“We’re just focusing on ‘no’ on the recall, leaving the rest blank,” the Democrat told reporters in Berkeley when asked what he’s telling his base.
Voters will decide whether to recall Newsom, a first-term governor, on Sept. 14 after a group amassed millions of signatures, angered by the rising crime and homelessness in the state as well as the harsh measures Newsom imposed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first ballot question will ask Californians if they want to recall Newsom. The second will ask who they would choose as his replacement if he is recalled.
Forty-six candidates are on the ballot, but most are Republicans. None of the Democrats have political experience; they range from mother and business owner Holly Baade to college student John Drake to free speech lawyer Daniel Watts.
Compared to the dearth of strong Democrats, the Republican field is crowded. It includes businessman John Cox, political commentator Larry Elder, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and state Rep. Kevin Kiley.
Polls indicate Elder has the most support, but not enough to make his selection a given if Newsom is recalled. The California Republican Party, poised to make an endorsement over the weekend, chose not to, arguing that the focus should be on sending Newsom packing.
A simple majority would recall Newsom and whomever on the ballot who received the most votes would replace him.
If the recall goes through, it could mirror the scenario that played out in 2003, when Californians recalled Gray Davis.
Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced Davis after winning nearly half of the vote, beating the state’s lieutenant governor at the time by about 1.5 million votes.
Newsom was helping clean up a homeless encampment in the Bay Area on Monday, as he tries to convince fence-sitters to hop in and support him next month.
The governor said the state has powered some 200 such cleanup efforts in recent weeks and indicated that under his administration, encampments had been tolerated.
“People should not live like this, and we’ve accepted this for too long,” he said.
He also championed a get-out-the-vote effort that he said has included sending 15 million texts to voters and investing millions of dollars before taking time to criticize EpochTV host Elder, without naming the black conservative.
“I don’t know what more clarity you need for what’s at stake,” Newsom said, claiming that Elder believes climate change is “a myth,” would eliminate all mask requirements and the minimum wage, and opposes access to abortions.
“We have a very stark contrast. So much is at stake in the state and all the values we hold dear,” the governor added.
Newsom offered similar comments earlier in the week, triggering a response from Elder.
“Gavin Newsom is now attacking me directly. Because he‘s afraid I will win. @GavinNewsom: let’s hold a debate. Say when and where. I’ll be there,” the commentator said on Twitter.
Newsom has not yet said he will debate Elder.