Have You Heard? California’s Recalling Their Governor

Photo from NYTimes.com

California’s current governor, Gavin Newsom, faced a recall election on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The event has baffled political experts attempting to grapple with how a popular Democratic incumbent of a super blue state ended up nearly removed from office. Luckily for you, VALLEY’s broken down all the facts.

Recall Elections

A recall election is a referendum by which constituents can remove an elected official from office before their term is over. According to a pamphlet from California’s Office of the Secretary of State, it is required for a recall petition to be signed by registered voters equivalent to 12% of the turnout in the previous gubernatorial election. In Newsom’s — who was elected in 2018 — case, more than 1.6 million signed the petition when roughly 1.5 were needed for an election.

Newsom a

The Republican-led campaign dates back to February 2020. Since this was pre-pandemic, most of the reasoning behind the petition varied from Newsom’s immigration and property tax policies, as well as the homelessness rate and his position on the death penalty.

As COVID-19 seized the state, Newsom was criticized for his overall handling of the pandemic. His critics disagreed with his mask and vaccination mandates, also claiming he was too slow in reopening small businesses and schools. However, what boosted the campaign were leaked photos of Newsom dining maskless at a restaurant in Napa Valley, Calif., in early November 2020.

History of California

Only once before has this occurred. Democrat Gray Davis was the first governor in the state’s history to be successfully recalled and replaced by Republican challenger Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.

Candidates During Recalls

Yes, candidates can run in a recall election. The ballot asks two questions: Do you want to recall Governor Newsom, yes or no? If the recall passes, who should replace him?

If over 50% vote no, Newsom stays in office. If he does not, this could mean someone with only a fraction of the vote succeeds him in the last year of his term before the 2022 midterm elections.

Since Newsom is prohibited from running as a replacement candidate, voters have a long list to choose from. Some of the most notable include Larry Elder, John Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner.

Photo from LATimes.com

Elder, a conservative radio host and author, is the frontrunner of the opposition seeking to remove Newsom. This is his first time running for public office.

Photo from CalMatters.org

This is Cox’s second time running for governor after losing to Newsom in 2018. The San Diego-based businessman has also been accompanied at campaign stops by a live Kodiak bear, a symbol adorning both the state’s flag and seal.

Photo from Independent.co.uk

Jenner, a retired Olympic athlete, announced her bid in the recall election as a Republican in late April 2021. Like Elder, this is her first time running for public office.

Cost of Election

According to a letter from California’s Department of Finance, this recall election will cost taxpayers upwards of $276 million.


Californians were able to vote both in person and by mail, so like every election, we will know when all the ballots are counted. However, voters’ support for the incumbent has been insurmountable thus far. As of September 19, 2021, Newsom has passed the 50% threshold with a healthy 27 point lead — projecting a decisive landslide victory.

What do you think about the recall election? Let us know, @VALLEYmag, on Instagram and Twitter!


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