Thursday, March 14, 2024








        Republicans behind the new recall drive against Gov. Gavin Newsom made a bit of a slip the other day, revealing the real reason behind their effort:


        Get Newsom off the road, where he’s been about the most effective surrogate President Biden has had during his reelection effort. Everywhere Newsom goes, he picks up IOUs from local Democrats, too, non-fungible currency he will be able to use in four years or so, if and when he makes his own run for the White House.


        Yes, California Republicans realize Donald Trump is the current frontrunner in his campaign to oust Biden and regain the White House for four more years (or more, if he can somehow engineer an end run around the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment and its two-term limit for presidents). But they also see that Newsom has become enough of a thorn in Trump’s side to rate a skit on “Saturday Night Live” and a disparaging nickname from Trump (“New-scum”).


        Newsom has also advertised on his own in Republican-run states, getting sufficiently under the skin of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to engineer the first nationally televised debate between two governors with no known future in some other office at stake.


        So Republicans are doing what they can to keep Newsom off the national road by trying to make him the first California governor ever to face two ballot recall drives. (Others have faced more attempts, but only two ever made a ballot).


        They haven’t been able to find anything criminal about Newsom or any moral failings Newsom hasn’t already confessed to and apologized for (like his long-ago marital infidelity and the infamous French  Laundry restaurant incident, where he dined out with friends in a swank eatery while ordering other state residents to lock down in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic).


        Instead, they’re going after him for policy differences: They don’t like his okay of Medi-Cal health benefits for undocumented immigrants, they don’t like California’s taxes and its high spending on efforts to reduce homelessness, they didn’t like school closures during the pandemic.


        Some of those were among the grounds they gave for the other recall the GOP engineered against Newsom, that one soundly beaten back in 2021, barely a year before Newsom was due to face the voters anyhow. Many voters saw it as a colossal waste of money, and voted “no” on those grounds alone.


        This time, recall sponsors will need to gather 1.38 million valid voter signatures before the end of May in order to get a recall question and a list of alternative candidates for governor onto the November general election ballot. That’s hundreds of thousands more signatures than are needed to qualify an ordinary initiative or referendum for a statewide vote, making the new recall unlikely to get a November vote.


        So this recall – if it qualifies – will likely need a special election, costing tens of millions of dollars and coming less than two years before Newsom will be term limited out of office anyhow. This from a party that often grouses about excessive and pointless government spending.


        If it all sounds like an unnecessary exercise in futility, that’s because it may be. And not merely because the GOP has virtually no one ready to step up as a credible alternate candidate, the way muscleman actor Arnold Schwarzenegger did in the state’s only successful gubernatorial recall, against ex-Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, when he had three years left in his second term.


        Nevertheless, Newsom’s team insists he won’t ignore the new recall effort. “We are taking it seriously,” said longtime Newsom spokesman Nathan Click. “These Trump Republicans are targeting Gov. Newsom because he’s out there defending democracy and fighting for the reelection of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. He’s not going to be distracted from that fight. Democracy is on the ballot, and he’s going to keep fighting.”


        If that eventually helps Newsom raise money for a presidential bid of his own and makes him the Democrats’ de facto leading spokesman should Biden lose this fall, so much the better for him. Just like the last time, the recall advocates might again be doing him a big favor. 




    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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