Kamala Harris political potency faces test with Gavin Newsom recall effort

Vice President Kamala Harris faces a key political test ahead of a Sept. 14 special election in California as embattled Gov. Gavin Newsom leans on her to juice Democratic turnout and shield him from an embarrassing recall.

Harris is more than the Democratic Party’s No. 2 nationally — she is a former San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general, and senator representing the state in Washington. Whether the vice president can use her platform and background to generate enthusiasm for Newsom, struggling against Democratic apathy as much as he is Republican opposition, is shaping up as an assessment of her influence with voters and power base inside the party.


Democrats in California, nervous Newsom could see his first term cut short despite their massive, 22.4 percentage point voter-registration advantage over the GOP, are hopeful Harris delivers.

“The fact that we have the sitting vice president from California — that’s going to put a multiplier on every bit of attention when she comes to the state,” said Tyler Law, a Democratic strategist in Northern California. “Not every surrogate is going to garner nonstop broadcast news coverage. You’re injecting massive amount of free advertising and awareness into the campaign.”

Some Democratic insiders are skeptical Harris can do for Newsom what he cannot do for himself, saying prominent politicians tend to have less sway than they did in past generations.

“I don't believe in juice anymore,” a Democratic operative in California said. “I did a congressional special election way back in the day, and we had a robocall from President [Bill] Clinton. People came out of their house to tell us about it, and they saved it on their answering machines. Those days are over.”

And even Clinton failed to save Democrat Gray Davis, the last California governor to face a recall. Clinton stumped for Davis in 2003 when he was recently out of office and popular, traveling to Los Angeles in September of that year to campaign for the governor at a black church. Less than one month later, and 11 months after winning reelection, Davis was recalled, and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him.

Harris, who is from Oakland, is scheduled to campaign for Newsom Friday in the San Francisco Bay area after spending the week abroad on a diplomatic swing through Southeast Asia. She is part of a cadre of Democratic heavy hitters that have begun to engage in the recall campaign on the governor’s behalf amid ballots being mailed to every registered voter beginning earlier this month.

However, Harris’s visit is arguably among the most important. If any prominent Democrat is positioned to grab the attention of grassroots liberals in California and focus them on the recall, it’s the hometown vice president, who broke new political ground last November when she became the highest-ranking elected woman in U.S. history.

Republicans concede the vice president could boost Newsom. But they question whether it will be measurable and say her effectiveness could be marred by President Joe Biden’s mishandling of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.


“It certainly doesn’t hurt to have her campaign, but I don’t see any evidence she’s any more popular with Democrats than Newsom himself,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican operative in Sacramento. “Depending upon what’s happening in Afghanistan the day she’s here, her presence could prove a distraction to the Newsom campaign message.”

The recall ballot features two sections. Part one asks voters to check “yes” or “no” to the question of whether Newsom should be recalled. Part two features a list of replacement candidates. If 50%-plus one of voters who participate in the election check the “yes” box on part one, the candidate with the most votes on part two would replace Newsom.

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Tags: News, Campaigns, 2022 Elections, 2024 Elections, California recall, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris

Original Author: David M. Drucker

Original Location: Kamala Harris political potency faces test with Gavin Newsom recall effort