Sunday, September 26, 2021

California: Newsom Recall Round-up -- GOP regrouping, Latino exit polls, and!

GOP looks to regroup from the crushing defeat

Exit polls against ask whether the Democrats have a Latino problem? Newsom got 60%, a drop off from 64% in 2018. This question (and its mirror image --  "has the GOP lost the professional women vote") will be constantly in our minds until at least after 2024. 

LA Times' Mark Barabak makes some proposal for changes in the recall law 

How much did the recall cost -- including campaign fundraising? Here's a report saying close to $500M.

Ballot roll-off and skipping the replacement question

More and more talk of reform and opposition to it

Here's some more of my thoughts:


The Hill

Christian Science Monitor


Teen Vogue

Associated Press


American Association of Political Consultants

California: Los Angeles Times' looks at Sonoma County DA recall

LA Times' Mark Barabak looks at the Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch victory, where she won with (at the moment) 78% of the vote in her favor.

The recall effort was led by the owner of two senior care homes where 20 residents were abandoned in a fire when staff fled. The Oakmont Senior Living company settled for $500,000. The petition attacks Ravitch for ignoring fire safety issues. Ravitch has already announced that she is not running for reelection.

There was significant spending issue in the recall effort. Developer Bill Gallagher and his daughter are reported to have spent almost $800,000 on the recall effort, which is way over the county's limit of $3350 for individual contributions (there is no limit for a state recall effort, but county's are able to put forward their own limit). Gallagher's lawyer claims the law is unconstitutional and has said that such laws have been struck down in other jurisdictions in the state. Ravitch elected not to sue to stop the recall on these grounds.

Petitions handed in over 43,000 signatures. 32,128 were validated, and they needed 30,056. The recall may have cost $900,000.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly member recall scheduled for October 26

The recall election against Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel has been scheduled for October 26. Anchorage Assembly Chair Felix Rivera defeated a recall in April. The issue seems to be the same -- over a meeting which, due to the size of the audience, violated the emergency order limiting crowds during the coronavirus pandemic (there may have been 17 people at the meeting, which had a limit of 15). Petitioners seem to be opposed to masking requirements. 

Petitioners needed about 2500 signatures. 

New Mexico: Otero County Commissioner signatures due on Wednesday, petitioners claim about 400 short

Petitioners are light on signatures in the recall effort against Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin for his role in rioting at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Griffin, the founder of Cowboys for Trump, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor criminal charges. Griffin denies that he violated the law. A judge greenlit the recall effort (New Mexico is a Malfeasance Standard state).

In addition, Griffin has been accused of calling for the murder of the Governors of Virginia and Michigan, and called for violence at President Joe Biden's inauguration. 

Petitioners need 1574 signatures in 90 days -- they say they are about 400 short with a deadline of September 29. One complication is that the Democratic Governor will choose Griffin's replacement if he is removed. 

Wisconsin: Mequon-Thiensville Board of Ed recall vote scheduled for November 2

The recall effort against four Mequon-Thiensville Board of Education Members ,Wendy Francour, Chris Schultz, Akram Khan and Erik Hollander, has gotten to the ballot, with the election scheduled for November 2, though if multiple candidates file, that will be a primary and the general election will be held on November 30. 

The recall is over distance learning plans to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Though the plans were for the last school year, and petitioners had an election in April, they seemed to focus on it now due to what they claim are results published from opening meeting request. 

Petitioners needed about 4200 signatures in 60 days.

Arizona: Petitions taken out against Greenlee County Sheriff

Greenlee County Sheriff Tim Sumner is facing a recall effort over complaints about high turnover and speeding. Sumner asked to remove GPS tracking equipment from vehicles because he claims it provides faulty records on speed and location. Former Duncan Mayor Billy Waters is leading the effort. Petitioners need 924 signatures by mid-January.

Monday, September 20, 2021

California : Governor Gavin Newsom survives recall vote by overwhelming margin

I see I did not get this up, but Governor Gavin Newsom easily beat back the recall vote, winning with 63.2% -36.8% of the vote. Readers will not be surprised that the result was within a few points of his last election,. where Newsom got 61.9%. However, he did finish a bit below on total vote than in 2018, finishing about a million votes less. There are still ballots outstanding, so he may do someone better. The vote as of now is 6,765-521-3,921,187.

Larry Elder finished first in the replacement race with 47.5% of the cast ballots (2.8M) followed by Kevin Paffrath with a hair under 10%. But the leave it blank may actually win. We'll keep you posted. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

California: Two Vernon councilmembers survive recall vote

Two Vernon City Councilmembers William Davis (13-54) and Melissa Ybarra (15-53) survived their recall vote on September 14.

Verrnon City Councilmembers Diana Gonzales (56-23) and Carol Menke (59-20) were ousted in a June 1 recall, with Gonzales replaced by Judith Merlo and Menke replaced by Crystal Larios.

Davis and Ybarra, who are seen as political opponents of the two ousted officials, are scheduled for a September 14 recall. 

The recall effort was over support for a solar and wind project that is proposed by a developer who is accused of stealing $20 million from City Industry, though Gonzales and Menke claim that it is about their challenges to an attempt to put family members of Mayor Leticia Lopez's in city-owned housing (there are few privately owned homes). 

