In many ways, the campaign to recall Governor Gavin Newsom is developing exactly as Newsom had hoped.
Polls indicate that a sense of recall is well underway behind what would be required to remove him from office. He enjoys solid support from his own Democratic Party, even though he will not be listed as a Democrat on the September 14 ballot, thanks to an error in his campaign.
Newsom and the legislature moved the election date to take advantage of their current popular support and less time to make their case for the recall of their opponents. Wealthy interests and wealthy backers have given Newsom an enormous campaign treasury of more than $30 million to date, much more than is needed for a pro-recall campaign.
In the end, there are only a few dozen names on the list of to-be successors, no major Democrats and no one with a public position or fundraising ability to run a full campaign. The state’s unaffiliated and much-diminished Republican Party can’t sit around a single candidate, and the political media, especially those elsewhere, are enthralled by the fake candidacy of former athlete and reality television personality Caitlyn Jenner. .
Despite this, current events – droughts, wildfires and the outbreak of COVID-19, in particular – are a political minefield for the governor.
Newsom wants to continue chopping around the state under the guise of official business, declaring that California is “roaring back” from the pandemic and the sharp slowdown that has resulted from its shutdown orders, and the new state budget. Including cash payment of generous benefits to the voters, which will accrue to the electorate.
After the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020, issuing executive orders to take single command of the crisis, and doing frequent and lengthy webcasts to explain what he was doing to combat the dreaded coronavirus, Newson eagerly took center stage.
With the recall election now just weeks away, however, Newsom is clearly shying away from taking public command of the latest crises.
For example, when Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, faced a short drought in 2015, he mandated a 25% reduction in water use, but Newsom voluntarily only made up for a 15% reduction. issued a modest call, clearly unwilling to take political heat. To let Californians know that they can’t water their lawns as often as they want.
When the highly contagious Delta version of the coronavirus began to spike the number of new cases, Los Angeles County ordered and eight Bay Area health officials recommended wearing masks again in indoor settings. However, when Newsom was asked this week whether a statewide order would be forthcoming, he responded with words that were tantamount to brushing off the issue. Moreover, contrary to his high-profile command of the pandemic in 2020, he is content to let state health officials do the talking this time.
When a news organization revealed that Newsom’s administration had met only a small fraction of the promised fuel reductions in fire-prone areas, some legislators complained that Newsom’s proposed state budget would cut fire safety. There was a shortage. He quickly filled the hole with some extra money as flames began to rise across the kingdom.
All three crises – drought, fire and COVID-19 – are set to intensify in the coming weeks. While Newsom may prefer to emphasize the positives and eliminate the negatives, if he sidesteps them for political purposes, he opens himself up to legitimate criticism.
Furthermore, if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the question of reopening schools will arise once again, and Newsom will be on the spot as California voters begin marking their recall ballots.
Dan Walters is a columnist for CalMatters.