The recall petitions against Governor Gavin Newsom reached a high not seen since 2003 and made national and international news this past weekend.
Making national news
Major newspapers across the country, from the San Francisco Chronicle to publications in New York and Washington, carried the news online and in print, while Fox News aired a segment on the recall that was broadcast globally, with additional local affiliates replaying the segment throughout the day Monday across the United States.
“Up until mid-November this was seen as a fringe, far right Republican sort of thing,” said Katrina Shaw, a political consultant in Washington, DC who specializes in special elections. “But this last weekend brought it out in the open.”
“The same thing happened with [former Governor] Gray Davis in 2003,” Shaw said. “People thought he was corrupt and had not done California right over the energy issues and costs they had around that time. But this news never left California until CNN and Fox brought up these petitions against him. You can count Judge Aaron Persky too. Many Californians were upset about his lenient ruling in the Brock Turner rape case, and the case had a national presence. But they didn’t get enough signatures for the petition until news of it hit social media like wildfire. And it worked. He was recalled last year.”
“Many Governors, Judges, Sheriffs, and other elected officials have faced recall petitions before, but none of them get far until they make the news in a big way. And it just happened to both of Newsom’s recall petitions.”
Money also played a part too. For Gray Davis, Republican Representative Darrell Issa’s funding of the recall campaign is widely seen as as a major factor of its success. The same goes for Judge Persky, when numerous women’s groups donated against him. Without a major source of money, both of the petitions against Newsom face a bit more of an uphill battle.
A tale of two recall petitions
There are currently two recall petitions in California.
One by former Republican Senate candidate Erin Cruz began in August. Wording in her petition lays out her reasons for the recall:
“Over a decade of proven mismanagement of-policies, public monies and resources, and of leadership have led to deterioration of California communities, poor schools, crumbling infrastructure, outrageous rise of costs from gas to utilities, mass housing crisis, frightening increase in homelessness, and insurmountable debt… all caused by gross mismanagement.”
The other, written by former Republican Congressional candidate Dr. James Veltmeyer, listed the reasons as giving healthcare to illegal aliens, tax increases, homelessness, and sanctuary cities within the state.
The Cruz recall petition needs 1,495,709 signatures by February 13th to be on the ballot, while the Veltmeyer recall petition needs the same number by March 5th.
Dr. Veltmeyer, appeared on Fox News on Sunday. In addition to explaining each point of his petition in more detail, such as giving healthcare to illegal immigrants only leading to more coming here and how the Governor has not done enough to combat the homeless problem, Dr. Veltmeyer gave the main reason as to why he’s doing this.
“I came here legally at age 11,” said Dr. Veltmeyer. “Having grown up in extreme poverty and being homeless to now being one of San Diego’s most prominent physicians, that’s the American Dream, that’s the California dream. And that’s what Gov. Newsom and left-wingers in the legislature are progressively destroying.”
The Governor’s response
Governor Newsom’s office has responded to the growing strength of the petitions. Instead of a summary, the Globe decided to give readers the full response, with all punctuation and capitalization left intact:
“WARNING: THIS UNWARRANTED RECALL EFFORT WILL COST CALIFORNIA TAXPAYERS $81 MILLION DOLLARS! IT IS BEING PUSHED BY POLITICAL EXTREMISTS SUPPORTING PRESIDENT TRUMP’S HATEFUL ATTACKS ON CALIFORNIA.
Less than one year ago, by historic margins, California voters elected Gavin Newsom Governor.
Since then, Governor Newsom has already made good on his promises to 1) increase funding for public education, 2) protect and secure your health care, 3) improve water, roads and bridges and 4) prepare California for wildfire threats.
Our budget is balanced. Our reserves are unprecedented. Our state economy and employment have hit historic highs.
Yet a handful of partisan activists supporting President Trump and his dangerous agenda to divide America are trying to overturn the definitive will of California voters and bring Washington’s broken government to California with this recall effort.
The last thing California needs is another wasteful special election, supported by those who demonize California’s people and attack California’s values.
Do not be fooled – California’s police officers, firefighters, first responders, public school teachers, health providers, and business leaders all STRONGLY OPPOSE this costly recall.
DO NOT HAND OVER YOUR SIGNATURE, YOUR SUPPORT OR YOUR PERSONAL, PRIVATE INFORMATION TO THIS DESTRUCTIVE RECALL SCHEME.”
The problems with Newsom’s response
Shaw, who has looked over both petitions and the Governor’s response, gave a quick analysis.
“Cruz and Veltmeyer use some wording that will turn off some voters, most notably the use of ‘illegal aliens’, and in Veltmeyer’s, trying to tie in gangs with immigration. Neither have worked in elections, let alone recalls,” noted Shaw. “Otherwise they are pretty solid petitions.”
“Governor Newsom’s response is problematic,” Shaw said. “Among younger generations, using all capital letters is portrayed as shouting or acting in a childish manner, so he can potentially lose some younger people’s support with this. They tend to vote more left too. It doesn’t go into great detail about his accomplishments, brags about how many votes he got, and is immediately pointing to Trump supporters being behind it.”
“This comes off as panicky and trying to put the blame on someone less popular than him. Last month only 44% approved of him. And who is the only politician who has a lower approval rating than him, not to mention having numerous verbal spats with? Trump. If this was another politician, social media would have ripped them apart by now for writing that,” Shaw said.
Gaining steam in unlikely areas
The national exposure has also had some positive effects for the petitions. Web searches for the petitions spiked over the weekend with the number of estimated new signatures added being projected at twofold.
“It’s what happened with Gray Davis after exposure like that,” explained Shaw. “Neither of them have been releasing how many signatures they’ve gotten, but we probably won’t hear from them about a big need unless it’s less than a month away and they’re not close.”
A colleague of Shaw, Royce Jackson, also chimed in on the recall petitions.
“We’ve noticed that both petitions are gaining traction in areas that were in the majority for Newsom,” said Jackson. “Parts of the Bay Area have seen many people collecting signatures setting up shop, and we’ve seen reports from very liberal areas like the San Gabriel Valley also seeing an uptick of people collecting signatures.”
“You expect to see signatures coming from Orange County, Bakersfield, parts of San Diego, parts of Sacramento. But we’re seeing it happen in solid blue areas now too. If you think back to Gray Davis, there were people in San Francisco and Los Angeles signing his recall petition, and those were his two biggest bases. This is only precedented by Davis, and look what happened there.”
The possible November recall vote
While the petitions are not close to garnering enough signatures for a ballot recall vote this November, the case being made against him is now becoming more and more of a national issue, and that may tip the scale towards a recall vote.
“We can only base it on what we know, which is how popular he is, what’s happened before, what the political climate is, and what the exposure is on this,” explained Shaw. “And besides being a Democrat in a very blue state, there’s not much else.”
“It took being made a national story, but I think at least one of the petitions now has enough traction to make it to the ballot. Especially, like you said, if they can get funding sorted out,” Shaw added.
“There’s a lot of angry Californians out west. We’re finally going to see them.”