Vernon is similar to the City of Industry and Bell (extremely small cities near L.A. that are seen as industrial and frequently complained about as tightly controlled by a small group of residents). Vernon is the smallest incorporated municipality in California with only 130 people, though it and its public utility seem to have a combined $300M budget.

Oregon: Second State Senator recall fails

The recall effort against Oregon State Senator Lynn Findley (R) has failed, as petitioners are not handing in signatures. The effort is led by gun ownership supporters after Findley, who strongly opposed a gun control bill that would mandate storage requirements for guns, ban guns from the state capitol and allow schools and universities to adopt their own gun bans, showed up to Capital. However, was one of only six Republicans to attend the session, giving Democrats a quorum to enact the changes (Oregon has had significant issues with Republicans denying quorums). Petitioners are also upset about a proposed Senate bill that would prevent state level elected officials from serving on a political party central committee. Petitioners would need 8,289 signatures by September 13.

A previous recall against Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod (R) also failed. 

California: Sonoma County District Attorney survives recall vote

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch has defeated the recall (so far, 101,269-25,400) or 79.5% against. There were two write-in replacement candidates (the leader has 258 votes). 

The recall effort was led by the owner of two senior care homes where 20 residents were abandoned in a fire when staff fled. The Oakmont Senior Living company settled for $500,000. The petition attacks Ravitch for ignoring fire safety issues. Ravitch has already announced that she is not running for reelection.

There was significant spending issue in the recall effort. Developer Bill Gallagher and his daughter are reported to have spent almost $800,000 on the recall effort, which is way over the county's limit of $3350 for individual contributions (there is no limit for a state recall effort, but county's are able to put forward their own limit). Gallagher's lawyer claims the law is unconstitutional and has said that such laws have been struck down in other jurisdictions in the state. Ravitch elected not to sue to stop the recall on these grounds.

Petitions handed in over 43,000 signatures. 32,128 were validated, and they needed 30,056. The recall is estimated to cost between $600,000-$900,000.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

What to Expect when you’re expecting a Recall Election – California Reboot edition

(Sorry, but once again, I better put a link for the book up top -- and it's also available to read for subscribers on Taegan Goddard's Political Wire).

I’m happy to say that I got to serve as one of the guest live-bloggers at for Election Day. I still want to provide some thoughts here, so I’m going to put up an abbreviated (well, by past standards) Election Day post. Most of this will link back to past coverage.

There are a number of outlets to check for Election coverage and up-to-the-minute numbers. Obviously, fivethirtyeight is one place I’d recommend checking out, and it has been a go-to site for all recent elections. Taegan Goddard is probably the first place I look at in the morning and he will almost certainly have a round-up of key commentaries from across the spectrum.

There are tons of outlets covering the results, though once again, I have to recommend Daily Kos’s incomparable Election Day Live coverage, which has been the gold standard for the granular look at results.  They are on the left, so fair warning if that’s a problem for you (though the coverage is not cheerleading and if numbers look bad for Democrats, they will say so unsparingly). After all these years, I’ve never found an outlet that provides the same immediately hit on the level that election junkies demand.  I don’t have a similar outlet on the right. If there is one that I’m missing, I’d be happy to check it out (and please, let me know what that is). No judgment there – these blogs are hard to maintain in the best of times.

 What to Expect when you’re expecting a Recall Election – California Reboot edition

California Governor Gavin Newsom is facing the voters again on September 14th.  I’ve said a lot on this, but more important than my guesses, predictions and opinions are the facts. A lot of this summary will be links to past blog posts – otherwise, it’ll just be the book. But let’s check out the background, history and facts on the use of the recall and what it means for September 14 and beyond:

You have selected Regicide:  Past Governors' facing recalls:
Newsom is only the fourth Governor in US History to face a recall vote. The first was in 1921, when 
North Dakota's Lynn Frazier (Non-Partisan League) was ousted (the linked article by Fresno State Professor David Schecter has an excellent discussion of the Frazier recall). The second was against California Governor Gray Davis (Democrat) in 2003. And the third was Scott Walker (Republican) in 2012.

Additionally, a recall was approved against Arizona Governor Evan Meacham (Republican) in 1988, but Meacham was impeached and removed by the legislature on the day the signatures were verified.

Despite the fact that gubernatorial recalls rarely get on the ballot, there have been tons of attempts to recall Governors. There have been 55 attempts in California, including six alone against Newsom. Last year 15 Governors faced recall attempts.

Just Win Baby – the recall’s Reversal of Fortune:
As a general rule, recalls are very successful. There are no hard and fast numbers, but most politicians seeking reelection win -- it may be at a 75-85% clip. Obviously, that is a self-selecting group of people who are popular enough to run for reelection, but it is still a powerful statistic. Recalls turn that number on its head. 

Over the last 10 years, 60 percent of recalls have resulted in removal, with another 6 percent resulting in a resignation. California is even more extreme – 78% of officials are kicked out.

Among the governors, we have 2 out of 3 losing their seats so far. Among the 39 state legislative recalls, 21 were successful. That number is much worse when you realize the heavy skew caused by the recalls in Wisconsin in 2011-2012, where 10 of the 13 state senate recalls failed.

But…perhaps for governors, it’s what price you have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice:

Many recalls get very different results than the original election. But so far, this has not been the case with gubernatorial recalls. Walker finished a little less than a point above his 2010 race. Davis finished 3 points behind his 2002 performance. And Lynn Frazier in 1921 went from 51-49% in his favor to 51-49 against.

