The Recall Gavin campaign announced on February 25 that they have now collected 1,825,000 signed recall petitions. This means that if 82 percent of these signed petitions are validated by the county registrars, there will be a special election to see if Gavin Newsom remains in office as California’s governor. The proponents aren’t slowing down, however, nor should they. Lead proponent Orrin Heatlie, reached for comment on this latest milestone, was unequivocal. “The work isn’t done,” he said, “we need to secure greater numbers than are required in order to beat the rejection rate and we are still looking for two million signed petitions. If we can keep up the pace we’re at, we’ll make it.”
Heatlie, a man of extraordinary determination that has surprised every political expert in the state, now commands a statewide volunteer army of over 5,000 seasoned activists. His committee is joined by a parallel committee led by Anne Dunsmore, a veteran political consultant whose grit equals Heatlie. Dunsmore threw her energy and experience fully into the recall effort when nobody else would. The synergy generated by these two committees, with complementary strategies and skill sets, has made political history. With the finish line in sight, neither of them is about to slow down.
If there is a special election, the recall ballot will have two questions. The first will be “do you support removing Newsom from office, yes or no?” The second question, on the same ballot, will be “if voters remove Newsom from office, who do you vote for to replace him?”
Who steps up to run as Newsom’s replacement is the biggest political question in California today. How that slate of candidates is constituted will influence Newsom’s chances of surviving question one, as well as who ends up running California if Newsom is rejected by voters.
California’s Democrats are split on how to handle this, with a narrow consensus holding so far that considers the best strategy is to not support any Democratic candidates on the ballot under question two, and emphasize instead their support for Newsom. Their rationale is based on a concern that if an alternative Democrat is on the ballot, it will harm Newsom’s chances of surviving the recall since it will give California’s disaffected Democrats – and they are plentiful – a reason to vote to recall Newsom.
That may or may not stop some Democrat from throwing their hat into the ring, and for Republicans, that is a double-edged sword. On one hand, having a Democrat alternative to Newsom will make it more likely that Newsom does not survive the recall. But on the other hand, if there is only one prominent Democrat offered as a replacement for Newsom on question two, facing two or more prominent Republicans, the Republican candidates will split the vote and the Democrat will win.
The nightmare scenario for Republicans goes something like this: The declared Republican candidates, John Cox and Kevin Faulconer, are joined by one or two other prominent Republican candidates, then Lorena Gonzalez, currently one of the most radical members of the California State Assembly, jumps onto the ballot to run as the sole Democratic alternative. Gonzalez then becomes the next Governor of California because the Republicans have split the anti-Gonzalez vote three ways. Gonzalez could never win state office in a normal election. But she could win the jungle recall.
Then again, the metaphor “jungle” is appropriate. Under current California election law, almost anyone can get their name on a recall ballot. Who will jump in? In 2003, there were 135 candidates. Will Larry Elder run? Will Richard Grenell run? What about another celebrity like Schwarzenegger? Why not? There are a lot of animals in the California jungle.
If there are a lot of candidates in the recall, there is still a way that one candidate can excite the electorate to stand out from the pack and beat the odds. That is not by attacking the other candidates, or even by emphasizing the failed leadership of Gavin Newsom and by extension, the entire Democratic party in California. It is by emphasizing solutions to the challenges Californians are facing. To that end, here are some questions for candidates that aspire to become the next governor of California:
Are you willing to direct California’s attorney general to fight to overturn Jones v. the City of Los Angeles, the flawed court ruling that requires homeless people be offered free “permanent supportive housing” before they can be removed from their public encampments?
Are you willing to build state-run encampments where able-bodied drug addicts can be hauled off and given the help they need for pennies on the dollar, or are you going to allow the Homeless Industrial Complex to keep on raping taxpayers and solving nothing?
Are you willing to tell the truth, that we ought to drill for more natural gas here in resource-rich California to create jobs since we import so much of it anyway? Will you prevent the destruction of California’s natural gas distribution infrastructure?
Are you willing to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open? Will you support mining California’s abundant lithium deposits so California’s EV battery suppliers don’t have to import these raw materials from slave states?
Are you willing to stand up to the teachers’ unions and fight for school choice via universal vouchers where the money follows the student, and/or massive improvement in the ability to open and keep open independent charter schools?
Are you going to fight to bring back logging to 1990 levels (triple what it is today) so we can thin the overgrown forests and at the same time the timber companies will clear around the power lines and maintain firebreaks and fire roads like they used to, at no charge?
Will you tell the truth about open space, that we are not running out of it, and will you fight to bring back streamlined permitting for subdivisions on open land along the major freeway corridors up and down the state?
Will you spend public money on water infrastructure—reservoirs, aquifer storage, desalination, sewage reuse—instead of putting Californians onto water rationing?
Will you invest in widening and extending California’s roads and freeways instead of wasting money on high-speed rail? Do you understand that smart cars and passenger drones are just around the corner, making roads the most versatile transportation investment?
Will you tell the identity politics warriors and social justice warriors they’re barking up the wrong tree, that California is not “racist,” and that if they truly want to help they can encourage individuals to take responsibility for their lives?
These are bold positions that, if translated into policies, would make a positive difference in the lives of ordinary Californians. Explaining the compelling rationale for these policies will build consensus among voters. This means an articulate, uncompromising new governor could bypass California’s corrupt state legislature and take every one of these positions to the voters in the form of state ballot initiatives.
Forcing Newsom to defend himself in a recall election is going to be a tremendous accomplishment, but it is only half the battle. Offering a coherent alternative to what Newsom and the Democrats he represents have done to Californians is the vital other half of this struggle.
Even in the event of a nightmare outcome, the replacement of Newsom with someone like the even more extreme Lorena Gonzalez, there is a silver lining. Californians will experience, to the extent they haven’t already experienced it, the full weight of one-party rule by leftist fanatics, environmentalist extremists, social justice “woke” warriors, public sector unions, corrupt business special interests, and the billionaire oligarchs that pull the strings. It will be a clarifying experience.
If things go from bad to worse in California, and voters have to endure a doubling down of failed leadership from Democrats, they will be ready to vote for ballot initiatives and reform candidates that offer new policies to an electorate that is finally paying attention.