SACRAMENTO (Calif.) — California recall watchers know this well: 2021 isn’t 2003.
Yes, the state is once again in the middle a recall election that could lead to the removal of the Democratic governor. California’s electorate today is different than 18 years ago. They are less Republican, more Latino- and Asian-oriented, and they are younger. These trends favor Governor Newsom. Gavin Newsom as long as his voters turn out.
Mindy Romero is the director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy, University of Southern California, and an expert on voters and the electorate.
The early voting process has been ongoing for several weeks. More than 7 million ballots were cast to date. Tuesday is the last day you can vote.
Two questions will be asked on the ballot: Is Newsom to be recalled? If so, then who should he replace? If Newsom is resigned by a majority, the person with the most votes among the 46 names on a replacement ballot will be elected governor. Because there is no Democrat with political standing, it would almost be a Republican. Larry Elder, Conservative talk-radio host, leads in polls.
Amateur Republican political activists were dissatisfied by Newsom’s positions on crime, immigration and other issues. The recall was initiated by them. It was only after the coronavirus epidemic and frustrations about school closings and business that it was allowed to be on the ballot.
Gray Davis, a Democrat from California, was recalled as governor in 2003. Gray Davis was only beginning his second term, and voters were upset over the energy crisis that had caused rolling power outages, tax and fee hike increases, and a poor economic situation. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the race and won easily.
About 9 million of the nearly 15 million registered voters took part in the race back then. About 4 million backed Davis (44%). Schwarzenegger won 4.2 million votes in the poll asking for his replacement.
At that time, 35% were Republicans, 43% were Democrats, and 16% were not in a party.
California today has 22 million registered voters, but the Republican Party claims only 25%. This is because the registration numbers have remained flat and hover above 5million. The Democrats have gained 3 million votes, while 2.6 million more are independents.
Romero data shows that Latino voters now comprise more than 25% of registered voters, compared to 17.5% for 2003. Their share has increased to 10.4%, which is also the current level of Asian voters. The overall electorate has become younger as these demographic groups have increased in number.
It’s not as if it’s just the Baby Boomers who are Latinos or Asian Americans moving to California from another state. These are people born in this state and are aging into politics,” Sonja Diaz, founder of the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative of the University of California Los Angeles.
These trends are good for Democrats who have strengthened their grip on the state in the last two decades. Californians haven’t elected any Republican to the office of governor since 2006, when Schwarzenegger was elected for a second term. Democrats now hold supermajorities within both houses.
Diaz stated that even though former Republican President Donald Trump gained support from Latinos in 2016, and 2020, California’s Latino population still favors Democrats.
Diaz said that the party shouldn’t take Latino voters as granted, particularly with their growing power as a voting bloc. California’s nearly 40 million residents are now 40% Latinos, which is more than any other race or ethnic group. However, they are less likely than others to vote.
Campaigns are often focused on the likely voter, which is usually people with a track history of participation. Diaz stated that while candidates may win by focusing on these voters in the short-term, the Democratic Party should think long-term about how to turn non-white voters into regular voters.
Recent polling suggests that Newsom is on track to defeat the recall. Democrats have strong early voter turnout, although neither can guarantee Newsom’s victory. The turnout among Latinos, voters aged 18-34 and other minorities is unusually low. The 2003 election was not open to 6 million of these voters.
Newsom turned the race into one that was highly partisan. He called the recall’s supporters extreme Republicans to ensure that Democratic voters in the state stayed with him and showed up to vote. He is now focusing his attention on Elder, a libertarian who does not support abortion rights and the minimum wage. This policy is supported by most Californians.
After voting Friday in Sacramento, Newsom stated that he isn’t taking anything for granted during the race’s last days.
“I’m just focusing on the job, encouraging people turn out and getting out our base at this crucial juncture,” said he.