Perhaps we can see a result mimic 2018?

Is the Newsom recall like 2003 or 2012?

Nearly all the comparisons for the Newsom recall have been with the 2003 Gray Davis one – California, lots of candidates and celebrity names. But the reality is that 2003 was a strange event that seemed to lack much of a partisan feel (though Davis did pull in 76% of the Democratic vote) and the circus angle and weird crop of candidates topped all other subjects.

But 2012, which has been overlooked, seems like a much clearer comparison. The Walker recall was seen as very partisan and was originally focused on a wedge issue that is popular with one party – at that time labor relations. Much as in this year, the original issue was effectively sidelined by the time the campaign started in high gear. In “More Than They Bargained For,” reporters Jason Stein and Patrick Marley note that the Democrats focused on corruption and Walker looked to job creation. The recall really became a rerun of the election, much to Walker’s benefit. I’d say we are seeing similar results in 2021, as Covid has been dropped as an issue by Republicans (but most certainly not by Democrats), and right now it feels like it may be a rerun.

"The dead have risen! And they're voting Republican!"

There’s another similarity to 2012. Larry Elder and Donald Trump have decided to preemptively cry fraud over the results of the recall before any results have come in. This is not a new development – and I’m not referring to previous Trump claims of fraud by both parties. The Wisconsin recall saw the same issue. Scott Walker expressed concerns about voter fraud, claiming that he needs to win 53% of the vote (exactly the amount he ended up receiving), and claiming that voter fraud is responsible for 1-2 points, which is borne out by absolutely no statistics whatsoever. Future Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos also claimed fraud in a Senate recall. In 2016, Roger Stone would claim that Walker won due to fraud, though that was a one-off claim. Vos’ estranged wife faced charges that she voted despite being a resident of Idaho. And the one fraud charge was for a Walker supporter who voted five times.

Come on up for the rising: Can Turnout be overrated?

Once again, turnout is the order of the day. The fabled ground game is being discussed with the usual reverence. Going into the recall, there was a belief among many commentators that turnout would plummet. This is belied by the history of gubernatorial and high-profile mayoral recalls, where turnout has actually shot up – notably in the Gray Davis one. You can read the post for details.

In 2012, with the Walker recall, I threw some cold water on the discussion of turnout. I believe (and still do) that turnout was not the determining factor in that one. But California in 2021 is much different and the mail-in ballot makes it even more of a question.

Because of the Democrats' overwhelming registered voter advantage, turnout for Newsom is key. If the Democrats show up in enough force, they should win. In the Davis recall, Democrats did not come out to play, but those that did were overwhelmingly in Davis’ corner (76% according to the exit poll). That was in a less partisan environment. What would happen today?

The Plurality Conundrum:
California’s recall procedure – what we can call the one-day/two-step process – has come under heavy fire over the possibility that Newsom could get millions more votes in losing the Yes/No vote than the replacement can get in winning that seat. With 46 listed challengers (not even including the write-in candidates), Newsom can lose with 49.9%, while the replacement gets under 3%.

This didn’t happen in 2003, but in five separate California recall elections since 2011 (including the State Senator Josh Newman recall in 2018) the replacement winner finished with fewer votes than the recalled individual.

Many states have a version of the plurality issue, though a good number use the two-day/two-step process. Others use replacement by law (Lieutenant Governor) and still others use a new election. Here’s much more on the subject.  

The end of the beginning or just the closing credits?
Will the recall of governors spread to other states? The recall appears to have grown heavily in use, at least on the state-level (see below), but a look at the laws of the different states suggests that gubernatorial recalls will remain a rare occurrence. Only 19 or 20 states have the recall for governor (Virginia is the 20th, but a likely no) and seven (or now, maybe six, thanks to an Alaska decision) of those states have a "judicial recall" or malfeasance standard, which demands some misdeeds by the official.

So, we are just looking at 11 or 12 states. Recall laws differ greatly by jurisdiction. Some of those differences make a gubernatorial recall both more difficult and potentially counterproductive.

Note also that the recall has operated as a 
Bermuda Triangle of politics (and academia).

Second verse, same as the first?
In 2018, Gavin Newsom torched Republican standard-bearer John Cox. Cox is one of the replacement candidates once again. Cox is running again, but he seems like an also ran. However, we have a long history of recall reruns. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the losing Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2010, lost to Walker again in 2012. In 2018, California Democratic Senator Josh Newman was ousted by Ling Ling Chang, who Newman beat in 2016 – and came back to the top in 2020. 

There may be a few reasons for the lack of rematches, 
which I discuss here. Perhaps the best is that it allows the incumbent to tag the election under the "sore loser" designation, that being said, there are enough examples of recall rematches.

Party Line -- Is one party more likely to use recalls?:
I constantly get asked about the party breakdowns of the recall. Most of the recalls are on the local level, where the position is elected on a nonpartisan basis. When there is a partisan position, the party label is frequently a misleading method to judge recall use, as many are not based on D v. R partisan motivations. Sometimes Republicans recall Republicans, and Democrats recall Democrats.

However, you would see both parties are not shy about using recalls (for example of the 14 state legislative recalls from 1981-2008, most were launched against Democrats, and ethics played very little role in those recalls). Democrats have launched the majority of the recalls last year on the state level, which makes sense as they lost power in 2010.

