Voters in the western U.S. state of California are heading to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to remove Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in a recall election.
Newsom was joined by U.S. President Joe Biden late Monday in a final campaign rally in the southern city of Long Beach to urge Democrats to turn out in the polls and reject the recall.
“The eyes of the nation are on California,” President Biden told the crowd, “because the decision you’re going to make isn’t just going to have a huge impact on California, it’s going to reverberate around the nation, and quite frankly, not a joke, around the world.”
The recall was launched by Republicans angered over Newsom’s strict COVID-19 rules throughout the pandemic, including school closures and restrictions on small businesses such as bars and restaurants. Organizers secured enough signatures of registered voters to force the recall on the ballot.
Californians are being asked to vote either yes or no to remove Newsom from office. If enough voters select “yes,” a candidate who receives a simple majority of the vote will replace Newsom. Voter opinion surveys show Larry Elder, a staunch conservative radio talk show host, is the leading candidate among more than 40 would-be successors to serve out the remainder of Newsom’s term in office, which ends next year.
Newsom is a prominent figure among national Democrats, having previously served as mayor of the city of San Francisco and California lieutenant governor before he was elected governor in 2018. His defeat in a state dominated by Democrats could signal major problems for Biden and congressional Democrats heading into next year’s midterm legislative elections. But recent surveys show Newsom with a solid lead in the campaign.
He is the second California governor to face a recall vote. The first one in 2003 removed Democrat Gray Davis and installed popular Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.