Vice President Kamala Harris returned to her home state of California on Wednesday to rally voters against the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose campaign expressed growing confidence the first-term Democrat would survive the attempt to remove him from office a year before the regular election.
In the last recall election in 2003, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was replaced by Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Harris crafted the race as a battle between California’s progressive values and Republicans looking to take the nation’s most populous state backward on women’s rights, abortion access and labor and immigrant rights. She echoed Newsom’s campaign message that the outcome will ripple beyond the state.
“California, let us send a message to the world that these are the things we stand for, these are the things we fight for, and we will not give up,” Harris told a cheering crowd of about 200 volunteers and labor union members in San Leandro, a San Francisco Bay Area community not far from Oakland, where she was born.
Newsom and Harris have known each other since their days as San Francisco city officials. From 2004 to 2011, Newsom was mayor and Harris was district attorney — the first woman, African American and Asian American to serve in that capacity.
Former President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have done campaign commercials against the recall and President Joe Biden is scheduled to make a joint appearance with Newsom in Long Beach on Monday, the day before the election.
The ballot has two questions: First, whether voters believe the governor should be recalled, and then, who should replace him. Voters choose from a list of 46 replacement candidates — 24 of them Republicans and most of them political unknowns. With so many candidates, if the recall succeeds, it’s possible a candidate could win with 25% or less of the vote. Writing in Newsom’s name or that of Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is not an option, but there is one Democratic candidate, YouTuber and real estate broker Kevin Paffrath.
The leading Republican candidate is radio talk show host Larry Elder, who would be the state’s first Black governor if elected. He has pledged to roll back statewide mask and vaccine mandates, as Republican governors in other states have done.
Newsom has condemned Elder as “someone who defended Donald Trump as he attacked the Asian community.”
The California Democratic Party Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, chaired by Deepa Sharma, and the California Young Democrats API Caucus, chaired by Lisa Tran, have been doing outreach to API communities. Flyers being distributed in various Asian languages read, in part: “Who is behind the recall? Republicans, including anti-immigrant activists and individuals who have perpetuated anti-AAPI hate, want to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom with an inexperienced candidate that would put California’s recovery at risk.”
AAPI elected officials who have expressed their support for Newsom include Attorney General Rob Bonta, Controller Betty Yee, Treasurer Fiona Ma, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, Rep. Judy Chu (chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus), Rep. Ro Khanna, and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. Chu campaigned with Newsom in Los Angeles Chinatown on Sept. 5.
In the AAPI community, support for the recall appears to be split along party lines. According to his website, Elder’s endorsers include Rep. Michelle Steel, Orange County Supervisors Lisa Bartlett and Andrew Do, Westminster Mayor Tri Ta, Yorba Linda Mayor Peggy Huang, Fountain Valley Councilmember Ted Bui, former Monterey Park Mayors Betty Chu and Mitchell Ing, former Alhambra Unified School District President Sophie C. Wong, and actor Dean Cain.
Steel, whose district includes Huntington Beach, said that “things in California have never been worse” and that Elder would lead the state through such issues as homelessness, cost of living, public education and safety.
Fellow Orange County Republican Rep. Young Kim said, “Gavin Newsom’s misguided policies have hurt California, but your vote can change it all.”
Last week, Elder appeared at Asian Garden Mall in Little Saigon, saying that he supported minority-owned businesses that were harmed by the governor’s “draconian” state shutdown.
Other contenders include San Diego businessman John Cox, who lost to Newsom in the 2018 gubernatorial election; former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, who represents the northeastern suburbs of Sacramento; and reality TV personality and former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner. The California Republican Party has not endorsed a candidate.