Republicans or their backers have not been shy about using the recall for partisan gain (for example, Michigan, 1983, California, 1994, 1995 and 2003). Same thing with Democrats (Wisconsin and Michigan in 2010, 2008 in California).

So, which party is most likely to launch a recall? Simple -- the one that is not in office.

Recall Explosion?
There has been a lot of talk of a recall boom, especially in California. Well, not yet. There is a very good chance that Idaho ends up having more recalls than California this year (Idaho is at 8, California will be 6 after today). 2021 may see the least amount of recalls get to the ballot of any year since I started the blog in 2011. What we have seen is an explosion of recall attempts, with other 500 attempts already. This is mainly due to the pandemic and the steps taken to mitigate it.  The big target – school board members. At least 177 school board members have been targeted – which is much less than your average year (50-70).

Automan and the technological revolution that may be driving the recall:
I see 
technological changes as a major driver in the recalls growth. The Internet, email and social media allow unconnected voters to be drawn into a fight over a politician's alleged misdeeds and raise funds. Smartphones, spreadsheets and demographic data can maximize signature-gathering efforts. Even basic items like printers and word processing programs have made it simpler and cheaper to make high-quality fliers and other basic documents over the past several decades. This may be why the recalls seem to have started taking off in the 1980s. Look at 1983 as one example, which featured prominent recalls against two Michigan Senators and San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, in the same year that saw the introduction of Lotus 1,2,3, Microsoft Word and, of course, Automan.

Ain’t Misbehaving: Why Corruption was not the motivating factor for the adoption of the recall
Despite the widespread belief that the recall is only supposed to be used for criminal conduct and malfeasance, only four of the state legislative recalls, and none of the gubernatorial ones, history could claim to be based on conduct. The rest were on policy votes and politics. Despite the allegations against Scott Walker (or really, his aides) in the John Doe investigations, the Walker recall was clearly not about corruption. Neither was the Gray Davis one.

How important was the corruption issue in the adoption of the recall? I think it is hard to argue that it was really the motivating factor for the creators of the recall (especially the Father of the Recall, John Randolph Haynes). I can't link to the original articles, but here's a great write by 
Rod Farmer on the Progressive Era recall debates.

Get ready, cause this ain't funny, I'm Gavin N. and I'm about to get some money:
California, like Wisconsin, has an unusual campaign finance law for the recall – 
no limit on donations (California’s is even more permissive, as Wisconsin’s no-limit period ends with the certification of the recall).

The result is that Newsom and the recall campaign raised over $70 million. Is that a lot? Maybe it sounds like a lot, but in a world in which longshot Senate candidates raise $100M+, it feels kind of light. Scott Walker raised $58.7M 10 years ago before campaign finance really took off. The state legislative recalls in Wisconsin raised $45M. The 2011-2012 recalls combined spent over $135M. California is also more than six times Wisconsin’s size. It feels like Newsom could have raised a bit more money.

One other point – Newsom could get reimbursed for spending. California law allows for officials who survive a recall vote to get reimbursed for their spending. This article by Chuck McFadden in Capitol Weekly claims that it will only cover certain expenses, not including TV ads and the like (which was clearly the bulk of the spending). However, the statute has only been tried once, by Michael Machado in 1995. His reimbursement (for $889,000) was rejected, but Machado never pursued it in court.

Newsom’s not going to try for the reimbursement – the political cost is too high to bother. But it would be an interesting postscript.

Man is opposed to fair play, he wants it all, and he wants it his way:
We have heard, and will continue to hear complaints about the unfair use of the recall (see the post above on corruption). But these complaints can generally be dismissed out of hand. Why? There have been a number of principled opponents of the recall. 
Alexander Hamilton and William Howard Taft lead the pack in US history with their great dislike for the recall. Among modern commentators, the only one that I can think of is George Will. But they are few and far between.

Most of the people who complain about the recall are just really complaining about the recall being used against their side.  
Scott Walker signed petitions seeking policy-focused recalls. Bill Clinton was certainly not supporting the Gray Davis recall.

Polls have repeatedly shown most voters want a limited recall, as in both Wisconsin in 2012 and California in 2021, there are polls that 60% of voters want a malfeasance standard recall law (and 10% in Wisconsin want no recall whatsoever). But 47 percent of voters in Wisconsin cast ballots to kick out Scott Walker. So, at the end of the day, cognitive dissonance rules.

Newsom's Great Campaign move:

Democrats came under criticism for not backing a safety replacement candidate. You can check here to see why that does not work. 

Newsom’s odd campaign strategies:

Newsom has made a number of surprising campaign (and personal) decisions in the recall effort, that may not cost him anything, but should be looked at. The French Laundry dinner was not the most important moment in the recall effort. The difference was really a Superior Court decision granting petitioners an extra 120 days to gather signatures. This was the reason the recall got on the ballot.

What is odd is that there was no appeal of this ruling. The Secretary of State (Alex Padilla, who Newsom later selected to replace Kamala Harris as U.S. Senator) had previously filed no opposition to the extension requests for the two ballot initiatives, so the judge allowed the signature extension for all of the matters. There is no official reason why there was no appeal (it may be because of support for one of the initiatives), though Democratic consultant Garry South suggested that “…it got lost in the shuffle.”

