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SPECIAL REPORT: Should California Democrats run a recall candidate? Too many GOP candidates?

Governor Newsom in Monterey County

SALINAS, Calif. (KION) The recall attempt to oust California Governor Gavin Newsom appears to be heading for your ballot this Fall. Question one will have to do with recalling the Democratic governor. Question two asks voters who should replace him in office.

Right now there are more than 30 candidates who have filed their intention to run, with the California Secretary of State's Office. Not a single prominent Democratic Party politician has declared their entry into the race. This means if more than 50 percent of voters want Newsom gone, it is likely history will repeat itself and the next Governor of California will be from the Republican Party despite the party making up only 24 percent of registered California voters.

This is a chance Democrats in Sacramento seem willing to make, including ones who represent our Central Coast.

“No I don’t think it makes any sense for a Democrat to enter the race. I think we’re unified behind a Governor that the voters of California chose," State Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) tells KION.

State Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) appears with Governor Gavin Newsom (D) in Sacramento during a bill signing relating to small business COVID-19 relief.

Caballero calls the recall a partisan effort surrounding pandemic response.

"I think most of us were looking at good science and trying to stop something that was ravaging the world and killing hundreds of thousands of people. All of us have ideas about what we would have done differently, but bottom line is California has done a really tremendous job in slowing down (the virus) and saving people's lives."

She also says a Democrat shouldn't run because the state is facing issues relating to pandemic recovery, the drought and wildfire season, along with the fact that whoever wins would only be in office for a year unless they win reelection in 2022.

"They’d have to convince the voters that they should be governor for four more years, one year later. When you think about it, that is just silly. You don’t manage that way. You don’t operate the fifth largest economy in the world that way,” Caballero said.

State Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) was just elected in November 2020, but he is no newcomer to Sacramento. Laird was in his first term as an Assemblymember back in 2003 when then-Governor Gray Davis was successfully recalled.

“Some of my colleagues in the Senate point out that every time I come to the legislature a recall happens, so would I 'stop coming to Sacramento',” Laird said.

The voters removed Davis and elected Republican and celebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was also a Democrat on the ballot that time, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante. A recent UC Berkeley poll shows that nearly half of all Democratic voters surveyed want a prominent candidate on the recall ballot in 2021, with another 23 percent unsure. But Laird says, if anything, having Bustamante campaigning for Governor in 2003 hurt Davis' chances.

“Polls show (not having another Democratic candidate) might have been the one thing that saved Gray Davis. Now there are these contradictory impulses where a majority of Democrats in polls say ‘run a candidate just to make sure we don’t lose the seat.' While there is the same pervasive view that this is a total partisan race if no major Democrat joins the recall and Governor Newsom is able to just run against the Republicans,” Laird tells KION.

The Newsom camp has been adamant about Democrats not joining, but Republicans continue to add their name to the ballot. This includes Newsom's 2018 foe John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former Congressman Doug Ose and celebrity candidate Caitlyn Jenner.

That begs the question, should the GOP coalesce around one candidate to avoid splitting their support in case a Democrat hops in?

“That is the role of a political party. The state of California has a political party that can endorse and get behind someone. And I am in listening mode and pushing friends to figure that out. And without a party primary is tough to do that,” former Monterey County Republican Party Chairman Jeff Gorman tells KION.  

Gorman ran for Congress in 2020 in California's 20th district against Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley). Gorman says he is encouraged by people being politically active and stresses the ability to rally support in the party.

“I think Americans kind of went to sleep, but we are waking up. I suspect things will go badly for Gavin Newsom," Gorman said.

While Gorman acknowledges that Jenner brings more attention to the race, he calls Faulconer and Cox the more serious candidates. Cox finished 2nd in the 2018 Gubernatorial primary, ahead of all other Republicans, but lost to Newsom 62%-38% in the General Election.

“Staying power and commitment, that helps John Cox considerably. Cox also got the endorsements of national establishment Republicans, like Condoleezza Rice and Mitt Romney in 2018, and for what it’s worth, he got Trump’s endorsement as well,” Gorman said.

Is there a lesson to be learned from 2003?

Political Historian Dr. David Anderson, Professor of History Emeritus at CSU Monterey Bay, says Newsom and Davis' situations and challengers are not comparable, especially considering the difference in public approval.

“Pubic opinion polls were against (Davis), and he actually had Lieutenant Governor Bustamante who campaigned saying ‘don’t choose him choose me',” Anderson said.

54 percent of "likely voters" in California approve of Newsom's job as Governor of California, with 42 percent disapproving, according to a survey published on May 25 by the Public Policy Institute of California.

