In summary

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.

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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1. Siebel Newsom under scrutiny

First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom speaks during a recall campaign event in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

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

Assemblymembers applaud after passing a raft of budget “trailer bills” on the final day before summer break on July 15, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

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:

For more, check out CalMatters’ roundup of the top 21 bills sent to Newsom.

3. Heat wave strains state

A federal worker walks along parched ground near Davis. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

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:

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CalMatters commentary

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

See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...