© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: California Governor Gavin Newsom attends a press conference to launch a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination supersite in San Diego, California, USA on February 8, 2021 Sandy Huffaker / Pool via REUTERS.
By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) – California Governor Gavin Newsom and his supporters are stepping up their fight against a Republican-backed withdrawal with a barrage of door knocks, text messages and outreach to communities of color, while opinion polls show the Democrat is in danger of losing.
The group Voto Latino exclusively told Reuters that it plans to spend about $ 1 million before the recall vote on Sept. 14 to try to persuade 600,000 young Latinos to vote for Newsom, highlighting its need to generate more enthusiasm among voters. blacks and latinos.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in California more than two to one. President Joe Biden won the state by nearly 30 percentage points last year. Half of the state’s registered voters and 91% of Democrats said in a July 27 poll by the Institute for Government Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, that they want to retain the governor in his first term.
But a perfect storm of troubles energizing Republicans, and complacency among Democrats who think the governor has him in the bag, makes the recall elections seem much closer than expected.
Like Democrats across the country, Newsom has received criticism during the COVID-19 pandemic from opponents of public health closures, masking mandates and school closings. It is also dealing with an increase in cases of homelessness and homicides, extreme droughts and devastating wildfires.
A successful withdrawal would serve as a wake-up call for Democrats already facing the threat of losing their congressional majorities in the 2022 US midterm elections, said Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio.
Maviglio served as the press secretary for Democrat Gray Davis, ousted as governor of California by Hollywood action star Arnold Schwarzenegger in the last retirement from the state in 2003.
Maviglio said Democrats must take the election seriously to avoid the same fate as Newsom, a former lieutenant governor and mayor of San Francisco.
“Democrats need a slap to get off the couch and fill out that form,” he said.
The Patriot Coalition, a group angered by Newsom’s policies on immigration and crime, led the effort to impeach him. Their campaign gained traction as frustration over Newsom’s pandemic policies mounted and a judge gave them additional time to get enough signatures to put the revocation on a ballot.
Voters will be asked to make two separate decisions: whether Newsom should be removed and who should replace him.
If Newsom retires, he will almost certainly be succeeded by a Republican with relatively little statewide support. The winner only needs a plurality of votes to become governor, and only a little-known Democrat is among the replacement options.
Conservative talk show host Larry Elder leads recent polls, followed by businessman John Cox and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Newsom enters the final weeks of the race with a war chest of more than $ 51 million, campaign finance records show, compared to roughly $ 6 million for those looking to unseat him.
Well aware that turnout could decide the special election, Newsom’s team is releasing new daily messages that predict dire consequences for Democratic priorities like abortion rights, immigration and other issues if he is removed from office.
A demonstration on Friday with Vice President Kamala Harris, a former California senator, was called off after a deadly attack outside the Kabul airport killed dozens of Afghans and 13 US servicemen.
“There are no swing voters in this election,” Newsom aide Nathan Click said. “There is no one who chooses between yes and no. The ‘undecided voters’ are all Democrats who choose between voting and not voting.”
Only 36% of registered voters told pollsters at the University of California, Berkeley, last month that they were in favor of removing the governor, while 51% opposed.
But when researchers delved deeper, they found that very few Democrats planned to vote, making the race extremely close with 47% of voters most likely in favor of repeal and 50% against.
“What we found was a staggering gap between likely and registered voters,” said Eric Schickler, co-director of the institute that conducted the poll.
The state mailed ballots to all Californians who are registered to vote. Data released last week showed that Democrats had returned their ballots at a ratio of two to one compared to Republicans, raising Democrats’ hopes that their voters would begin to understand what was at stake.
But analyst Paul Mitchell, whose firm Political Data studied the results, said the early results may reflect Republican skepticism of voting by mail rather than increased Democratic interest in withdrawing.
Repeated false accusations by former President Donald Trump that voting by mail was riddled with fraud sparked a shift in voting trends among Republicans that other members of his party are now trying to counter.
Political strategist Matt Shupe, chairman of the Contra Costa County Republican Party in the San Francisco Bay Area, said he sent 35,000 text messages last week to members urging them to return their ballots.
“They shouldn’t worry and they should mail the ballots,” he said.
Most of the ballots cast so far have come from white voters, Mitchell’s analysis found. Newsom also needs to persuade voters in communities of color to come forward if he wants to keep his job.
Groups including the African American Voter Enrollment, Education and Participation Project; Black women for well-being; the China Progressive Association (NYSE 🙂 Action Fund; and the immigrant rights group CHIRLA are planning activities to promote voting, such as polls and telephone banks.
Voto Latino, which targets voters ages 18 to 34, has sent text messages and digital ads urging people to vote, said Ameer Patel, vice president of programs.
In the coming days, he said, the messages will take on a more urgent tone, warning that voting rights, immigration and the climate could be affected if Newsom is replaced by a Republican.