Here’s how polls may have shaped the race to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom — and what they reveal about some Californians’ distrust of authority.
Gov. Gavin Newsom must be feeling as good as he could feel one day before the election to oust him from office.
Today, President Joe Biden will join him in Long Beach to campaign against the recall — the latest Democratic heavyweight to do so. On Friday, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies released a poll predicting that Newsom will defeat the recall by 22 percentage points — a far cry from just a few weeks ago, when the institute found that likely voters were almost evenly split over whether to keep him in office. And Democrats had returned 53% of mail-in ballots as of Friday — a likely signal the party is rousing apathetic voters.
Paradoxically, Newsom’s turnaround in the polls may be partly due to the polls themselves: When the governor’s allies saw numbers suggesting his political future was precarious, they snapped into action, raising cartloads of money and mobilizing voters. But then came the admission that one of the polls may have been inaccurate — raising questions about surveys’ ability to precisely capture voters’ feelings while also underscoring their power to shape the course of elections, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.
The polls have also illuminated another core force in the recall: fundamental distrust of government and authority. “There is no way I am going to believe it” if Newsom wins, recall supporter Matt Francis told the Los Angeles Times. “I really believe that the silent majority is huge and I think that the polls are incorrect,” recall volunteer Linda Rich said.
In yet another paradox, however, allegations that the election is rigged or voter fraud rampant could suppress the very voters recall supporters are trying to turn out. But that hasn’t stopped frontrunner Larry Elder from gathering lawyers and launching a website asking Californians to sign a petition calling on state lawmakers to investigate the “twisted results” of the recall election — before the results have even been announced.
The California Republican Party has also launched an “election integrity” website to “build trust and faith within our process,” in the words of chairperson Jessica Millan Patterson — even as Secretary of State Shirley Weber said Friday that California’s voting system has the strictest security requirements in the nation.
The distrust of and frustration with government, though, are not unique to Republicans. Three members of San Francisco’s school board are expected to face recall elections early next year that are backed by liberals. On Tuesday, Sonoma County and the city of Vernon are holding recall elections of their own against local officials. And many California Democrats are unhappy with how their party is handling the state’s problems, even if they think Republicans would do worse.
- Edward Ring, co-founder of the conservative nonprofit California Policy Center: “I don’t think you can stereotype the voters who are feeling alienated and frustrated by the policies coming out of Sacramento.”
Podcast: I join CapRadio’s Scott Rodd to discuss what recall supporters and opponents are saying about Newsom’s governorship ahead of Election Day. Listen here.
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Other stories you should know
1. Siebel Newsom under scrutiny
Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder on Sunday held a press conference at which he was endorsed by Rose McGowan, an actress recognized as a 2017 TIME Person of the Year for being one of the first women to speak publicly about Harvey Weinstein’s record of sexual assault and harassment. McGowan in a Thursday appearance on the Rubin Report alleged that Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, called her on behalf of Weinstein’s lawyer David Boies six months before the story broke, in an apparent attempt to keep her from speaking about it publicly. The Newsoms have numerous connections to the Boies Schiller Flexner law firm: Newsom’s former chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, worked there before she was tapped by the governor, and Siebel Newsom’s sister is married to Joshua Schiller, a partner at the firm. (Schiller in January was arrested in Marin County on domestic violence charges, which were dropped in April.)
“What did Gavin know and when did he know it?” McGowan tweeted, accusing both Newsom and his wife of “protect(ing) the perpetrator” — seemingly a reference to both Weinstein and Schiller. However, Siebel Newsom, in a 2017 essay, alleged Weinstein had also sexually assaulted her.
- A spokesperson for Siebel Newsom told my colleague Laurel Rosenhall: “What is being alleged is a complete fabrication. It’s disappointing but not surprising to see political opponents launch these false attacks just days before the election. Their (McGowan and Siebel Newsom’s) limited correspondence has been strictly as fellow survivors of sexual assault and in Jennifer’s former capacity leading the Representation Project, an organization that fights limiting gender stereotypes and norms.”
Speaking of gender stereotypes and norms, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal examines why the recall election is unlikely to lead to California’s first female governor.
