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How the Candidates and Voter Turnout Could Shape the Newsom Recall Effort

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Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
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While signatures in support of a recall of Governor Gavin Newsom still need to be counted, there will probably be a special election later this year. KVCR’s Megan Jamerson spoke with a U.C. Riverside political science professor about the big questions leading into what will likely be the state’s second ever recall election of a governor.

Some of the questions Professor Shaun Bowler is asking are who is going to run other than Governor Newsom and what kind of voter turnout will the recall election bring?

“Last time we had over 130 candidates running so we’re expecting a lot, but one of the questions for the Democrats is will there be a prominent Democrat who will run?” said Bowler.

Last time was in 2003 when then Democratic Governor Gray Davis was defeated in a recall by the well-publicized GOP candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bowler said the Newsom campaign seems to be taking the recall effort more seriously than the Davis campaign. They are already working to prevent a Democratic challenger.

“The second sort of candidate to look at is on the Republican side," said Bowler. "Will there be a candidate who has some kind appeal or wide appeal just like Arnold Schwarzenegger did last time?”

So far, no one with that kind of name recognition has started a campaign, but it’s still early said Bowler. The final list of candidates also ties into voter turnout.

“That’s the key thing for the Democrats, is will Democratic voters turnout and vote for Gavin Newsom," said Bowler. "I mean especially these days when elections are more a matter of turnout than changing people’s minds.”

While Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state, they don’t have a great track record of turning out to vote in big numbers. So the motivation for the recall effort is important. The Davis recall was over an energy crisis. Newsom’s is led by those unhappy with pandemic policies over mask wearing and closing down large portions of the economy.

Bowler said Newsom’s office has been response to some of these criticisms, making changes around vaccines like increasing access for teachers, and politically the party is rallying around Newsom with one voice telling the public "he’s our guy".  All things at this early stage, said Bowler, strengthen Newsom’s chances of defeating a recall.