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Gov. Newsom’s recall: all you need to know

Art+by+Parker+Wang
Art by Parker Wang

Retired Yolo County Sheriff’s Sergeant Orrin Heatlie filed for the recall in February 2020, before COVID-19 overtook the country. Reasons for the recall initially stemmed from frustration over Newsom’s policies on matters such as immigration, taxes and homelessness.

However, the recall campaign gained momentum following the hardships California has gone through in the past year, including droughts, wildfires, housing shortages and the pandemic. U.S. Government teacher Stephen Foug said out of these issues, the pandemic has had the largest impact on the recall campaign.

“My guess is that COVID-19 is probably the prime driver of all this,” Foug said. “It’s the biggest one, especially because it seems to have this nature of changing policies all the time, because it’s hard to predict what the heck this disease is going to do.”

For the recall proposal to reach the ballot, recall organizers had to gather 1.5 million signatures by March 17, 2021, but they submitted 2.1 million signatures, 1.7 million of which were verified by the California Secretary of State. There have been four attempts to recall Newsom, but none reached the ballot until now.

If voters do recall Newsom, the candidate with the most votes wins the election. Because there are 46 candidates, Foug said the result may not necessarily represent a true majority.

“You can have a new governor that a very small percentage of the population picked,” Foug said. “That doesn’t seem democratic.”

But the replacement election only happens if a majority of voters first choose to recall the governor. Leading the replacement candidates, if Newsom is recalled, is radio host Larry Elder, whose far-right ideologies have drawn criticism.

“Some of the stuff that he has said is concerning,” AP U.S. History teacher John Bungarden said. “Most of this is identified with climate change denial and a host of other stuff that don’t fit well. So he won’t serve long. He would serve until the next election cycle when he gets voted out. But can he do damage? Yep.”

The recall election could also have implications beyond California. If 88-year-old California Sen. Dianne Feinstein becomes physically unable to continue representing California in the U.S. Senate, then the governor appoints the replacement Senator.

If a Republican is in control as governor, they may appoint another Republican and disrupt the Senate’s current 50-50 split, where Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris breaks the tie.

Junior Lucas Guan said the recall result could trickle down to the Paly community.

“If Newsom is recalled, assuming it happens, and a Republican comes into office, the schools will probably always stay open, because that’s generally their platform,” Guan said. “But if Newsom really does win, I have a feeling that he’s going to close schools.”

Preliminary polls show that a narrow majority of respondents want to keep Newsom in office, but Foug said the race is not over yet. 

“From what I observed about what the result might be,” Foug said, “I think he might be in trouble.”

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