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California recall election set for September 14, but effort to boot Newsom likely to fail as state reopens

Two months after California officials announced that the petition to remove Newsom surpassed 1.5 million signatures to trigger the recall election, Lieutenant-Governor Eleni Kounalakis set the date for the vote on two questions: whether to remove Newsom or not and if yes, who would replace him.

The campaign spearheaded by conservatives, including right-leaning groups like Rescue California, kicked off last year as Newsom faced mounting criticism for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and sweeping economic lockdowns in particular.

Several Republican challengers, including Caitlyn Jenner, have already lined up to vie for the office in case Newsom falls out of favor with the majority of the voters in the Democratic stronghold. The chances of this happening in September are slim, however. A Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll, released in May, found that only four in ten likely voters would vote to oust the governor.

Some 57 percent of the respondents said that they would oppose recalling Newsom, while 40 percent said that they would vote to remove him. The prediction, however, hinges on the Democrat voters casting their ballots, since an overwhelming majority of Republicans – 78 percent – and 47 percent of independents back the recall, opposed to just 11 percent of Democrats.

However, Newsom made a “filing mistake” 16 months ago and as a result, can’t be listed on the ballots as a Democrat. On Monday, he sued California Secretary of State Shirley Weber – a fellow Democrat – in order to force her to fix this. 

Californians won’t even have to show up at the polls, as the state will preemptively mail ballots to all registered voters, according to a law signed by Newsom in February. The controversial practice will be in effect at least until the end of the year.

Newsom’s overall approval rating has remained effectively the same since January, rising by  a mere 1% percent to reach 55 percent in May. It remains to be seen if California’s long-awaited reopening in mid-June will become a factor in the vote. Most of the coronavirus restrictions in the state, which was the first to plunge into one of the strictest lockdowns in the nation, were lifted on June 15 in what was touted as a “Grand Reopening.”

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