2. Big bills sent to Newsom
State lawmakers adjourned Friday as the legislative session drew to a close, sending hundreds of bills to Newsom’s desk even as some of the most progressive environmental and criminal justice proposals remained on the cutting room floor. The casualties underscore not only the tensions between the Legislature’s moderate and liberal Democrats, but also the stubborn realities facing California. For example, lawmakers rejected a bill that called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions beyond current mandates — a setback for environmentalists, but perhaps also an implicit recognition that California isn’t even on pace to meet its current goals. And amid a sizable spike in homicides and a brutal Sacramento murder, bills stalled that would have expunged felony records for more offenders, reformed the cash bail system and removed exemptions to California’s sanctuary state law.
Other key takeaways:
- Lawmakers passed bills to overhaul the state’s beleaguered unemployment department, pay people struggling with drug addiction to stay sober, make it easier for terminally ill patients to end their own lives, remove mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, reform conservatorship laws, prevent police from blocking journalists covering protests and demonstrations, hold fashion brands liable for fair wages, return prime beachfront property to descendants of the Black couple who built the resort and require many local governments to continue allowing residents to access meetings remotely. They also approved billions of dollars for wildfire and drought prevention.
- Legislators also passed a bill that would decriminalize loitering with the intent to commit prostitution — but the author, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, took the rare step of blocking it from being sent to Newsom’s desk until January 2022.
For more, check out CalMatters’ roundup of the top 21 bills sent to Newsom.
3. Heat wave strains state
This summer is the hottest in recorded California history, according to new federal data — as if an extreme drought and ferocious fire season weren’t enough to handle. Here’s a look at where California stands on key environmental fronts:
- Energy. The Biden administration on Friday approved an emergency request from the manager of California’s electric grid to run some gas-powered plants at full capacity this fall, even if it means exceeding air-pollution limits. It’s the state’s latest attempt to stave off rolling blackouts: Newsom, who already suspended certain environmental requirements, is also offering to reimburse industrial customers for reducing energy use.
- Drought. With the state slashing water allocations for thousands of farmers, many have accepted the inevitable: They will have to learn how to grow crops that need less water. But will science and technology — such as wifi-connected orchards — move quickly enough to offer the solutions they need to survive? CalMatters’ Julie Cart takes a look.
- Fire. Around 1,100 lightning strikes hit the state Thursday night, sparking fires in Northern California and temporarily closing the entrance to Sequoia National Park, while parts of Southern California were under shelter-in-place warnings for flash floods, rock falls and mudslides. On Friday, Newsom requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to bolster recovery from the Caldor Fire, which quieted enough over the weekend for some evacuations to lift. Meanwhile, the Route Fire ignited near Castaic on Saturday, temporarily closing Interstate 5 in both directions. And the monstrous Dixie Fire, which continues to force new evacuations, is nearing 1 million acres — and the title of the largest blaze in state history.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s never-ending wildfires have ignited an insurance crisis that demands bold new thinking.
California’s recall process is being abused: Used cynically by wealthy political interests, the recall provisions of the California Constitution no longer align with our democratic values, argues Mary-Beth Moylan, a law professor at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.
Climate change is bankrupting California’s ecosystems: While there is no Chapter 11 to protect our communities from climate change, here are the actions we can all take now, writes Martha Davis, formerly of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency.
Other things worth your time
Podcast on California housing: Could CEQA reform create a boom? // CalMatters
Poll: 47% of Californians say 9/11 had lasting impact on them. // Los Angeles Times
Survey: Many San Diego police would rather quit than follow vaccine mandate. // Los Angeles Times
San Diego County healthcare workers seek vaccine exemptions. // Los Angeles Times
Unvaccinated state workers to take COVID tests under eye of their managers. // Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg tests positive for COVID-19. // Sacramento Bee
San Diego County Supervisor breaks silence on mismanagement at COVID-19 hotels. // inewsource
California will give a short version of its standardized math and English tests next spring. // EdSource
Some in California to get extra unemployment benefits as they expire — but only for a week. // Sacramento Bee
In wake of Texas abortion law, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tells employees: ‘We’ll help you exit the state.’ // San Francisco Chronicle
Inside the California apartments built on an assembly line. // New York Times
Legal win for Costa Mesa zoning rule could mean changes for sober living industry. // Orange County Register
One-third of Biden’s Cabinet visited the Bay Area this summer. Why? // The San Francisco Chronicle
The strange and terrible saga of the Willie Brown deck. // Mission Local
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