Will Governor Newsom Defeat the Recall?

Edelstein Gilbert Robson & Smith

The Legislature has just one week before adjourning the 2021 session on September 10. Governor Newsom will have until October 10 to act on the hundreds of bills that are making their way to his desk this week and next. As we’ve reported previously, we expect that the Governor will defer much of this work until after his September 14 recall election.

For the first time in several months, the Governor has received some good news on that front. Nevertheless, he must continue to work hard to defeat the recall and retain office.

PPIC Poll Shows the Governor in Better Shape

As we reported previously, polls released in July showed that voters were near evenly split on whether Governor Newsom should be recalled. To say that is not ideal for the Governor would be a serious understatement.

On Thursday, the highly respected Public Policy Institute of California released new polls which showed that only 39% of likely voters support the recall and 58% oppose. It is possible that the positive news for the Newsom campaign has as much to do with Newsom’s potential replacements as anything else. Only 44% of voters reported that they were satisfied with the replacement candidates and 49% say they are undecided on who to support or will not vote on a replacement for the Governor. 41% of voters believe the state would be worse off if Governor Newsom’s potential replacements are elected and only 31% believe the state would be better.

Early Turnout Shows More Democrats Voting

4.7 million Californians have already returned their ballots by mail. 2.5 million of those are Democrats and 1.1 million are Republicans. While it’s impossible to know with certainty how voters cast their ballots, polling and common sense dictates that those Democrats voted overwhelmingly against the recall.

No doubt these statistics are as welcome to the Governor as the new polling results. However, the statistics also reveal a few vulnerabilities. In particular young and Latino voters, an essential part of the Democratic coalition, are not turning out. 40% of the ballots returned so far have been from seniors, who are only 23% of the electorate. Meanwhile, while Latinos make up a quarter of the electorate, they represent less than a fifth of the votes cast so far.

The Governor will need to continue focusing on motivating Democrats to turnout. While the numbers are in his favor today, many more ballots remain to be returned and to date, returned ballots have come disproportionately from liberal areas of the state like the Bay Area. Los Angeles County and San Francisco sent their ballots out earlier than the rest of the state. Further, consistent with national trends Republicans are expected to turnout in higher numbers to drop off their ballots in person on election day.

Recognizing their significance in the election, both Governor Newsom and his opponent Larry Elder have invested in Spanish language ads in an attempt to turnout and court Latino voters.

Focusing on COVID-19

In addition to attending an unmasked gathering at the state’s most expensive restaurant last fall, the Governor’s proactive response to the pandemic was a large driver of the recall effort. It may be surprising therefore that the Governor is beginning to focus on his response to the pandemic and willingness to wield his executive authority to impose mandates as a reason that voters should keep him in office.

To date, Governor Newsom has instead focused on the connections between recall proponents and former President Donald Trump. The anti-recall campaign has hit the airwaves with ads featuring nationally recognized Democrats such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren imploring California Democrats to reject a Republican power grab.

However, Governor Newsom has recently shifted to emphasizing his willingness to respond to the pandemic. In public speaking engagements, this week has turned the debate on his recall into a question of public health, noting the contrast between himself and his opponents. Recent ads from the anti-recall campaign have highlighted the same thing noting that the recall decision is “a matter of life and death.”

It may seem a little counterintuitive, but the choice makes sense. The Governor’s Republican opponents have handed him the talking point by making it clear that they all oppose any efforts to mandate masking or vaccination. At the same time, those voters who are willing to unseat the Governor based on his willingness to impose vaccine mandates are likely already lost to him, making the appeal to those who disagree an obvious choice.

Smooth Sailing?

The Governor is by no means out of the woods. Poor turnout among Democrats is a serious risk.

At the same time, there are serious issues looming over the state. Fair or not, the Governor will be judged on his response and the situation is fraught with risk for him.

The severe drought throughout the Western United States is just one example. Parts of the state are already facing water supply problems, others will be in the near term if the drought continues into another year. The Governor and the Legislature have no ability legislate a more resilient water supply into existence before September 14. Instead, if conditions continue to be dry, they will be forced to consider draconian measures to reduce water use.

While it is unlikely that the Governor will pull that trigger prior to September 14, his opponents are eager to raise the specter of drought response. Social media sponsored by pro-recall groups have advertised about the risk of water shut offs and curtailment in the water starved Central Valley already.

We will keep you apprised of further developments.

About Edelstein Gilbert Robson & Smith, LLC

Since 1985, Edelstein Gilbert Robson & Smith LLC has been providing effective and aggressive representation on a wide variety of issues on behalf of a diverse mix of clients. Visit us online at https://www.edelsteingilbert.com/

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The California Alarm Association develops and manages programs to benefit members and to promote the growth of professionalism in the electronic security industry throughout the state of California. We exist to serve our members and associates by being the industry advocate and liaison with public safety agencies, government bureaus, and licensing, standards and regulation bodies.