San Francisco Chronicle
Newsom recall race tightens, with likely voters closely split
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom is in a tight race to hold onto office, according to a new poll, as California’s Democratic majority remains ambivalent about the upcoming recall election.
With just a few weeks until ballots are mailed out to voters, a poll released Tuesday by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times found that likely voters are closely divided on recalling Newsom: 47% support removing the firstterm Democrat and 50% would retain him, nearly within the poll’s margin of error.
The split reflects Newsom’s challenge in galvanizing his Democratic base for the Sept. 14 special election. While recalling the governor trails significantly in the new poll among all registered voters — 36% supporting to 51% opposed — fewer than 60% of Democrats and independent voters expressed a high level of interest in the election, compared to nearly 90% of Republicans, who overwhelmingly favor removing Newsom.
That enthusiasm gap could allow recall organizers to overcome Democrats’ significant
voter registration advantage and massive fundraising by the Newsom campaign in their bid to oust the governor, who was elected by a record margin in 201t.
Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll, said that several factors could be dampening motivation among Democratic voters, who nonetheless oppose recalling Newsom by a greater than 9to1 margin.
“Nearly all Democrats think that Newsom will survive the recall, will beat it back, so there’s a certain amount of complacency,” DiCamillo said, whereas Republicans are increasingly excited by the possibility that they could take out the governor.
The poll also found that 40% of Democratic voters did not plan to select a replacement candidate in the recall election, compared to only 6% of Republicans. The field of 46 candidates seeking to replace Newsom includes no prominent Democrats, after the governor and other Democratic leaders encouraged potential challengers from his party to stay out of the race.
Many Democrats believe that former Gov. Gray Davis, who was recalled in 2003, was hurt by the presence of his own lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante, on the ballot. But DiCamillo called that an excuse for Davis’ high disapproval ratings at the time and said the decision not to provide a viable alternative to Newsom could backfire.
“Republicans have more incentive to vote in this election,” he said. “The Newsom people were just insecure and they rolled the dice.”
During a news conference in Fresno, where he signed a bill extending public health care access to undocumented immigrants age 50 or older, Newsom shrugged off the poll numbers and said he would beat the recall by focusing on the coronavirus pandemic, homelessness and other issues important to Californians.
“We’re gonna defeat this partisan effort and we’re gonna work hard to do the work that people sent us here to do,” he said. “If we continue to do that good work, I think we’re going to be OK on election day.”
But recall organizers say his failure to provide solutions on those issues is exactly why the governor is vulnerable. Anne Hyde Dunsmore, campaign manager for Rescue California, one of the groups behind the recall, noted that Newsom is trending in the wrong direction despite airing weeks of television ads touting the recent state budget.
“He blames. He doesn’t take responsibility,” Dunsmore said. “He’s going down a rabbit hole fast.”
The recall ballot will ask voters two questions: Should Newsom be removed from office? And if so, who should replace him?
If a majority of voters selects yes on the first question, then whichever candidate wins the second question will serve out the remainder of Newsom’s term, which ends in January 2023, even if they do not receive a majority.
The new poll found that conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who would be California’s first Black governor, leads the second question with 1t% of likely voters favoring him. Elder sued last week to get on the list of replacement candidates after he was excluded over a paperwork error.
San Diego County real estate investor John Cox, who lost to Newsom in 201t, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer follow with 10% support each. State legislator Kevin Kiley was the choice of 5% of poll respondents and Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympian and reality TV star, trails with 3%. All are Republicans.
Faulconer, who visited San Francisco on Tuesday to discuss crime rates, said the poll showed that Californians are ready for a change at the top. A twoterm mayor and former city council member, Faulconer said he wasn’t disappointed that he was trailing or tied with two men who have never served in elected office.
“I’m very excited about where we are in this process. It really gives me a lot of energy as we head into what is the final stretch of six weeks,” he said.
Among the nine Democrats on the ballot, Kevin Paffrath, a real estate broker with nearly 1.7 million subscribers on YouTube, polled the highest at 3%. All other candidates combined for 11%, while 40% of likely voters remain undecided, suggesting a wideopen race.