News & Politics

Challengers to Gavin Newsom Emerge as Recall Effort Proceeds

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, Pool

Frustration and anger are building in California as Governor Gavin Newsom’s problems proliferate and the recall effort nears its goal of 1.5 million signatures. Newsom — already unpopular in many rural areas — has seen his approval numbers tanking as the coronavirus pandemic rages statewide.

Even liberals are ganging up on Newsom and criticizing his response to the virus. But it’s not just the pandemic that people are mad about. Incarcerated criminals, and Russian, Chinese, and Nigerian scam artists sole up to an estimated $31 billion from taxpayers by bilking the state’s unemployment office, filing fraudulent claims. The size and scope of that scandal have enraged Californians of all political persuasions, leaving Newsom extremely vulnerable to the recall effort.

Democrats in the state have rushed to Newsom’s defense with the usual charges that the recall effort is being led by racists, white nationalists, and anti-vaxxers.

The Palm Springs Desert Sun:

“This recall effort, which really ought to be called a California coup, is being led by right-wing conspiracy theorists, white nationalist anti-vaxxers, and groups who encourage violence on our democratic institutions,” California Democratic Party Chairman Rusty Hicks said in January. While the party quickly walked back that statement — recalls are allowed under the state Constitution — Republicans latched onto it in calling for Newsom’s removal.

Every sign of opposition to Democrats from now on will bring a Democratic response evoking memories of January 6. In this case, it’s just a standard smear, referring to a constitutional mechanism as a “coup.”

And since most anti-vaxxers are left-wing loonies, I don’t quite get the connection to white nationalists.

At any rate, the recall of Newsom has politicians with dreams of higher office stepping to the fore. One of those emerging challengers is a Silicon Valley billionaire with money to burn.

San Diego Union-Tribune:

Now Newsom has another multibillion-dollar problem: tech investor Chamath Palihapitiya.

The CEO of Social Capital and former Facebook executive last week announced his support for the effort to recall Newsom. In doing so — on Twitter, of course — Palihapitiya linked to chamathforca.com. The website has the headline “Chamath for California governor,” and though it was built by supporters, it includes the platform he would run on.

“California is a mess — it’s too expensive, our teachers are underpaid, and our schools aren’t good enough,” the website says, adjacent to a picture of the billionaire.

Palihapitiya is calling for “cutting state taxes to zero, paying teachers a minimum $70,000 salary, creating a global center for tech and climate jobs, distributing free school vouchers, providing student loan relief and paying families $2,000 for every newborn child in California.” It’s an updated “chicken in every pot” promise and in California, it might just work.

Also being prominently mentioned is former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican and constant critic of Newsom.

Faulconer has gained considerable exposure with his constant criticism of Newsom on social media and in television interviews. However, Faulconer’s candidacy has brought him increased scrutiny — some flattering, some not so much. In particular, his conversion from first voting against Donald Trump then voting to re-elect the former president was greeted with skepticism, coming as it did while he was gearing up to run for governor.

One of the quirks of the effort to recall Newsom is that the recall election would be held this year, while the gubernatorial election will be held in 2022. That’s a lot of money for Newsom to raise in a short period of time. That’s what makes Palihapitiya’s challenge problematic for Newsom.

I think it’s a foregone conclusion that the recall of Newsom will be on the ballot this year. Whether it’s successful or not will depend a lot on who emerges as his major challenger.

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