New, Earlier Date Puts GOP At A Disadvantage In California Recall Election
Updated July 2, 2021 at 1:22 PM ET
California voters will decide whether to keep or boot their governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, on Sept. 14 of this year.
The lieutenant governor chose the date for a highly-anticipated gubernatorial recall Thursday, hours after the secretary of state certified the recall petition.
The date is much earlier than originally planned. Early timelines pinned the recall sometime in November when voters generally anticipate elections, but state officials sped through a cost review process and legislative Democrats moved up the timeline in an effort to ride Newsom's rising approval ratings.
Newsom's "best opportunity to beat this reckless recall," Democratic State Sen. Steve Glazer wrote more than a month ago, "is to have an early election."
"No reason to delay and give opposition any more running room," he added.
Earlier this week, Newsom signed a bill that waives a 30-day period for the legislature to review the estimated costs for a special recall election if lawmakers appropriate funding. The same law earmarked $250 million for elections officials to administer the recall.
"Every child knows the word for changing the rules in the middle of the game. It's cheating," said GOP state lawmaker Kevin Kiley, who is considering a run to replace the governor. "Gavin Newsom is cheating in the recall and this legislature is his willing accomplice."
The (D) lawsuit
At the same time, Newsom is suing California's top elections official in an attempt to get his affiliation with the Democratic Party on the recall ballot.
According to the lawsuit, the governor's elections lawyer did not include Newsom's party affiliation when filing paperwork 16 months ago. When Newsom's team noticed the oversight in June, they asked Secretary of State Shirley Weber to correct the mistake.
She refused and, according to the lawsuit, "stated she cannot accept [his party preference] without a court order."
"The Secretary of State's office has a ministerial duty to accept timely filed documents," Weber's office said in a statement. "Acceptance of filings beyond a deadline requires judicial resolution.
A hearing is set for July 9.
Newsom appointed Weber — a former San Diego assemblywoman — to the secretary of state position earlier this year to replace Alex Padilla, who is now California's junior U.S. senator.
"She's in a difficult position," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "Politically, we're all asking these questions: Is she too beholden to Newsom? Or is she trying too hard to show her independence?"
Newsom's campaign declined to comment.
The lawsuit, which wasfirst reported by Courthouse News, was filed with the Sacramento County Superior Court on Monday. It notes that replacement candidates in the recall can declare their party affiliation up to 59 days before the election, while the governor's only chance was in February 2020.
"To apply that deadline here would also lead to absurd results," the suit reads. "The voters would be deprived of the very information the Legislature has deemed important for them to receive, all because the governor's counsel inadvertently failed to file a form about the governor's ballot designation at least sixteen months before the recall election has been called and long before it became clear that the recall would even qualify for the ballot."
It also argued that at the time of filing, a date for the recall election had not been set and there was still time before the ballot must be finalized.
"He thinks it matters," Levinson said of the governor's legal action. "He wants [to] have a party preference listed just like every other candidate. And in California for statewide office, it's really helpful that people know you're a Democrat."
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