Newsom also came under fire for sending his kids to school during the pandemic and recently for selling his house, which maybe could have waited a couple of months?

On the strategy front, Newsom could have delayed the recall vote as much as two months. During the Senator Josh Newman recall effort in 2017-2018, Democrats pushed forward a number of changes in the law that had the effect of allowing the party in power to effectively delay recall votes by a few months (and also added in a strike law, which allows a counter-signature collection strategy). When the going was good, the Democrats basically waived a few provisions of this law (they had to do with budgeting) and that pushed the recall months forward. It may work, but I don’t like it as a strategy. Newsom needs to get turnout up and he gave up a chance to get more of his voters to the polls, as well as risk the blowback from a potential bad school re-opening. Additionally, thank to the campaign fundraising law that allows Newsom to receive donatations in unlimited amounts, you would imagine he could use these two months to blanket the market. Instead, they decided to roll the dice on the earlier date and the good numbers they were seeing.

The other odd development is the lack of mail. In most California elections, voters are flooded with campaign mailers. I’m still throwing stuff out from 2018. Most of these are due to initiatives, but they really are for all types of races (except the presidency – neither party is wasting a dime on that one). In this election, I’ve gotten one solitary piece from Newsom. David Nir of the Daily Kos pointed out that it is particularly strange because everyone is getting a mail ballot. You may think that the day I got that ballot there should have been 10 pieces telling me to vote No (the Yes side had a very logical reason to not send mail to anyone in the Bay Area). The strategy may have worked, but I don’t get it.

The Republican Downside: Is it “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose” or “when you think you lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more”

Republicans have acted like the recall can be viewed through as it’s a "when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose" event. The party has been driven so low in the state that it might as well roll on the dice on the recall. However, there's another, more recent Bob Dylan quote that may be applicable, namely: "when you think that you lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more."

I don’t think a recall loss will have any real impact on the national level. It can just be shrugged off as an expected result in a blue state. But for Republicans in California, already at the bottom, they may have discovered that rather than try another option, the party’s strategy is to keep digging.

The problem for the GOP is that the loss comes after a surprisingly good 2020. Trump lost by 29%, but Republicans captured four house seats, the first time they ousted an incumbent Democrat since 1994. Instead of looking at this as green shoots to grow on for future races, they decided to immediately bet it all on a wild card. And if they lose, and lose by a good amount, what will the impact be on 2022? Will the Republicans have any hope of attracting a decent candidate to run as the standard-bearer? Could they be shut out of the top-two – as they were in the Senate race in 2018? And could this impact those four (let’s say three after the reapportionment loss) house seats that they just recaptured?

The Republicans can look at the 2003 recall as a positive moment, but in reality, it was barely a last hurrah. They have faded to irrelevance in the state. Trying to copy that past moment may cost them years in getting back in the nation’s biggest electoral prize.

Why the Democrats should celebrate recalls:

Democrats have been the primary target of recalls and now they are looking for changes in the process. The focus has been on the two Democratic Governors, but the party has a bigger claim. Since 1994, when the recall was used against a legislator for the first time in 80 years, six legislators have gone to voters early. And five of the six who have faced a recall have either been Democrats or were targeted because they supported Democrats.

Democrats may look at this information and feel that seven of eight recalls is the relevant information. It is not. The key point that should be looked at is the year 1994.

1994 was a great year for Republicans in California. Pete Wilson won re-election as governor, the fourth straight term for Republicans. No surprise there – the Democrats only had control of the governor’s mansion for 22 years in the entire 20th Century. In that same election, the Republicans took control of the California Assembly for the first time in 25 years. The Congressional delegation coming out of November was split 26-26.

In the senate race, Dianne Feinstein barely beat back a challenge from Michael Huffington. The surprise there may be that Feinstein won at all.  Republicans held at least one of California’s US Senate seats for all but 14 years of the 20th Century. And if we go back a little further, to 1988, we see George H.W. Bush won California’s Electoral College vote. No surprise here as well – Bush’s victory was the sixth straight for Republicans and the 10th over the last 11 elections. The party could rely on California. Its two biggest Presidential triumphs came from Californians Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan leading the ticket. In modern parlance, California may have been a purple state, but it was one with a decided red tinge.

Three decades and seven recalls later, we see a new world, one that calls into question any value that Republicans may have received from the recall. Gavin Newsom may be facing a recall, but his 2018 victory was the third straight by a Democrat – the first time the Democrats won three straight gubernatorial elections in California since before the Civil War and the longest stretch of continual Democratic control in the state’s history. The Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in both the Senate and Assembly. Since the 2003 recall, the party’s registration advantage has gone from less than 9% to over 22%.

On the federal level, the numbers are just as stark. Democrats have a three-quarters majority in the House Delegation – more than three times their overall majority in the chamber. This strong showing has given California’s Nancy Pelosi the Speakership. The US Senate seats are so safely ensconced in Democratic hands that in the last two elections in 2016 and 2018, the Republicans did not have a candidate make the run-off. It is not too extreme to say that right now, nobody thinks a Republican is going to capture Vice President Kamala Harris’ old seat in 2022. And after almost a half-century of losses, the Democrats have won California’s Electoral College vote for the eighth straight election, winning it by 29 percent. Once again, virtually nobody believes that whoever the Republicans nominate in 2024, they have a chance at capturing California’s vote. This means that one-fifth of the margin needed for the presidential victory – larger than the smallest fourteen states combined – can be tattooed into the Democratic column.

