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LOS ANGELES, CA – My view from the ground as a Southern California community organizer is aligned with the latest poll released by Berkeley. In that poll, the gap between “No on Recall” and “Yes on Recall” has now contracted to just three points with likely voters. Last week, an Emerson poll had that gap at five points. The enthusiasm gap is unprecedented and huge, with strong dynamics in place, not likely to change directions.
What I am seeing on the ground is the ramp-up of the various frontrunning Republican campaigns. Right after filing deadlines, a high profile tussle with the Secretary of State, eventually resulted in Larry Elder on the ballot by court order. Thanks to this Hail Mary attempt by Shirley Weber, Larry received a lot of publicity he normally wouldn’t have. Most importantly, it illustrated to many, the arrogance and double standards by those in power, the incumbent party with a supermajority, the Democrats.
But the biggest mistake the Democrats made was to push out high profile would-be challengers like Antonio Villaraigosa, in an attempt to save their incumbent, who they believe is more well-liked than he really is. A high profile Democratic challenger would have increased Democratic enthusiasm for the recall. Now, it is an open road for Republicans.
The Emerson poll from last week showed that 58 percent of the electorate would be happy to replace Newsom. This signals to me there’s enough apathy for Democrats to stay home, and no amount of spending on terrible ads like the “No on Recall” branding would get more people to return a ballot. While Democrats still hold very partisan views different from Republicans, they see enough problems with what’s going on in California to be reticent about protecting a governor they’re not crazy about.
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Meanwhile, on the Republican side, a buffet of choices is garnering more and more energy by the day. Besides the frontrunner, Elder, lighting up Republican grassroots and bringing more energy to the overall “yes on recall” effort, there are candidates like John Cox and Kevin Faulconer who have gained steam, as their money is now being used to bring more attention to the overall Recall effort. Kevin Kiley has his own strong following and is engaging a lot of Independents and Democrats affected by issues like AB5, where he has been a strong fighter. All four candidates have strong showings and are capable of growing their influence in the next 6 weeks until election day. None will drop out because this election does not require Republicans to coalesce under one candidate. The outright top vote getter will be the next governor, even if he wins with only 20 percent of the vote.
In fact, the way a recall election is set up, and the Democrats’ choice not to field a prominent “insurance” candidate, and Gavin’s own missteps, not filing the paperwork to list himself as a Democrat, puts the Republicans in a very strong position to win. I also believe that the overly negative messaging by Gavin Newsom’s “no on recall” ads will actually backfire and increase attention to the recall. After seeing so many Democrats on the ground pushing for recalls of their own Democratic candidates on lower levels of government, it is obvious that the climate is much less partisan, especially after a decade of Democratic dominance and supermajority. We have seen deep blue states like Massachusetts and Maryland elect Republican governors.
I will be throwing a rally at the Will Rogers State beach this Saturday, July 31st, at 9 am, to highlight the three simultaneous recalls of LA City Councilman Bonin, District Attorney George Gascon and Governor Gavin Newsom. More than half of my speakers will be Democrats. The Recall Bonin speaker and proponent is a Democrat, a Venice resident, who’s son’s elementary school had a meth lab parked in front of the school. The Councilman had actually blocked the removal of this dangerous homeless encampment and put his kids in danger. Along with Gascon’s criminal-friendly and victim-dismissing policies, public opinion is clearly moving rightwards. With the distraction of Trump gone, Democrats are forced to audit their own leaders and they don’t like what they see. September 14th is likely the beginning of a new political era for California.