With just two weeks to go before California’s closely watched gubernatorial recall election, Senator Bernie Sanders warned Sunday that the effort to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom is a “bold-faced Republican power grab” and urged the state’s voters to reject it at the polls.
“At this unprecedented moment in American history, when we’re trying to address the crisis of climate change, guarantee healthcare for all, and pass real immigration reform, the last thing we need is to have some right-wing Republican governor in California,” Sanders (I-Vt.), the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said in a 30-second spot recorded for the “Stop the Republican Recall” campaign.
“Return your ballot, or vote no in person, by September 14th,” added the Vermont senator, who won California’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
The effort to recall Newsom advanced in June after proponents gathered enough signatures—more than 1.7 million—to trigger the election. Early voting began this month, and Californians who opt to participate will face two ballot questions: one asking whether Newsom should be recalled, and another asking who should replace him.
According to FiveThirtyEight, recent polling on the first question is very close, with 50.6% of Californians saying they want to keep Newsom in office and 46.3% saying they want him removed. If more than 50% vote yes on the first question, the challenger with the most votes will become California’s next governor.
“It’s going to be a very tight race,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told The Hill last month. “I think people realize this is not a slam dunk.”
Larry Elder, a longtime right-wing radio host who recently said that “the ideal minimum wage is $0.00,” has emerged as the Republican frontrunner to succeed Newsom. Democrats, for their part, have launched what’s been described as “the largest voter mobilization effort in state history” to keep Newsom in office.
But as the Los Angeles Times reported, Newsom and the state Democratic Party “successfully deterred any prominent Democratic politician from running” in the election.
“That means if voters recall the Democratic governor from office next month,” the newspaper observed, “his replacement is likely to come from a group of top Republican candidates—almost all of whom have publicly supported [former President Donald] Trump.”
While a Republican governor of California would face significant legislative obstacles given that Democrats hold supermajorities in the state’s Assembly and Senate, a GOP leader could have the power to eliminate Democrats’ razor-thin control of the U.S. Senate should the chamber’s oldest sitting member—88-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)—leave her position for any reason.
“If California has a Republican governor, a sudden Feinstein departure from the Senate would be catastrophic for progressive politics,” HuffPost‘s Daniel Marans reported earlier this month. “Big-ticket items remaining on Biden’s agenda, from immigration reform to climate action to strengthening union power, would be dead on the spot, at least until a new Senate was seated after the 2022 midterms—and that’s if Democrats win back the majority, an uncertain assumption.”
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