But still, there is a risk on the Left not putting anyone forward. Just as Newsom's famed French Laundry dinner ignited a then-cool recall attempt, there's months left for another potential problem.

“What if there’s a scandal? What if COVID outbreaks? What if something is really different in October, November, whenever this happens," Anderson said.

The May PPIC poll finds that 57 percent of "likely voters" would vote "no" on the recall question, with 40 percent saying "yes" to remove Governor Newsom from office. Three percent selected "don't know."

Author Profile Photo

Aaron Groff

Aaron Groff is an evening co-anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.



  1. So it’s all or none. I can respect that, but there is just one little problem with that plan. If you don’t have a Democratic solution beyond Newsom, you risk having a republican governor, if a republican governor performs well for California or the state does well anyway because our economy is going to be improving because a vaccinated California gets back to work, this could…in theory lead to California becoming a red state. I think is best to stay with the devil you know or have a good democratic plan B in place. I have no intention of ousting Newsom, if for no more reason than I do vote, even if I have not had the time to fully understand the issues relating to this recall attempt. Go with the devil you know.

  2. I do not care what political party our Governor is in. What I do care about are the bizarre and antisocial actions of our Governor lately. What else can a person call it when one American is literally putting masses of innocent Californians at risk of bodily harm or violently losing their lives? Am I missing something? Overreacting? He is letting out 76,000 ‘VIOLENT’ (his word) inmates early? With the reasoning being to ‘lessen the prison population’? Seriously? And this last week, he is closing an inmate Cal Fire training center?? In what is about to be a drought fueled worst fire season ever?? Again, to ‘lessen prison population’?? Even the inmates think it is crazy, as it for once gives them a feeling of self worth. I know someone who thinks he is ‘taking revenge’ against Californians for the recall vote coming up? Is there ANYONE who likes the idea of releasing 76,000 violent criminals early? Is anyone THAT liberal? If so, what does ‘liberal’ even now mean? How does that help ANYONE? Seriously, has he lost his mind?

  3. @Frankie
    Well, choose one. And if it is a republican, so what? He cannot get anything done anyway. I did not sign the ‘petition’. I was ambivalent. But this whole prisoner thing is new and insane.

    1. @Jalbert
      I was just reading about the prisoner release. I would rather release 100,000 No risk inmates than 75,000 that include violent inmates. But as a whole, the problem I have with releasing inmates early is that can send the message to criminals that they can commit violent crimes and they have a good chance at not spending the rest of their lives in jail. If the state budget or resources won’t allow us to continue housing inmates then start from the least violent crimes or the least fiscally damaging crimes releasing them until the the numbers are covered by the budget. Releasing prisoners is a terrible plan but…it it has to happen…do it right.

  4. @Frankie
    Budget should never be an issue when it comes to law enforcement or incarceration. If it is, I could say where the funds could be taken from, but then people would be angry at me, no matter WHAT arena(s) I would select. Or, just raise certain user fees, like liquor (Who cares, alcoholics, drunks, DUI repeat offenders?). Or, maybe we need to start making soylent green crackers. Euwww, maybe not.

    1. @Jalbert
      I wonder what SoylentGreen1 would think about that idea. LOL. Hey ignorance is bliss. You just take that SG Crackers and feed them to the most violent criminals in jail. And if you made them from me, would be called a cracker cracker?

  5. The question is, what is Bitcoin all about? OK, OK, off subject. But still, time to tell it like it is. Selling today at just above $33K lol. Bitcoin has two other names: CHAIN LETTER, and PONZI SCHEME. Mostly, Chain Letter, which youngsters likely have no idea about. Bitcoin is useless. Worthless. And will end up with no value. Until the time it ever is sanctioned and accepted by governments…and by accepted, I mean, you can use it to pay your taxes. Until then, which will likely never happen, it is garbage, for fools with way more money than brains. Accept the ones who pump and dump it. Like good ole Elon Musk did recently. Buy Bitcoin cheap, tout it, dump it…accept it as payment for Teslas then change course…and blame ‘the environment’ LOL. Too bad no media gets it. But how could they? They have no streets smarts. There are no more journalists of the investigative variety, with a few minor exceptions. If you have a few hundred millions, or billions in actual money…sure have fun, put a few million into Bitcoin. If you don’t, stay home, you are way way way out of your league, and will lose it all if you keep it. Eventually the chain letter ends, and the last people who buy in end up with nothing. ‘Chain Letter’…look it up.

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