave the recall campaign wind in its sails, and in March this year, the initiators submitted over two million signatures.
– Vaccine opponents and right-wing extremists
Another version of what has happened is promoted the election campaign side to Gavin Newsom. It describes the movement that will oust him, as a coalition of Republicans, Q-Anon conspiracy theorists, vaccine opponents and right-wing extremists.
Newspapers such as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have also reported that the early political rallies held were populated by a significant proportion of vaccine opponents and members of the Proud Boys.
In 2019, the signature engine of the signature campaign, Orrin Heatlie, also wrote the following on Facebook: Put microchips on illegal immigrants. It works. Just ask the animal control. A comment he himself has since said was not meant literally.
No matter where one places the campaign’s initiators politically, there is little doubt that their field of impact has become larger.
Surveys show that many center-right Democrats will also oust Newsom. One of them is author and activist Michael Shellenberger, who has been a lifelong Democrat. He is particularly concerned about the homelessness crisis in California, which has lasted for many years, but which has worsened quite drastically since March 2020.
“California has not been governed properly for a long time, but during the pandemic, things have really gone awry,” says Shellenberger.
– It was decided early on that the prisons had to have fewer inmates and the hospices fewer residents, for infection control reasons. The solution was to arrest fewer people for violence and for rushing into the streets. We have anarchist conditions here now. It is actually no exaggeration, he says.
Shellenberger’s new book is called San Fransicko, but is about the whole of California.
– We have 100,000 homeless people in California, a much higher proportion than in any other state. Many people blame housing shortages and high house prices, but house prices are rising elsewhere in the United States as well, without seeing a similar development. This is by far a politically created crisis, and one cannot escape the fact that California has in practice been a one-party state for many years now.
– Fear of women’s rights
When Californians go to the polls today, they will vote yes or no to whether they want to oust the governor. Then they will vote for a candidate, who they will replace Newsom.
As usual in California, many eccentric candidates are running for office, including former Olympic winner and reality celebrity Caitlyn Jenner.
Foremost in the Republican field, however, is radio host Larry Elder, who has announced that he will build more homes for the state’s homeless and also facilitate more involuntary hospitalizations, so that fewer homeless people with mental illness are part of the street scene. Another important part of his political agenda is lowering taxes in California.
Elder, who is himself black, has previously also marked himself as a staunch critic of Black Lives Matter, which he believes is a violence-glorifying movement. He has also called systematic racism in the United States “a lie”.
During the election campaign, however, it is his position on abortion that has perhaps been most frequently discussed. Elder is a staunch opponent of abortion and this worries many, despite the fact that he has specified that he will not prioritize abortion restrictions during his possible governorship.
“I’m worried about how a change of governor will affect women’s rights and human rights in general,” said college student Vivian McMan, whom TV 2 meets on the streets of San Francisco.
– I’m thinking of the new abortion law in Texas. I hope we avoid similar abortion restrictions here, she adds.
The new law, which came into force in Texas on September 1, prohibits women from having an abortion after the 6th week of pregnancy. In California, women today can have abortions up to and including week 24.
– For me, it is important that we keep the rights that have been fought for and do not go backwards, McMan says.
– Silly choices
Three weeks ago, there was a deadlock between the yes and no sides during the recall election. Now it looks like the no side has moved in from, but the election outcome will largely depend on the turnout.
Where the no side has the largest voter base in California, Republicans have waged a more active and long-running election campaign.
In recent weeks, however, Newsom has been on an election campaign tour with, among others, US Vice President Kamala Harris.
Powerful supporters, such as Neflix director Reed Hastings, have also given him the financial muscle to wallpaper the broadcasting stations of California television stations with political advertising.
As of today, Newsom’s campaign has raised almost twice as much money, as all the Republican candidates combined.
San Francisco resident Yasim Muddin Ahmed says “everyone he knows” has now voted, and that he himself would not risk staying home.
– I also think Newsom does an excellent job, says Ahmed, where he stands outside the garage in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco.
– Yes, the coronary measures have been strict, but we have also had some of the lowest infection rates in the USA. He has also proven to be active in the face of global warming and forest fires. The economy is also going as it laughs, even during the pandemic. He is empathetic and human. In addition, he is handsome as few, and his wife is hot. Why would you depose such a man?
Ahmed also questions the legitimacy of the election.
– We had an election where we elected governor four years ago. It should not have been possible with such recall options. It’s just a waste of time and money. It’s a silly choice.