SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — The push to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom began in February 2020 and has since garnered over 2 million signatures, well over the 1.495 million required to trigger a recall election.
On Jul. 1, Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis issued a proclamation declaring a special election with an official date of Sept. 14. With the official date of the election set, three specific questions regarding its timing have sparked controversy.
The first timing issue presented itself on Monday, Jun. 28, with the signing into law of SB 152 by Newsom, which amends the election code in several ways, two of which are to provide fewer in-person polling places and to give officials more days to count ballots.
However, the portion of the bill which has generated most discussion is the section that reverses the recently enacted requirement for the Department of Finance to estimate and submit the costs of a recall election after a 30 day review period. Instead, this bill has allowed the Secretary of State to certify the sufficiency of the signatures, speeding up the process by an entire month.
A little context: Democratic lawmakers created the 30-day budget review process in 2018 when State Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) was facing a recall election of his own. At that time, Republicans saw the move as an attempt by Democrats to delay Newman’s recall election. Regardless of motive, the law delayed the election by 30 days but could not change the minds of the people who voted to recall Newman.
The timing of both the creation and reversal of the 30-day review period has left Democrats open to cries of foul play from the GOP. They accuse Dems of abusing their power by manipulating the election code to protect their own.
“Governor Newsom is manipulating the election date to strike while the iron is hot,” said Chairman of the Republican Party of San Luis Obispo Randall Jordan. The iron being “the loosening of mask mandates and the smoke and mirrors of the return to normalcy.”
The second timing issue also came to light on Jun. 28, when Newsom filed a lawsuit against California Secretary of State Shirley Weber—whom Newsom himself appointed in January—because she refuses to make a filing exception after Newsom’s lawyer missed an important deadline. As a result, it appears that Newsom’s name will not have a “D” next to it on the ballot.
Corresponding Secretary of the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Party John Alan Connerley did not seem worried about the potential omission. “Democrats in California are very proud of Governor Gavin Newsom. His name recognition is very high…I think most Californians know who he is.”
The final timing issue has to do with the fact that Governor Newsom’s term is set to end on Jan. 2, 2023. According to the state Finance Department, the state and county costs to run this special election will total $276 million. Thus, Democrats argue that the expenditure of the special election would be wasteful.
“They are now forcing an expensive election,” said Connerley. “Why couldn’t they just wait to do this next year as it was planned rather than costing millions of dollars? What happened to those fiscal conservatives?”
As if drought and wildfires weren’t enough, a heated political campaign is sure to crank up the temperature in California this summer, culminating in the decision to either recall Newsom or to allow him to finish out his term.