To recall or not to recall

A crowd of mostly anti-recall advocates rallied recently in Redwood City. Photo courtesy Brigid O'Farrell

With ballots arriving in the mail earlier this month, the election to decide whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is heating up locally. Democrats and Republicans are campaigning in earnest, hosting events and building support among local voters.

The first question on the ballot is whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. Republicans garnered enough signatures to bring the question to a vote and largely say their efforts are in response to his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The second asks who should assume the governorship and serve through 2023 should the recall succeed.

The ballot must be filled out, signed and mailed or dropped off at a local voter box by Election Day on Sept. 14.

Christina Laskowski, chair of the San Mateo County GOP, said her focus has been to help educate residents about the recall effort and to encourage people to submit their ballots and get involved in the process.

“Our role, our approach, has been to engage, educate and empower,” Laskowski said. “... Your vote does make a difference.”

Laskowski said the county GOP helped with the statewide effort to recall the governor, activating local volunteers to get signatures on the recall petition. One of the county GOP committee members is a regional chair of the recall effort, helping lead outreach across the Bay Area. The local Republican Party is asking its members to vote “yes” on the recall, and to choose a Republican on the ballot that aligns most with their values. Laskowski is also encouraging Republicans to sign up to serve as election observers at the San Mateo County elections office.

Laskowski said, although the bulk of their outreach has been to registered Republicans, she has found common ground with independents and those who aren’t registered with a political party when it comes to their concerns about the governor’s actions and interest in a replacement. Most of the opposition to the governor, Laskowski said, is rooted in personal hardships related to the pandemic, like small business owners who struggled with closures and are now worried about the effect of vaccine mandates on their businesses.

“Some people are just not impacted by any of this, but there is a large number of your regular, everyday workers that are impacted,” Laskowski said. “People are still suffering.”

Rudy Espinoza-Murray, a leader at the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee, said the group has been ramping up its organizing efforts, tapping leaders like U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier to support a “no” vote on the recall ballot. Democrats’ focus is also on getting out the vote, and Espinoza-Murray said he feels confident that the recall will fail if Democrats vote.

“We have more than enough Democrats so that if they turn out, we win this election,” Espinoza-Murray said. “... If Democrats don't turn out to vote, then a very tiny minority will get to select the governor for the next two years. It’s problematic and we consider it undemocratic.”

Coastside Democratic Club Vice President April Vargas said volunteers have been up and down the Coastside leaving voting information at doors. Of particular focus is the Coastside’s Latino community and frequent voting Democrats to improve turnout.

She, like Espinoza-Murray, is confident that there are enough Democratic votes to defeat the recall, but Vargas said on an off year, ensuring every eligible voter drops off their ballot is critical. Vargas said she thinks Newsom’s decisions on COVID-19 shutdowns, the testing and vaccine rollout, child safety at schools and relief efforts for food insecurity, housing and business grants speak for themselves.

Also resonating with many local Democrats is the urgency of maintaining a Democratic governor who might appoint Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s successor, Vargas said.

“These kinds of programs that put the people of California first, ahead of special interests — this is the kind of leadership we need,” Vargas said.

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