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The L.A. TACO Guide to California’s 2021 Recall Election

2:16 PM PDT on August 30, 2021

nother election? Didn’t we just have one? But yes, it is election time yet again. This time, you’re being asked two questions on the ballot. Do you want California Governor Gavin Newsom to be recalled or kicked out of office before the next general election? Two, if you do, which one out of about 46, primarily Republican, candidates do you want to replace him as governor of California?    

Why are we doing this, you ask? Well, in 2019, Orrin Heatlie, an Ex-Yolo County Sheriff, was scrolling through social media while recovering from a back injury at his home in Folsom when he saw a video he said showed Governor Newsom telling undocumented immigrants not to allow cops in their homes without showing them a warrant first… which is constitutionally correct… but the video got Heatlie so mad that he started organizing a petition to recall Newsom soon after. 

Using Facebook, Heatlie connected with right-wing activists across the state and veteran organizers of California’s previous recall effort in 2003, when Governor Gray Davis was kicked out of the office. Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to take his place and organized a wide network of people with various grievances, including people against “free immigrant health care,” according to Heatlie’s official website, people against mask mandates and COVID-19 mitigation regulations, anti-immigrant folks, pro-death penalty people, people against mail-in voting, anti-teacher’s union people, and people angry that they either haven’t received unemployment checks since the beginning of lockdown last year or had difficulties getting them and dealing with the EDD. 

For the recall to make it onto the ballot, the organizers needed to get at least 1.5 million people to sign the recall position. Once the paperwork was turned in and the state vetted signatures, they ended up with more than 1.7 million signatures, starting only the fourth recall of a governor in U.S. history, which could cost California taxpayers an estimated $276 million. 

Suffice to say, many people don’t like Governor Newsom, but why? 

When he was elected in 2018, he won in a landslide against his Republican rival, getting almost eight million votes. What changed so drastically in the past three years? Well, along with your garden variety MAGA Trumpsters, COVID-19 skeptics and deniers, anti-immigrant hysterics, haters of the unhoused, and staunch conservatives, especially in the central and far northern parts of the state who dislike Newsom because he’s a Democrat, some people were genuinely aggravated when a story broke in November that Newsom broke his own COVID-19 protocols by attending a birthday party dinner at a fancy French restaurant in the Napa Valley with lobbyists from the California Medical Association during a COVID surge. 

So, who are the candidates to take Newsom’s place if he is recalled? Out of the 46 candidates, there are really only four main candidates. 

Newsom apologized, but the damage was done. The hypocritical birthday party is the first bullet point on Heatlie’s website under “reasons to recall.” Add to that, people righteously angry at delays in receiving much-needed unemployment payments from the EDD, a face scrunching report from Kaiser Health News in May that 24 out of 30 tech and healthcare companies that received hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts from the state to create public health programs and activities to combat COVID-19, also happened to be companies whose CEOs were heavy donors to Newsom’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and the fact that Newsom bragged about his kids being in an in-person private school in October, long before most California public school kids could be back in school, and you got a decent amount of people who’d like to see a new governor try to run this state. 

So, who are the candidates to take Newsom’s place if he is recalled? Out of the 46 candidates, there are really only four main candidates. 

The funnest one to talk about is John Cox. Cox is a businessman who ran on the Republican ticket against Newsom in 2018. He lost in a landslide, 7.7 million to his 4.7 million votes. To make the ridiculousness and carnival nature of the recall even more clear, he brought a live bear as a prop to an early campaign stop in San Diego.

Cox wants to solve the homelessness crisis in the state by forcing unhoused people into mental health treatment and increasing police “enforcement actions,” something he summarizes on his website as “compliance born out compassion.” He also wants to cut $30 billion in state income taxes. According to a UC Berkeley study, he’s currently in second place among the top four recall candidates. Maybe he slipped up because, during a televised debate among the candidates, he was served a subpoena for allegedly failing to pay a political advertising firm about $100,000 for political ads, attorney's fees, and other costs from his 2018 campaign. Yikes. 

Next, we have Caitlyn Jenner, a famous Olympian and member of the all-powerful Kardashian family. Jenner thinks there are too many regulations in California law, wants kids to be back in school, wants to work more with private non-profit and charity organizations to build more affordable housing, and wants to keep trans girls out of girls sports unless they’ve fully transitioned according to her website… what? Why? Anyways, she’s polling far behind the other candidates.

Next up is the former mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer. As the Republican mayor for a solid Democrat city, Faulconer kind of positions himself as a moderate conservative. In 2014 he devised a climate change action plan for the city, he basically told the local police department to stop using chokeholds last summer. Still, critics say he acted too slowly in providing resources to prevent the spread of a hepatitis outbreak among unhoused people in the city. He wants to exempt retired veterans from paying state income tax, allow restaurants to reopen without COVID policies, start a state emergency fund for small restaurants, eliminate the state income tax, open more homeless shelters, and ban encampments. Faulconer is polling just below Cox.

Then there’s conservative talk radio show host Larry Elder, who’s now leading in the UC Berkeley poll. Elder’s a native Angeleno, having grown up in South Central and started his first big radio show at KABC. That being said, L.A. Times columnist Erika D Smith’s column about Elder ran with the headline “Larry Elder is the Black face of white Supremacy. You’ve Been Warned.” Elder is a big Trump devotee, was something of a mentor to Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s child separation policy, really doesn’t like public schools or public school teachers and thinks the minimum wage should be $0. He promises to fix the EDD bureaucratic process on his campaign website while castigating people for taking federal COVID subsidies on another part of the site. He also wants to upgrade the state’s water infrastructure. His ex-fiance also recently accused him of brandishing a gun to threaten her and being emotionally and verbally abusive.        

This is one of those elections where you gotta ask yourself if you’d rather stick with the pompous smarmy rich guy already in power or the wild ego maniacal carnival show barkers who were spurred into action by Orrin Heatlie, a guy who wrote on Facebook "Microchip all illegal immigrants. It works! Just ask Animal control!" on the same day he was spurred on to organize the recall?

But what about Newsom? What has he done? Some things he’s done in office include passing a huge anti-poverty program in the recent budget that included money for transitional kindergarten and money for special education and high needs students, a utility debt relief program, a $12 billion in money to housing and services for the unhoused program, a $5.2 billion rent relief program, and universal free lunches for kids. He also banned fracking in the state by 2024 and expanded Medi-cal to undocumented people.    

Right now, the polls are running pretty neck and neck, with the “no” responses not to recall Newsom running only 1 percent above the “yes” to recall responses, which means Elder, or really any of the other candidates running in the recall could very well be the next governor of California. 

Crazier things have happened in California. We did elect Schwarzenegger, another conservative celebrity without any background or experience holding political office back in 2003, and, of course, Trump, another conservative celebrity without political experience won the presidency in 2016. 

Because the recall process is wild, if Newsom is recalled, the person that will replace him as the governor doesn’t need to win a majority of votes, meaning 50% or more of the votes. They just have to win more votes than anybody else. With 46 candidates running, the winning candidate can win the election with just a tiny percentage of supporters. 

This is one of those elections where you gotta ask yourself if you’d rather stick with the pompous smarmy rich guy already in power or the wild ego maniacal carnival show barkers who were spurred into action by Orrin Heatlie, a guy who wrote on Facebook "Microchip all illegal immigrants. It works! Just ask Animal control!" on the same day he was spurred on to organize the recall?

August 30 is the last day to register to vote online and get a ballot in the mail. You can still register to vote at your polling place or county election office after this date too. You can register to vote on the Secretary of State’s website here:  

September 14 is election day.

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