California is not the Democratic equivalent of Texas or Ohio or Florida. It’s not even Mississippi or Kansas. It is far bluer than any of those states are red. California is now the Democrats' own Private Idaho.

Republicans have not come up with any response to this takeover of their party’s former electoral rock. Republicans actually had a good 2020 in California. Despite losing the top of the ticket by historic blowout margins, the Republicans managed to capture four house seats. It was the first time since 1994 that they ousted a Democratic incumbent.

But once again, instead of incrementally building on this success and tilling the voter soil, the Republicans have looked to a weapon of the weak and the easy fix of recalls. Much as the 2003 recall did not result in any long-term benefits to the Republicans, we may see similar problems for the party here. Even ousting Newsom is unlikely to result in lasting change in the most valuable state in the country.

Republicans have succeeded in using the recall to oust people, including in the shocking Arnold Schwarzenegger triumph in 2003. They may succeed again. But the stagnation of the party suggests that they are paying a heavy price for trying the recall shortcut rather than working on building the party.

For the Democrats, there is a separate question. Why change any political laws whatsoever? If the price of complete domination of the state – a state that was the cause of so much heartache before the Republicans settled on the recall as a weapon– is that the party has to face a recall every so often, shouldn’t they be happy to write that check?

Changed the locks on my frontdoor? The inevitable post-recall reform act:
After major recalls, the first action by the recall opponents is to propose a reform to the law. We saw this in 1914 in California after the Senator E.E, Grant recall, as well as in 2017, with the Senator Josh Newman recall. Michigan changed its laws in 2012  following the successful Paul Scott recall). And occasionally, they do succeed in 
making an important change. Wisconsin future Speaker Robin Vos proposed an amendment to limit the recall to elected official misbehavior (the malfeasance standard/judicial recall standard). We are already seeing similar discussions in California, let’s see if they follow through. As I noted in the Hill, “we didn’t do anything about homelessness, but we handled the recall” is not a great campaign slogan.

Recall Survivors: Risin' up, straight to the top?
Surviving a recall can boost a career. Scott Walker instantly moved up to real contender status for the president.  Dianne Feinstein won the San Francisco Mayoral recall against her in 1983. By 1984 she was being talked about for the VP and was the US Senator by 1992. California State Senator Jeff Denham survived a recall in 2008, and was then elected to Congress. Scott Fitzgerald in Wisconsin pulled the same trick.

Comeback, Baby, Comeback: How a Resurrection Really Feels
Is a recall loss the end of a career? Not always. The most obvious example is North Dakota Governor Lynn Frazier was the first Governor to be recalled back in 192 as well as his fellow losers Attorney General William Lemke (five terms in Congress and ran for president in 1936, coming in 3rd on the Union Ticket) and Agriculture and Labor Commissioner John Hagan, who eventually got his job back and got the Republican nomination for governor in 1938 (though he lost). He was elected to the first of the three US Senate terms 18 months later. Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill lost a recall in 1914 and was back in office the following term. We also have recent examples: State Senator Josh Newman lost a recall in 2018 (to Ling Ling Chang, the candidate he beat in 2016). 2020 saw Newman come back and retake the seat.

No future, no future for you?
Another big question that I'm constantly asked: Will we see a cycle of recall revenge? Who knows. I remember similar questions after Gray Davis and Scott Walker were recalled, and in fact this has been a constant warning cry of recall opponents since the recall was first adopted over a century ago.

However, I think we will see the recall continue to expand, as voters realize that "hey, I can use that thing" and try to take out vulnerable incumbents on their own (or with party or interest group backing). The recall is having its moment in the sun, and it doesn't look like it wants to relinquish the spotlight so quickly.

Monday, September 13, 2021

California: Newsom Recall Round-up -- Polls are well outside of the margin; Baseless fraud claims; The COVID election and powers of a new governor

Republicans need an "Historic polling miss" to win

Perhaps a bigger problem is that we've probably topped 8 million ballots handed in. 

More on the voter fraud claims -- no one seems to have connected it to the 2012 recalls, but I'll do that soon enough. Elder has a new website to report fraud.

Intimidation claims at the polls -- which should just push more people to mail-in ballots

What types of power would a replacement Governor have with a Democratic supermajority in the legislature? Perhaps a lot -- though I kind of doubt it. Politics is different than in 2003 and Democratic legislators would face significant blowback from working with Larry Elder. 

WSJ on the recall as a referendum on COVID

Here's my op-ed in CalMatters on why the Democrats were right not to run a safety candidate (I have a long blog post on this as well)

Spending a lot more time on interviews, so here's some of them:

Friday, September 10, 2021

California: Newsom Recall Round-up -- Polls! Brewster's Millions! A look at spending, fraud complaints and more

Newsom looking good in polls

Larry Elder and Donald Trump start beating the drum on voter fraud ahead of the vote

Is John Cox running a Brewster's Millions campaign?

With 6 days to go from the last reporting period, we're at 6.8 Million votes

And 52K voted in the early in-person voting

A look at the campaign spending as Newsom concentrates on the coasts and pro-recall forces look interior -- Youtube/social media predominates

Made in California anti-Recall effort?

Some interviews I've done on How the recall works? Why are there so many recalls in California? And a Heritage Foundation podcast.

