It’s a simple plurality vote on question two. Win by one and you rule Sacramento and one the largest economies in the world. The necessary signatures to force a recall are in — 2,117,730 signatures — well above the threshold of nearly 1.5 million needed under state law.
The state is broke — ignore the budget and examine the vast amount of unfunded pension liabilities — and dysfunctional, a captive of massively financed and brass-knuckled public employee unions. Its many woes are ignored or undiagnosed, the result of a nearly nonexistent political press that, when it churns out a story, often cheerfully parrots the Democratic line.
Silicon Valley is the new wokeland, surpassing Berkeley as the home of the thought police. The northern coast contrasts dramatically with the Central Valley, a Trumpist redoubt of vast fields and restive residents. The homelessness tragedy has reached an unbelievable level of suffering throughout the state but especially in Los Angeles; it may well be the most important issue on everyone’s mind when ballots are cast. (Deaths of the homeless soared by nearly a third last year in Los Angeles County.)
The porous border — stronger in San Diego than to its east, where a forbidding desert straddles the line on both sides — has been the scene of tragedy after tragedy, and the Biden administration’s handling of the frontier makes the crisis worse.
Into this mix comes a thumbs-up or down vote on Newsom and a carnival of choices on question two.
Thus far, only Caitlyn Jenner, former Republican San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Republican representative Doug Ose have declared their intent to be on the ballot, along with perennial candidate John Cox. Former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, may join the fray, but is deflecting any inquiries and focused on first getting the recall set in stone. Grenell might decide to seek the Senate seat now held by Alex Padilla until 2022. (If Grenell passes on that Senate race, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who’s been meeting with Grenell, would probably inherit the MAGA vote.)
No Democrat has publicly declared an interest in replacing Newsom, though former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and onetime presidential candidate Tom Steyer are circling. No one wants to show their dagger before Caesar reaches the Forum.
More than 130 candidates appeared on the ballot in 2003, when Gov. Gray Davis got the boot, and this helps to explain why Arnold Schwarzenegger won that year with 55 percent of the vote. It all happened very fast and had about it a surreal, make-believe quality. What’s past is prologue, only with a twist: In a year of collapsing ratings for cable news, the recall will be a Twitter-fueled godsend. Virginia and New Jersey have governor’s races underway this year, but nothing compares with a California recall.
The secret to this race will not be pummeling Newsom for his French Laundry face plant or the roller coaster of closing and reopening the Golden State’s economy. What will drive the conversation is a candidate willing to use the state constitution’s array of emergency powers and to find a way to humanely but comprehensively deal with the unhoused, who likely number close to 70,000 in Los Angeles County alone. Most public schools are in some form of shutdown or hybrid operations and companies have been leaving the state for points east. Who among the would-be chief executives could grapple with a once great state’s avalanche of woes?
Schwarzenegger promised to do that in 2003. It didn’t work out. The state reverted to its deep blue norm quickly. This time? The race will go to the bold.