The California Republican Party considered anointing one candidate for the September recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom.
They instead chose party unity.
At the urging of a pair of Republican National Committee members to bypass endorsement of any one of the 24 Republicans who qualified for the ballot, the state GOP on Saturday touted “the strength of our field of candidates” against Newsom, the liberal leader of one of the country’s bluest states who suddenly finds himself facing the real possibility of losing his job.
“We are squarely focused on putting California back on track by recalling the worst governor in California history,” Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement, describing Newsom as an “arrogant” and “incompetent” politician who has “failed Californians in every way.”
Once viewed as a rising Democratic star, potentially a future presidential candidate, Newsom is in jeopardy of becoming just the third sitting governor in U.S. history to be recalled by voters. A year-long petition campaign garnered more than enough verified signatures, about 1.6 million in all, to trigger the Sept. 14 recall election. Ballots will soon be in the mail for all California voters.
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A Republican upset would be a stunning rebuke – a Democrat has led the Golden State for all but eight years since 1999 – and Newsom has already warned his ouster would have national implications in politics and policy-making.
Only four Republican candidates – Larry Elder, Kevin Faulconer, Kevin Kiley and Doug Ose – qualified for the party’s endorsement, officials announced Saturday before about 90% of delegates voted against picking a favorite during a virtual party meeting.
RNC members Harmeet Dhillon and Shawn Steel, two of the state party’s most influential figures, pushed delegates to avoid rallying behind a single candidate, worrying that such action could divide Republicans and depress voter turnout.
“The polls are showing that the recall is in a statistical tie, and we cannot afford to discourage voters who are passionate about a particular candidate, yet may not vote because their favored candidate didn’t receive the endorsement,” they wrote in an email obtained by The Associated Press.
Though she wasn’t eligible for endorsement, Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympian and reality star, also called for unity.
“We are all on the same team – we want corrupt #newsom out of office,” she tweeted Saturday.
Elder has emerged as the frontrunner, both in recent polling and fundraising.
The conservative talk radio host, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump who uses a #WeveGotAStateToSave hashtag on Twitter, was the top choice among Republican contenders in a late July poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. Elder was backed by 18% of likely voters, followed by Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego, and John Cox, the party’s 2018 gubernatorial candidate who was easily defeated by Newsom, at 10%.
While Newsom and the anti-recall campaign backing him maintain a significant cash-on-hand advantage, Elder raised $4.5 million in the last 19 days of July alone, according to government records released Friday, far surpassing all other Republicans.
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Newsom has seemingly taken notice.
On Friday while visiting San Bernardino County, Newsom told reporters Elder “believes the minimum wage should be zero … believes women do not have the right to choose and wants to overturn Roe v. Wade … believes we need more offshore oil drilling and fracking” in the state.
The state’s unique election process could only complicate Newsom’s chances. The ballot will ask voters two questions: Do they want to recall Newsom, yes or no? And if more than 50% of voters agree, then, who should replace him?
The election rules say whoever gets the most votes wins – even without a majority, making it entirely possible someone could win the recall with a fraction of what a candidate would need in a typical statewide election.
Contributing: Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press