FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Delta variant and his administration’s efforts to increase vaccinations, from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
September 13, 2021
By Steve Holland
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – President Joe Biden traveled to California on Monday to campaign with Governor Gavin Newsom on the eve of a Republican-backed recall race that Democrats have cast as an attempted power grab by acolytes of former President Donald Trump.
Biden planned to make an evening appearance with the embattled first-term governor in the port city of Long Beach near Los Angeles, marking Newsom’s final rally before a special election on Tuesday that will test the power of Trump’s appeal in a deeply Democratic state.
The president and governor appeared together on Monday afternoon in Sacramento, the state capital, where Biden stopped during a tour of wildfire damage in the region.
Vice President Kamala Harris campaigned in the San Francisco Bay area for Newsom last week. Harris, a former U.S. senator from California, painted the recall, heavily supported financially by state and national Republican groups, as part of that party’s broader effort to oust Democrats from power and expand conservative restrictions on voting, abortion and LGBTQ rights.
Recall supporters have countered that the move to force Newsom from office gained traction from mounting popular resentment over his decisions to close schools and require masks and vaccinations during the pandemic.
Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor and lieutenant governor, entered the last day of a month-long early voting period in a strong position, with Democrats overwhelmingly supporting him and outnumbering Republicans more than 2-to-1 in balloting thus far.
Biden’s visit caps a dramatic turnaround from earlier this summer, when polls indicated Democrats were planning to vote in so few numbers that Newsom, who won election in 2018 by a wide margin, was as in danger of being ousted in a state where Republicans account for less than a quarter of registered voters.
A Newsom defeat would have national implications for Democrats seeking to cling to razor-thin majorities in Congress, signaling trouble as emboldened Republicans escalate their efforts to win back control of the legislative branch in next year’s congressional elections.
It also could spell the end of Newsom’s political ambitions, widely believed to include possible runs for the U.S. Senate or the presidency.
Under California’s recall system, voters are asked to vote “yes” or “no” on whether to recall Newsom, and then to choose from one of 46 replacement candidates on the same ballot.
If Newsom fails to win a simple majority on the first question, then the candidate with the most votes on the second – even if less than a majority – automatically replaces him for the duration of his term.
Polls show Republican radio host Larry Elder, a Trump supporter, leading the race among replacement candidates among 38% of those likely to vote on the second question.
Also in the race are Republicans including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman and former gubernatorial nominee John Cox and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, along with Democrat Kevin Paffrath, a YouTube host who also jumped into the fray.
(Reporting by Steve Holland in Sacramento; Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Cooney)