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Terry McAteer: Recall good for Newsom

History tells us that those who survive a recall attempt are actually politically strengthened. I suspect as this recall effort plays out that Gov. Newsom will not only survive, but it will propel him into the U.S. Senate following his re-election as governor in 2022.

The key for Newsom, at this point, is to ensure that all major Democrats in California are firmly behind him. Here is how this election process will play out as I see it:

Currently, the new secretary of state, Shirley Weber, who was recently appointed to this statewide position by Gov. Newsom (following his elevation of former Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate) is in the process of verifying the tens of thousands of recall signatures. This process is slow and arduous and will be made even slower on Weber’s clock, as she wants to extend the timeline for the governor because time is on Newsom’s side.



I suspect, when all is said and done, that the recall election will be held this November.

The chief reason the recall is happening is because business and parent groups are angry about Newsom’s handling of the pandemic. Newsom is banking on the most likely scenario that the pandemic will be over by November, everyone will be vaccinated, schools will be back in session, and life will return to some sense of normalcy. At that point, many voters will have moved past Newsom’s foibles and will question the point of the recall effort.




Furthermore, with all California and national Democrats supporting Newsom, his campaign will paint the recall effort as a Trump-inspired, politically motivated non-event funded by outside money. Since the election is an all mail-in election, it will have a large turnout, which is beneficial to Newsom as Democratic voters will return the ballots in large numbers to stomp out anything with Trump’s name on it, whether real or imagined.

The last recall voters can remember is of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. The problem for Davis in that recall election was the state’s budget was a disaster with a $38 million red hole at the time of the election and Davis’ own Democratic lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamonte, deciding to be on the ballot. Republicans amounted to 37 percent of the electorate, which was only 8 percent behind the Democratic Party’s lead of 45 percent. Times have dramatically changed since 2003.

Democrats have learned the Cruz Bustamonte error, as he quickly disappeared from politics. They, too, don’t want to follow in his footsteps and so will get behind Newsom. Furthermore, the numbers line up nicely for Newsom, as Democrats comprise nearly half of the electorate, while the Republican Party since 2003 has dwindled to less than 25 percent of the electorate.

Under this likely scenario, Newsom will handily defeat the recall since the only other candidates appearing on the ballot will be Republicans, who will offer little choice to Democratic voters.

After surviving the November recall, Newsom will be running for re-election less than a year later. He should easily be re-elected since, after surviving the recall, he will be politically strengthened and will chase any viable Democrat or Republican challenger from the ballot.

Ironically, the same scenario occurred in 1983 when, early in her term as mayor of San Francisco, Dianne Feinstein faced a recall attempt. She garnered a whopping 81 percent support at the polls and went onto dominate the mayor’s office for the next five years, which helped propel her into the U.S. Senate. A seat, which we all know, she still holds.

The tea leaves tell us that Feinstein will be not be seeking re-election in 2024. Gov. Newsom, who will be halfway through his second term, will seek Feinstein’s Senate seat and be easily elected. The failed recall attempt will catapult him into the U.S. Senate — just like it did for Feinstein three decades earlier.

Terry McAteer lives in Nevada County.


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