Carl DeMaio speaks in opposition to Measure C in 2020. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The COVID-19 pandemic caused over 64,000 deaths in California and mass unemployment not seen since the Great Depression. In the process, it gave us the coming recall election for California’s third Democrat governor of the 21st Century,

The first, Gray Davis, was recalled 11 months after he was reelected Governor. He was recalled and Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him in 2003. 

The California Constitution states that a recall petition has 160 days from filing with the Secretary of State to gather signatures of 12% of those who voted in the immediate past election for governor. The Newsom recall petition was going nowhere when COVID-19 hit.

All of a sudden, anything people did in groups was shut down so normal signature gathering in places like shopping malls and churches disappeared. 

In stepped Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Patrick Arguelles, granting a request for five additional months to gather signatures because of the pandemic shutdown. His decision was not appealed by the Secretary of State. And that was a big mistake.

Arguelles allowed sufficient time for 1.6 million certified signatures to be gathered for the recall petition — well over the 1.4 million necessary.

With the recall election set, some 46 candidates successfully qualified for the ballot to replace Newsom if he is recalled. Leading the pack is Larry Elder, a longtime Republican who has morphed into a fervent Donald Trump supporter and built up a following as a radio and YouTube commentator in Los Angeles. His shows are popular with ultra conservatives. 

Following Elder is Republican John Cox of Rancho Santa Fe and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Cox managed to get the fewest votes of any Republican running for California governor when Newsom won over 62% of the vote in 2018. Cox is a perennial candidate who has run in Illinois and California but never won any office in either state.

Also running is Caitlyn Jenner, an Olympic champion as Bruce Jenner and stepfather to the infamous Kardashian covey. The first two words of this paragraph best describe candidate Jenner — also ran.

Two other relatively well known Republicans — State Assemblyman Kevin Kiley and former Rep. Doug Ose — are among the also-rans running.

When Elder entered the race, the leader according to most observers was Faulconer, who I supported for Mayor of San Diego.

Faulconer was doing well in most polls when the recall election was called. According to polls since Elder entered the race, Faulconer is now tied with Cox for second place. But, polling shows that 60% of those polled haven’t made up their mind.

Here’s where one-term San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, currently a KOGO radio talk show host, entered the recall fray. DeMaio has run losing campaigns for mayor and congress, though I supported DeMaio in his first Congressional campaign.

DeMaio’s political interference in the recall is based on his group Reform California that has sponsored a statewide ballot on gas taxes and a local recall in Carlsbad. DeMaio sees himself as “grassroots” and insists that the gubernatorial recall should remain a grassroots effort.

So he rejects the state GOP’s discussions about endorsing  a candidate for governor.

DeMaio is wrong. A few Democrats might be put off by a GOP endorsement, but the number of Democrats who  might vote for Falconer would offset uber-partisan Democrats. In case DeMaio forgets, Faulconer did very well in the special election for mayor he won to become the only Republican mayor of a U.S. large city.

Hispanics south of Mission Valley voted in large numbers for Faulconer despite the fact he had an Mexican American opponent from Logan Heights who was a Democratic city councilman. By contrast, DeMaio has never done well with Hispanic voters in particular or Democratic voters in general.

That’s because DeMaio is a Trump supporter who declares Faulconer to be a “far-left” Republican-in-name- only who simply isn’t pure enough to be endorsed by the California Republican Party.

DeMaio is wrong. 

A GOP endorsement would produce far more votes to recall Newsom than no endorsement, plus it will bring in money and people to turn voters out. 

We now know why DeMaio hasn’t won any elections other than his one term on the council. He simply doesn’t know how to win.

Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine Corps veteran, political consultant and author of the new book White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) & Mexicans. His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.

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