Harvard Social Impact Review article 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

California: Petitioners hand in over 81,000 signatures for San Francisco School Board recall

Petitioners handed in over 81.200 signatures in the the recall effort against of San Francisco Board President Gabriela Lopez, former Vice President Alison Collins and member Faauuga Moliga. They need 51,285 to get on the ballot.  Collins also dropped a lawsuit $87 million lawsuit against the board for removing her from the VP position.

The School Board recall is over a few issues, including a push to plan for the reopening of the schools, changing admissions for a high school and an extremely controversial decision to change the names of public schools for political reasons and using some odd history, including removing the name of Abraham Lincoln. Mayor London Breed has been particularly critical of the board, and the City Attorney Dennis Herrera has sued to compel reopening. 

Other board members Jenny Lam, Mark Sanchez and Kevine Boggess and Matt Alexander, will not be able to face a recall until June. 

California has been happy to kick out school board members over the last decade -- 25 have been removed in a recall vote, 7 have resigned, one has been kicked out by the board and only 6 survived a recall vote.

North Dakota: Petitioners claim enough signatures in four Fargo School Board members recalls

Petitioners claim they have enough signatures against four Fargo School Board members, Seth Holden, Tracie Newman, Nikkie Gullickson and Jim Johnson. The recall effort is over their support for hybrid learning initiatives to prevent the coronavirus pandemic. The petitioners cite other grievances, but the Facebook page is ND Parents Against Distance Learning.

Petitioners say they have over 4200 signatures and need 4,144 signatures for each to get on the ballot. No word on if they actually handed them in. The other five board members are in the one year end-of-term grace period, so they can't face a vote.

Monday, September 6, 2021

California: Newsom recall round-up -- Betting Markets move against the recall; Some history and another conspiracy theory

CNN looks at the data on recalls 

SF Weekly looking back on California's use of the recall (citing me) 

Betting markets move against the recall 

The rigged election claim helps fuel some recall supporters and QAnon looks for a Trump restoration following the recall

Podcast on the "Gun Behind the Door"

Another call for the Lt. Governor to be named Governor. 

California: Newsom Recall Round-up -- Abortion now on the agenda; A look back at the early history of the recall

While the campaign has been focused on Covid, Newsom has now opened up a second policy topic on abortion, thanks to Texas and the recent Supreme Court Shadow Docket ruling 

A look back at the history of the recall and (wisely) a look at the initative and its power

Sunday, September 5, 2021

California: Secretary of State releases list of certified write-in candidates

Seven candidates have been listed as "certified write-in candidates" for the recall. Here's a discussion by Rob Pyers of California Target Book on Major Williams, the one candidate who has raised over $300,000 for the race (and then didn't get on the ballot).

California: Sonoma County District Attorney recall race gets second write-in candidate

Here -- unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall, so I'm not sure the details.

California: Newsom recall roundup -- Turnout numbers, with big upstate/downstate divide; so, so much more

Turnout is over 24% as of September 2, with a big upstate/downstate divide (Marin has over 41%, SF/Alameda/Contra Costa/San Mateo are all over 30%. LA and San Bernardino are 20% or under). Turnout has not dropped to 300,000 per day.

A bit more on the history in the NYT 

And more and more on the leaving the ballot blank replacement raceidea that I discussed earlier (and am quoted in these articles)

Democrats outperforming their registration advantage, though not clear what that means yet

Crime victims get involved in the recall (and in the D.A. recalls)

Ballot rumors taking hold in California over holes in ballots

A look at Stockton voters and the problem of low-information\

Interview with Gloria Romero, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader (2nd position) who is backing the recall/Larry Elder over charter school issues

More on the Latino vote 

Both sides jump into ballot harvesting 

Security experts call for rigorous audit of election results

I'm on this podcast with American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken -- I liked how he pushed the discussion

Friday, September 3, 2021

Are the Mail-in Ballot Turnout numbers good for Newsom? A comparison with past elections

(Sorry, but once again, I better put a link for the book up top -- and it's also available to read for subscribers on Taegan Goddard's Political Wire).

Play the Numbers, Play the Odds, fourth time around:

I previously looked at what turnout can mean for the election. But now, we have actual hard turnout numbers to examine and we should look at what they mean.
5.16 million voters were reported to have cast their ballots as of Wednesday – over 23% of registered voters already voting. Democrats reportedly cast somewhere in the neighborhood of 54% of the ballots, with a close split between Republicans and NP/Others (Paul Mitchell from Political Data Inc. seems to have compiled this number, but I’m not going to focus on that info here. The one point to note is that Democrats are 46.5% of registered voters). 

Since 2020 was the only election that so heavily used mail-in ballots, it must be our point of comparison – and we shall look at what that means. In 2020, with 10 days to go, 6.5 million votes were cast. Based on 2020 numbers, this seems like turnout for the recall is over performing what we should expect, which is exactly what Newsom should be rooting for, though there are still two big questions outstanding. 

