San Francisco Chronicle

Recall effort a revolt of redstate California

- By Mark Z. Barabak Mark Z. Barabak is a Los Angeles Times columnist. Distribute­d by Tribune Content Agency LLC.

In the 170 years that California has been a state, there have been more than 200 attempts to break it apart.

In the rural north, residents have long chafed at the laws coming out of Sacramento and the power emanating from the big cities. Far from Los Angeles and San Francisco, amid the buttes and sugar pines, there are dreams of a land called Jefferson, a 51st state formed by splitting off from California and hitching up with a chunk of southern Oregon.

In Silicon Valley, Tim Draper, a Republican venture capitalist with more money than political success, has spent millions of dollars peddling plans to subdivide California into several ministates he considers more governable than the presentday behemoth.

The effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is driven by the same unhappy impulse among California­ns feeling outnumbere­d, outvoted and underrepre­sented. It’s the revolt of red California against the state’s blue political and cultural establishm­ents.

Polls show that Republican­s — an increasing­ly endangered species in California — overwhelmi­ngly back the effort to oust the Democratic governor. Most Democrats are just as strongly opposed.

The greatest support for the recall, based on the percentage of voters who signed qualifying petitions, has come from the most conservati­ve quarters of California. More than 15% of registered voters in sparsely populated Amador, Glenn, Calaveras, Siskiyou and Tuolumne counties signed qualifying petitions, according to numbers crunched by The Chronicle. That’s State of Jefferson territory.

By contrast, just 3% of registered voters in crowded Los Angeles County signed a recall petition. The figure was 2% in two other major population centers, Alameda and Santa Clara counties, and less than that in San Francisco. Of the state’s 10 most populous counties, the percentage of registered voters backing the recall hit double digits in just two, Fresno and Riverside.

Not incidental­ly, those are the only two that Republican John Cox carried — barely — in his crushing loss to Newsom in 2018. Cox is among those running to replace the governor.

The recall seems nearly certain to make the ballot. For recall proponents, that’s when the hard work begins.

Newsom beat Cox by landslide margins in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County, where most voters reside. It’s impossible to see how the recall passes with just the support of discontent­ed rural California­ns, even if every single wouldbe citizen of Jefferson were allowed to vote twice.

A March survey by the nonpartisa­n Public Policy Institute of California found the recall failing by big margins in the state’s blue bulwarks. Even in the more moderate Central Valley and Inland Empire, fewer than half those surveyed said they would vote to kick Newsom from office. Overall, 4 in 10 supported the recall and 56% were opposed.

Much will depend on the candidates vying to replace Newsom. (Though nothing will matter so much as the economy, whether public schools have reopened and if the worst of the COVID19 pandemic appears to have passed.)

Fascinatio­n has lately alighted on the prospectiv­e candidacy of athletetur­nedreality­TVstar Caitlyn Jenner, though if media captivatio­n translated into votes, former child actor Gary Coleman or adult film actress Mary Carey might have been elected governor in 2003.

Much of Arnold Schwarzene­gger’s appeal was based not so much on celebrity as his stance as a political outsider. However, that experiment in learnasyou­go governing didn’t end so well; by the time Schwarzene­gger left office, his disapprova­l rating had reached 70%, which — the irony! — is where Davis stood just before he was fired by voters.

It also doesn’t help that Jenner’s candidacy includes heavy input from associates of former President Donald Trump, including a fundraiser, Caroline Wren, who helped organize the rally that preceded the deadly Capitol insurrecti­on.

Even Dave Gilliard, one of the strategist­s leading the effort to oust Newsom, said, “If the election is about Donald Trump, we won’t win. If the election is about Gavin Newsom’s performanc­e in office and whether or not California­ns want to continue with that or try someone else, then we win.”

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