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Wednesday: Here’s what to know about the date of the special election that will allow voters to decide whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom.
July 7, 2021, 8:51 a.m. ET
At first, political experts said that if it happened, a special election to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom from office would happen later in the year — probably November? There was a complex, lengthy process that would have to take place first, and the earlier estimates accounted for all of that.
But now, here we are, with a date for the election that is much sooner than expected: Sept. 14. How? Why? What does it mean for Newsom and his opponents? Here’s what you need to know.
Who set the election date for Sept. 14?
The date was decided by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat who is closely allied with the governor. It was the soonest that county officials said they could pull together a special election.
Previous estimates were later because the recall election process required an additional step, a cost review, before a date could be set. But last month, lawmakers passed a bill allowing the state to bypass that review and pick an earlier date.
So, over objections that legislators were changing the rules of the game in order to protect the governor, that’s what they did.
The special election is expected to cost taxpayers some $276 million, state officials said. That, of course, doesn’t include campaign expenditures. In total, David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University, told me he expected the spending to be somewhere around half a billion dollars.
But McCuan said this was all part of what he described as “protest politics,” in which politicians are judged less by what they do and more by what sides of contentious issues they represent.
“It’s the weaponization of Trump’s playbook through direct democracy by both Republicans and Democrats,” he said.
Is that date good or bad for Newsom?
It’s clear that Newsom and his advisers believe the earlier date is good for him. It will allow the governor to take advantage of Californians’ optimism as they emerge from the pandemic, and will keep short the amount of time left for serious contenders to enter the race. (They have only about two more weeks to jump in. More than 50 candidates are already on the ballot, including a handful of well-funded Republicans.)
And indeed, McCuan said, from a lawmaking standpoint, the Sept. 14 timing is advantageous for the governor.
It’s near the end of the legislative session. This year, the state’s Democrats will have items on their wish lists from a huge budget surplus.
“The Newsom team is going to want to parcel those out based upon who’s playing well in their sandbox,” he said. “He’ll have bills in front of him to sign or veto as he’s going into the recall.”
Is that date good or bad for the governor’s opponents?
Experts said it may not be bad for proponents of the recall — even if it’s good for Newsom.
Joshua Spivak, a senior fellow at Wagner College’s Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform, told me that the rush to get out the ballot could backfire.
Right now, the voters who are most “engaged — and probably enraged,” are those who would like to boot the governor, as Spivak wrote in an opinion piece for The Los Angeles Daily News. Having a later election would give the Newsom campaign more time to raise money and convince the state’s Democratic base that it’s important to vote.
A later election date also would give Newsom more time to respond to any unforeseen delays or complications with school reopenings in the fall; prolonged school closures were a major point of criticism for Newsom’s Republican opponents.
Still, McCuan said, even if the recall effort fails — as it is expected to do — it will have been worth it for Republicans if they’re able to accomplish one thing: increase party registration in a state where Democrats have dominated and the G.O.P. has been divided over its future.
Republicans can also use the recall as an opportunity to hone a message for California voters before the 2022 midterm elections.
Find all the answers to your questions about the recall here.
Read more about the rule change lawmakers recently passed from The Sacramento Bee.
Here’s what else to know today
Compiled by Jonathan Wolfe
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California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.