LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Californians can vote to remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office on September 14. The recall election comes as the Sunshine State is grappling with a spike in COVID-19 cases, growing wildfires, crime and a homeless crisis.
“In the next nine days, we have an opportunity to reject the cynicism and reject this Republican-backed recall,” Newsom said.
Republicans are hoping to reclaim power in the state where the GOP hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006.
Many Californians have called for the recall due to Newsom’s handling of the pandemic, strict stay-at-home orders, job loss, the threat of water rationing to contend with a long-running drought, among other issues. He is also being hit by fallout from a multibillion-dollar fraud scandal at the state unemployment agency.
California is one of 20 states that have provisions to recall a sitting governor, 19 through elections. The state law dates back to 1911 and was intended to place more power directly in the hands of voters by allowing them to remove elected officials and repeal or pass laws by placing them on the ballot.
So far, just over 5 million mail-in ballots, the form of voting most used by Californians, have been returned out of 22 million sent to registered voters.
Voters will choose whether to remove the governor and pick his replacement. If a majority of voters approve Newsom’s removal, the candidate who gets the most votes on the second question becomes governor. If Newsom is recalled, his replacement could be elected with just a fraction of the votes. With dozens of candidates dividing the ballot, it’s possible a winner could get 25% or less.
There are 46 names on the certified ballot. The 24 Republican candidates include talk radio host Larry Elder; Kevin Faulconer, the former San Diego mayor; businessman John Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, a reality TV personality and former Olympian; and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley.
There are nine Democrats, 10 independents, two Green Party members and one Libertarian in the running.
Elder, who is leading in the polls, has promised to bring a fresh eye and common sense to Democratic-dominated Sacramento and has said he would swiftly lift state mask and vaccine mandates. Kiley has said he would immediately end the pandemic state of emergency, which would automatically wipe out all state and local orders issued under it.
Faulconer has proposed ending the state income tax for individuals making up to $50,000 and households up to $100,000 as part of a plan to make the state more affordable for the middle class.
Most recently, Newsom has focused his attacks on Elder, calling him more extreme in many ways than former President Donald Trump. Elder dismisses such criticism as a political ploy to divert attention from Newsom’s record on crime and homelessness.
Newsom has rallied his cause alongside U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to return to California this week to campaign on behalf of the governor.
Elected in a 2018 landslide, Newsom sees the recall as an attack on California’s progressive policies, according to the Associated Press. The recall election is backed by state and national Republicans, but organizers argue they have a broad-based coalition, including many independents and Democrats.
The election is being watched nationally and the outcome could influence the 2022 elections.
The only time a governor was recalled was 2003 when Democrat Gray Davis was removed and voters replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Early voting has begun, and Californians can visit locator.lavote.net to find a voting center near them, as well as estimated wait times.
The Associated Press and KTLA contributed to this report.
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