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September 14, 2021

California Gov. Gavin Newsom faces recall vote with crowded field of candidates

50pk MaskAfter weeks of speculation as to what might happen, California formally votes in a recall election on Tuesday that asks residents if Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled -- and if so, who of a number of candidates should take his place?

The Democrat and former mayor of San Francisco has faced multiple Republican-led recall attempts, but this is the only one to meet the requirements of state law and actually reach the ballot.

The recall was initiated by a petition more than a year ago that accused Newsom of endorsing laws that "favor foreign nationals, in our country illegally, over that of our own citizens." It also criticizes Newsom for the state's high taxes, its homeless crisis, his support for "sanctuary city" immigration laws and other progressive policies.

More than 1.7 million Californians signed the petition, eclipsing the 1.49 million signatures needed to trigger an official recall. The number of people who signed the petition is equal to about 12% of the votes cast when Newsom was elected governor in 2018.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in support of California Gov. Gavin Newsom in San Leandro, Calif., last Wednesday. A former U.S. senator from California, Harris urged voters to defeat the Republican-led recall. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI

Ballots were mailed to all 22 million registered voters in the state about a month before Election Day. It asks voters to answer two questions -- first, if Newsom should be recalled, and second, who should succeed him as governor.

If a majority votes "no" on the first question, Newsom will remain governor. If 50% plus one vote "yes," then he would be ousted as governor and the candidate who receives the most votes on the second question would serve the remainder of Newsom's term, until January 2023.

A total of 46 candidates have qualified to be on the ballot -- 24 Republicans, 10 with no party affiliation, nine Democrats, two from the Green Party and one Libertarian.

Considered one of the top GOP candidates is conservative and controversial talk radio host Larry Elder.

Elder, 69, has pledged to undo the state's COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates -- and his campaign on Monday already started making claims of election fraud as polls showed Newsom was likely to beat the recall effort, similar to former President Donald Trump's claims last fall after he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Wearing a Ronald Reagan shirt, conservative actor Scott Baio speaks in support of Republican candidate Larry Elder during a rally in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on September 6 and urges voters to vote "yes" on recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom. Baio was also a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Trump, who often clashed with Newsom when he was president, last week told right-wing news outlet Newsmax that he believes the recall election is "probably rigged."

Biden traveled to California on Monday to survey wildfire damage and to campaign for Newsom. At a stop in Long Beach, Biden cautioned Californians not to allow the Republican-led maneuver, or Trump's influence, to take hold in the state.

"You can either keep Gavin Newsom as your governor, or you'll get Donald Trump," he said.

As for the other candidates on the ballot Tuesday -- far behind Elder at the top of the field are fellow Republicans John Cox, the GOP nominee and loser of the 2018 gubernatorial race, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Democrat Kevin Paffrath, a 29-year-old YouTube star.

Supporters of Republican recall candidate Larry Elder gather for a rally in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on September 6. Elder is a controversial talk radio host and is considered by most observers a far-right conservative in the mold of Donald Trump. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Since 1911, California law has allowed state voters to attempt to recall the governor. In fact, every governor in the past 60 years has faced a recall attempt. Newsom has faced seven, but only one reached the ballot.

Aside from the election Tuesday, only one other attempt achieved enough signatures to trigger a recall vote -- a 2003 effort that ultimately recalled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and elected action star and moderate Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. The actor, who was a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, was later elected to a second term and served until 2011.

California is a heavily Democratic state and hasn't voted for a Republican president since George H.W. Bush in 1988. Aside from Schwarzenegger, the state elected two GOP governors during the latter half of the 1980s and most of the 1990s.

Since 1913, there have been 179 recall attempts of state elected officials in California. Eleven collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot and six of those resulted in the official being recalled. There have been 55 efforts to recall the governor. The last successful recall of a state official occurred in 2018, when state Sen. Josh Newman was removed from office.

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