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Why is the recall election for California Governor Newsom happening?

On 14 September, California Governor Gavin Newsom will face a recall election with more than forty candidates vying for his job. What motivated the recall?

On 14 September, California Governor Gavin Newsom will face a recall election with more than forty candidates vying for his job. What motivated the recall?

Gavin Newsom was elected Governor of California in 2018 after serving as  Lieutenant Governor under Jerry Brown. Newsom began his political career in the Bay Area, where he served as the Mayor of San Fransisco.

Based on the size of the state's economy it ranks, seventh in the world. California is also also the most populous state in the US. Gov. Newsom continues to lead the state through the covid-19 pandemic and oversaw the state's largest budget surplus in history.

However, many residents, especially Republicans, are extremely displeased with the way the governor has handled the pandemic and his leadership decisions more broadly. These frustrations motivated more than a million people to sign a petition to prompt a recall election.

More on the California Recall

Where does the polling stand?

The movement for the recall is very partisan. A poll conducted by the Los Angles Times showed that the rate at which Republicans favor the recall is almost double that of Democrats.

The most recent polls conducted and reviewed by FiveThirtyEight show that the majority plan to vote to keep Gov. Newsom in power.

Lastest Polls

Polling Organization

Polling Period



Trafalgar Group

2-4 September53%43%

Trafalgar Group

26-29 August52%44%

Public Policy Institute of California

20-29 August58%39%


26-28 August51%43%

Source: FiveThirtyEight

Two polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group, the first completed from 26-29 August and the second from 2-4 September, show that Newsom's lead has widened from eight points to ten. 

What motivated the recall?

Organizers calling for Gov. Newsom to be recalled list various reasons on a site dedicated to the campaign called Recall Gavin 2020. Major funding for the site comes from Geoffery Palmer, a real estate developer, and a major Republican donor.

Government Overreach

The site lists reasons they support removing Gavin Newsom from office, including his “Extreme Government OVERREACH” exemplified by his gubernatorial orders and taking action without the legislature. However, these orders are similar to those that Republicans took in the early part of the pandemic. Additionally, with Democrats holding a super-majority in the California legislature, these orders would likely have been passed just the same.

Business and Unemployment

Other criticisms relate to how his orders and pandemic restrictions have impacted businesses, leading to shutdowns and a massive wave of lay-offs. With federal unemployment benefits ending this week, California still has one of the highest unemployment rates compared to pre-pandemic levels.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in July 2021 was 7.6 percent, down significantly from its high of 16 percent in April 2020. However, the 7.6 percent figure is still high relative to the average of 4.1 percent seen before the pandemic.

How many ballots have been returned?

All voters in the state were sent a mail-in ballot for the election.

As of Monday 6 September, only around 6 million of California's 22 million registered voters -- roughly 27 percent -- had returned their ballot.

The Democratic party has sent many political stars like Senator Elizabeth Warren to campaign for the governor and encourage voters to send in the ballot or vote in person on 14 September.

The current data on the ballots that have been returned show that more Democrats have sent in their ballots which could be a positive sign for the governor. However, Republicans may be more likely to vote in person, meaning that it is still too early to determine if Newsom will stay in power. 


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