How is this overperforming? 2020 was a presidential election, when 80.67% of registered voters came out to vote. Turnout for a presidential year will always top turnout in a mid-term/gubernatorial one – with the exception of 1914 (perhaps this explains some of it?), no mid-term has topped the turnout of the presidential elections sandwiching it. Since 1912 (when the Secretary of State’s records start online), only once has turnout of registered voters for a presidential election dipped below 70% (1996, when turnout was 65.53%). No gubernatorial race has got that high since 1982. Since then, only three times have we seen more than 60% of registered voters come out in the mid-terms/gubernatorial elections – the big Republican blow out year of 1994 (60.45%), the recall in 2003 (61.20%) and Gavin Newsom’s victory in 2018 (64.54%). 

What is the turnout difference that you can expect between a presidential race and a mid-term? It’s all over the place, from the relatively modest 16 points from 2018-2020 to the enormous 30+ point difference between 2012-2014-2016. (2014 had easily the lowest voter turnout among a regularly scheduled election – 42.20% of registered voters. Perhaps the fact that top two was introduced that year drove down the vote?). 

It could be that by 10 days out, we will see close to or more than 6 million votes cast. That would be over 90% of the ballots reportedly cast in the 2020 election at that point according to the one story on the subject, which is a better “retention rate” than any election in recent memory (1994/1996 saw the current record of 87% rate). 

One question is whether the turnout numbers will continue. We saw a big push of ballots at the end of the 2020 election. At the end of the day, 15.4 million of the 17.7 million votes were cast by mail. Currently, the ballots coming in for the recall seems to be leveling off, with somewhere over 400,000 coming in each day over the last few reporting periods. This frankly makes sense, as the people who were most interested in voting probably came out early. But if the 400,000 number keeps up, we would see over 10 million mail-in votes. As I’ve mentioned before, we have seen voter turnout go up for recalls of governors and big city mayors, though the fact that turnout was so high in 2018 may make this a challenge. With Election Day numbers, it is possible to get into the range, if not top, the 2018 numbers. Since Newsom did well with a big turnout, you would imagine that he would be in favor of this result. 

The other big question is whether Democrats will benefit from mail-in ballots (again, I look at voter persuasion in the last post). Historically, Republicans were big users of mail-in ballots, but that changed in a hurry during the 2020 race. Could California Republicans be more comfortable with mail-ins than in other states? It is possible. Mail-in ballots saw a big jump in 2020, but in 2018, 65% of ballots were mail-in (obviously, that was also a good Democratic year). But what that could mean (though I kind of doubt it) is that we should limit the expected lead that Democrats have in mail-in.

California: Petitioners claim they may have the signatures to get San Francisco School Board recall on the ballot

Petitioners leading the recall effort against of San Francisco Board President Gabriela Lopez, Vice President Alison Collins and member Faauuga Moliga claim to have over 70,000 signatures (presumably for each official). They need 51,285 to get on the ballot. 

The School Board recall is over a few issues, including a push to plan for the reopening of the schools, changing admissions for a high school and an extremely controversial decision to change the names of public schools for political reasons and using some odd history, including removing the name of Abraham Lincoln. Mayor London Breed has been particularly critical of the board, and the City Attorney Dennis Herrera has sued to compel reopening. 

Other board members Jenny Lam, Mark Sanchez and Kevine Boggess and Matt Alexander, will not be able to face a recall until June. 

California has been happy to kick out school board members over the last decade -- 25 have been removed in a recall vote, 7 have resigned, one has been kicked out by the board and only 6 survived a recall vote.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

California: My op-ed in NBC News on why voters deserve the recall power

 I'll have a lot more to say about this in the weeks ahead, but you can check out by op-ed here. 

California: MY Op-ed in The Hill looking at the political optics of "recall is unconstitutional" lawsuit

A judge has tossed out the strange argument that the recall is unconstitutional. The suit was based around the claim that the fact that the replacement candidate could win office with less votes than the recalled official received in losing was a violation of one-person/one-vote (the Baker v. Carr/Reynolds v. Sims case line). 

I have the following op-ed in the Hill which focuses on the optics of this claim and just how usual this type of law is in the US. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Colorado: Only one candidate on replacement ballot for two Avon recalls

Only one candidate, Beatriz Bustamante, is running to replace Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes in the November 2 recall, and no one is on the ballot to replace Councilmember Tamra Underwood. The Town Council would appoint a replacement for Underwood if she is removed.

Here's some earlier detailed coverage of the fight. I'm not sure what happened to the recall of Councilmembers Amy Phillips.

California: Petitioners claim they have the signatures for West Sonoma County Union High School Board members recall

Petitioners claims that they have over 9200 signatures for the recall of West Sonoma County Union High School District Board President Kellie Noe and Vice President Jeanne Ferandes over a vote to consolidate two high schools. Petitioners need about 7200 signatures. No word on what happened to the recall attempt against Trustee Laurie Fadave.

California: Newsom Recall Round-up -- Gray Davis calls for New Election model and many other things

Former Governor Gray Davis calls for a New Election-style recall (perfectly legitimate method)

Recall proponents say this is just the beginning

CNN compares the recall to the Electoral College, though of course the recall exists throughout the world, so it's a bit of an odd comparison

How Newsom is going on the offensive, using the Scott Walker playbook

Will the potential release of Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy's assassin effect Newsom?

Cal Matters reporter Laurel Rosenhall on the unknown impact of Latino voters on the recall

Will the claim that Larry Elder's brandished a gun on his ex-fiancée impact his results?

The late, great Ed Asner was Newsom's ex-first cousin by marriage? 

Newsom gets a little grief for selling his house -- not sure about that timing