SAN DIEGO – Six weeks out from the much-anticipated California gubernatorial recall election and the polls appear to be tightening for Gov. Gavin Newsom.
An exclusive Inside California Politics/Emerson College poll released this week shows Californians support keeping Newsom in office despite the recall effort. But Newsom drew mixed marks in some areas of his job performance — including on homelessness — and more than half of the 1,000 registered voters polled say it may be time for new leadership in the state in 2022.
While Newsom’s fate in the recall remains to be seen, Democratic and Republican party officials in San Diego County are jockeying to state their case to voters before the Sept. 14 election.
“The people of California have come to the realization of the fact that their lives are not better; they’re worse,” San Diego Republican Party Chairwoman Paula Whitsell told FOX 5 on Tuesday. “Our governor has been an equal-opportunity wrecking ball in the sense that our homelessness, crime — our people are leaving California and we’re losing a congressional seat because we’ve lost so many to other states.”
Forty-six candidates are running in the recall election, including 21 Republicans, eight Democrats, one Libertarian, nine independents and two Green Party members. Among the Republican challengers are conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox and reality TV show star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner.
If Newsom were to be recalled, Elder currently is leading the pack with 16% of voters polled, followed by Faulconer and Cox at 6% and Jenner at 4%, the Inside California Politics/Emerson College poll shows. More than half of those polled say they’re undecided, however.
Whitsell said she’s not yet endorsing any of the Republicans while arguing “pretty much any of the above would be better than what we have right now.”
“The polls are showing a shift in sentiment,” she said. “It’s the result of people’s on-the-ground experience with this governor. I think the reason those polls are tightening is people are realizing that they need a change.”
In Newsom’s corner, San Diego County Democratic Party chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy said it’s not unusual for polls to tighten and “especially in a tight election.” But he said it ultimately comes down to a turnout game.
“When it comes down to turnout games and especially in San Diego County, our party has an advantage,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said, “and we’ll continue to do that and to make sure that we stress that the governor has actually done a pretty good job (with the pandemic) and especially if you compare them with governors from Republican states. You’ll find that we are doing a lot better.”
Asked about the Republican candidates running, Rodriguez-Kennedy said “all we care about is that people vote ‘no’ in the election.”
“But if we’re going to talk about the clown car of Republican candidates that have decided to show up at the ballot box, it’s really a fascinating group of people,” he said, “and I think that none of them should ever be anywhere close to Sacramento.”
FOX 5 political analyst Carl Luna said Newsom is where he is “because he didn’t pay attention to his relationship with the public.”
“Go back to the French Laundry incident where he went out to a really nice Marie Antoinette-style, let-them-eat-cake dinner,” Luna said Tuesday. “He had kind of a mea culpa for it, but he never paid attention to the fact that there’s a big, populous movement in America that hates elites. He left himself vulnerable.”
Unlike the state’s previous recall election in 2003, Luna said Newsom is facing an “emotional backlash” tied to the pandemic.
“When you look at the candidates Republicans are running to replace him, it’s a really divided field,” Luna said. “But you see Larry Elder, the talk show and radio host, is leading the pack. It’s a sign that this is not about policy; it’s about emotion and ideology.”