California sets Newsom recall election for Sept. 14

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California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis on Thursday set the recall election that threatens to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) for Sept. 14.

“Although the window of time from which I could select a date was narrow, I believe we have chosen a fair and reasonable date for this election to take place,” Kounalakis said in a statement. “It has always been my intention to choose an election date that gives election officials and the public ample time to ensure a smooth election with broad participation.”

The declaration brings to a head a yearlong signature-gathering effort by Newsom’s critics to try to oust him from office.

The recall campaign snowballed during Newsom’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor had faced grumbles from Republicans across the state but was met with an uproar over his closures of schools and businesses. That outcry intensified and gained national attention after he was spotted maskless at a posh restaurant celebrating the birthday of a political adviser in violation of his administration’s guidance.

That momentum had Republicans licking their chops at what appeared to be the best opportunity to gain a foothold in deep blue California and led to organizers submitting 2.1 million signatures in March to get the recall onto a ballot later this year, far exceeding the 1.5 million needed.

However, Newsom’s standing in California appears to have stabilized since his critics clinched the needed support.

The governor is enjoying the benefits of posting a $38 billion budget surplus after fears that the coronavirus-ravaged economy would lead to steep deficits in 2021. Besides that, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have plummeted as vaccines become more prevalent.

He has since used the funds to propose giving $600 stimulus checks for two-thirds of California residents and $500 checks for families. He’s also instituted incentives to promote hesitant Californians to receive a coronavirus vaccine, including free tacos and tickets to Six Flags.

In a May survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, 57 percent of likely voters said they would vote against recalling Newsom.

“Imagine being in politics and giving away money — that’s about as good as it gets,’’ Newsom told CBS host James Corden on “The Late Late Show” last month. 

Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding the recall date. 

The governor also faces a crowded field of would-be replacements who lack government experience, including Caitlyn Jenner, an adult-film star and other social media figures. John Cox, the Republican nominee in the 2018 California gubernatorial election, is also running. 

Recall supporters also face structural headwinds in ousting Newsom. A governor in the state was last booted via a recall in 2003, and California has only turned bluer since, with registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

Voters in September will be asked two questions on their ballot. The first will ask voters to choose between “yes” and “no” over whether Newsom should be removed. The second question will ask voters to choose a replacement, though those answers will not matter if fewer than 50 percent of voters pick “yes” on the first question.

Updated 6:14 p.m.

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