PD Editorial: California voters should say no to Newsom recall

Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

Ballots are arriving in the mail for the Sept. 14 recall targeting Gov. Gavin Newsom. Our advice: Mark your ballot “no” and send it back right away.

Newsom’s record isn’t perfect. He can’t seem to control his urge to talk, resulting at times in mixed messages. His abrupt policy changes during the COVID-19 pandemic have sown confusion. And there’s no excuse for attending a large birthday dinner for a lobbyist friend while urging Californians to stay home.

Any of these might be a reason to vote against Newsom in the regularly scheduled election in 2022.

None of them justify removing him from office a year early.

Whatever his missteps, Newsom has done a better job of managing the pandemic than many of his fellow governors. On key health metrics including cases per capita, deaths per capita and people vaccinated, California ranks above almost every other large state.

But this public health crisis has a political dimension.

Many of Newsom’s fiercest critics opposed the stay-at-home orders, mask mandates and social distancing requirements that have limited the spread of COVID-19. They allied with state and national Republican leaders to target the Democratic governor.

Recalls should be reserved for serious misconduct or gross incompetence, not policy disagreements and partisan differences. Indeed, just six state officials in California have ever been successfully recalled.

In recent years, however, the recall has become a tool for political mischief. Ask District Attorney Jill Ravitch.

Newsom has been targeted six times in his 32 months as governor, with the first recall effort launched just 67 days after he took office.

The current effort — which was launched a month before the first coronavirus lockdown — would have failed, too, if a judge hadn’t granted the sponsors an extra five months to gather signatures.

For Republicans, who haven’t won a statewide election since 2006, the recall offers a rare opportunity.

“If you can’t win an election directly, then you go through the side door, recall, and maybe they’ll have a Republican candidate that will step in and fill that void if the governor is in fact recalled,” Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chair, said in a Los Angeles television interview.

But would the GOP’s good fortune pay dividends for California?

Probably not.

None of the 46 candidates running to succeed Newsom in the event he is recalled is widely known, and only former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has any qualifying experience.

The best-known candidates — Faulconer, talk radio host Larry Elder and reality TV personality Caitlynn Jenner — oppose most of the measures taken by Newsom to control the virus. In contrast, polls show that large majorities of California voters favor mask requirements and even vaccine mandates.

A new and inexperienced Republican governor probably wouldn’t be able to make much of an imprint anyway. Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, which would allow them to block a new governor’s proposals, overturn emergency orders and pass their own legislation without fear of a veto. Expect a lot of bickering, but not much else.

Polls indicate Republicans are more committed than Democrats to casting ballots in the recall election, which could offset the Democrats’ large advantage in voter registration. Democrats are fighting for voting rights across the country. They shouldn’t sit out any election, especially an opportunistic recall barely a year before the next regular gubernatorial election. The Press Democrat recommends a no vote on recalling Gavin Newsom.

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Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

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