by Jahari Henry,
The following story was written by a student on the staff of The Jaguar Times as part of Hilliard Bradley High School’s Journalism Production course.
On September 14, 2021 Californians went to the polls to decide whether or not they should remove their Governor, Gavin Newsom, from office. California (much like the rest of the country) is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic well into its second year. California’s struggling economy and tough restrictions were enough for its constituents to attempt a recall on Newsom late into his first term. Did Newsom prevail over the recall and remain in office? Spoiler alert … yes! Newsom was re-elected handily by the voters of California. Despite the struggles that Californians face and Newsom’s lukewarm popularity, he survived by almost 30 percentage points. Why?
One explanation for Newsom’s triumph over the recall were the alternatives that were presented to replace him. In a recall system, if the Governor is removed from office, a second election is held to choose a new Governor. In order to be chosen, a candidate has to receive a plurality 1, not a majority vote (This is how Arnold Scharzenegger went from “terminator” to “governator” in 2003). The leading candidate to replace Newsom was conservative talk show
host, Larry Elder. Elder has made controversial statements in the past and his views didn’t align with traditionally liberal California. As a result of these disputes, Elder made it easy for Newsom and other state Democrats to portray him as radical and extreme to Californians. In the waning weeks and days leading up to the election this became a central part of the Newsom campaign. It riled up enough liberal voters and democrats against the recall to keep the California Governor in office. However, Elder is already gearing up for a head-to-head election against Newsom as he has declared his candidacy for the California Gubernatorial election in 2022.
Another reason for Newsom’s triumphant comeback was COVID-19 and his strict measures to handle outbreaks. Earlier in the election his restrictions seemed to be a liability. However, a majority of California voters (6 in 10) approved of the stricter measures. The electorate's approval of Newsom’s measures left a gaping hole in the argument for his recall since it was centered around the ineffectiveness of harsh lockdowns. California’s position on vaccine mandates and other strict COVID measures are reflected by a majority of Americans who want the pandemic to end and life to be returned back to normal.
While Newsom overcame his opposers who wanted him out, his battle isn't over. He’s up for re-election in November of 2022. As long as he doesn’t lose the support he compiled through the pandemic, it’s likely he will be selected once again to govern California. However, if Californians find the COVID protocols unsatisfactory between now and then, Newsom’s job could be in jeopardy.
1 the number of votes cast for a candidate who receives more than any other but does not receive an absolute majority (via Oxford Dictionary)