California Democrats called for changes to the state’s recall process less than a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom decisively beat back a Republican-led effort to oust him from office.
Assemblymember Marc Berman and state Sen. Steve Glazer, both Democrats, announced on Wednesday plans to hold joint, bipartisan hearings as early as October to examine potential modifications to the recall system. They did not outline any specific proposals that will be addressed during those hearings. The state’s finance department estimated in July that holding a recall election would cost taxpayers $276 million, a price tag repeatedly criticized by opponents of the effort. On Tuesday, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber told ABC News the final cost could total more than $300 million.
Newsom, a Democrat, at first appeared to face serious headwinds and multiple crises earlier this summer with initial polls suggesting he could lose his job. A controversial dinner at Michelin star restaurant French Laundry served as the perfect backdrop for those who painted him as an out-of-touch elite. Republican challengers complained that Newsom, who was photographed not wearing a mask inside the restaurant, did not follow his own public health rules despite a statewide mandate intended to help slow the spread of Covid-19. He also faced criticism over keeping schools closed for too long and not doing enough to help small businesses. But Newsom, with the help of party leaders including President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, succeeded in rousing Democratic voters with a message that warned a Republican replacement would roll back Covid protections and betray the state’s progressive character.
.@JoyAnnReid leads #TheReidOut tonight with exploring why in part Gov. Gavin Newsom beat the recall effort: according to exit polls the most important issue for voters was the pandemic. #TheReidOut #reiders pic.twitter.com/F5FlgrF87D
— The ReidOut (@thereidout) September 15, 2021
Glazer and Berman said that they hope to clarify what constitutes a “recallable offense,” thus establishing a higher bar for future recall elections. Currently, a governor is subject to a recall election if opponents gather signatures equivalent to 12 percent of total votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election. Once a recall qualifies for the ballot, voters are asked to decide on two questions: should the governor be recalled and, if so, who should replace them?
A consistent dynamic right now is Democrats lose elections and obsess about why they lost, and how they could change, and Republicans lose elections and…don't.
But the California recall should really be a moment of reflection for them.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) September 17, 2021
The second question, which voters are not obligated to answer, is something both Glazer and Berman intend to study during their respective committee hearings, they said. Currently, a candidate who wins fewer votes than the sitting governor can replace them if enough people vote no on the first question. “Neither of us is suggesting the recall process be eliminated,” Glazer said. “We have to look at ways to modernize it and understand how it’s been manipulated over the decades.”