Newsom sounds alarm on California recall, pulling White House into the race

Newsom sounds alarm on California recall, pulling White House into the race
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  • Gavin Newsom
    Gavin Newsom
    Governor of California
  • Kamala Harris
    Kamala Harris
    49th and current Vice President of the United States

SAN LEANDRO, California — The White House has stepped up its support for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, warning in the final throes of the gubernatorial recall that a loss will place Democrats on notice in future electoral battles.

“They think if they can run in California, they can do this anywhere,” Vice President Kamala Harris said of Newsom’s Republican challengers during a political event with the governor on Wednesday in Oakland. “Well, we will show them you’re not going to get this done, not here.”

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With less than one week until Election Day, Democrats are rushing to rouse voters still on the sidelines.

“There are literally millions of ballots sitting on coffee tables in the homes of Democratic households,” said Steven Maviglio, a veteran Democratic political operative in the state and former press secretary to California Gov. Gray Davis, who was ousted in a 2003 recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger. “The goal is to get them into a mailbox.”

Getting the “daughter of the East Bay,” as Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee introduced Harris, to stump for Newsom in her home state was a hard-won effort for the anti-recall campaign. A late August Harris stop fell away when 13 service members died in an ISIS-K suicide attack in Kabul, pulling her back to Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, Harris flew cross-country for some 11 hours for a speech that lasted about 11 minutes. President Joe Biden will make the same trek early next week.

The hope is that Washington’s mere presence in the race will boost Newsom in a moment of crisis. While recent polls show encouraging signs for Democrats, losing the governorship in deep blue California would deal a blow to a party positioning itself for upcoming elections. Activists have further raised concerns about a Republican successor to Newsom filling the seat of octogenarian Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, should she step down.

To rouse complacent Democrats, Newsom struck an urgent tone, tearing into his leading Republican opponent.

“Larry Elder’s running away with it,” Newsom said at the IBEW-NECA Joint Apprenticeship Training Center in San Leandro on Wednesday, warning that “in a matter of weeks,” he could be replaced in office by the conservative talk radio host whose views on the minimum wage, abortion, and climate change have prompted outcry from Democrats.

One challenger said the Democrat’s efforts showed his weakness in the race.

“Newsom’s need to call in national politicians is a sign of his desperation,” said Kevin Kiley, a Republican and California state assembly member hoping to replace him. “He knows he cannot defend his record, so he’s trying to nationalize the race, collecting $70 million from special interests, and running false fearmongering ads.”

But in the heavily Democratic state, Washington’s mere presence in the race should deliver a boost to Newsom.

But in the heavily Democratic state, Newsom’s all-star showing may suffice to get voters to “say no” to the recall and, critically, to return ballots that may have arrived weeks ago, said Rob Stutzman, a top aide to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who helped secure his victory in the 2003 recall against Davis.

“It helps the Newsom campaign to elevate the visibility of the election to Democrat voters who they are trying to get to return ballots,” Stutzman said, adding that Harris and Biden’s on the ground forays will “assure top of the news coverage.”

Still, Stutzman warned not to expect a “special boost” from Biden and Harris beyond piercing through an already chaotic news cycle that included an evacuation crisis stemming from the collapse of Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government. Outside the event on Wednesday, close to a dozen protesters waved signs urging Harris to boost aid to the country. In parallel, Democrats have pushed to pass sweeping multitrillion-dollar legislation in Congress.

News from Afghanistan in August shifted the race to the back burner just as ballots began landing in mailboxes.

Stutzman, a Republican, said he didn’t think the fallout from the end of the nearly 20-year war would matter much. “If anything, distracting from how [Newsom] is handling COVID right now is a disadvantage to him,” he said.

“Public opinion supports [Newsom’s] stance on vaccine and mask mandates,” Stutzman added. “That’s why those issues are in his ads.”

Democrats hold a nearly two-to-one voter registration advantage in California, but a lack of enthusiasm after more than a year of restrictive coronavirus lockdowns, rising crime, and frustration over homelessness, remain political liabilities.

Biden and Harris’s appeal “isn’t to hardcore Democrats,” said Maviglio. “They’ve already voted.” The message is instead aimed at “those who typically sit out special elections and mid-terms,” he said.

Veteran strategists said the last minute moves — including the event Wednesday, which one source familiar with the planning said came together two days in advance, and Biden’s expected swing into California next week — may be enough to secure Newsom’s hold.

Democratic heavyweights, led by Biden and Harris, place a national spotlight on the race, “which is precisely what the Newsom team wants and will benefit from,” Maviglio said.

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So far, more than 50% of Democrats have returned their ballots, along with 22% of Independents and 30% of Republicans, according to Political Data Intelligence, a California-based firm.

Maviglio, a longtime California Democrat, said Newsom’s prospects were hopeful. “[It’s] not over until it’s over, but all trends are in the right direction,” he said.

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Tags: News, Biden Administration, California, California recall, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, Campaigns, White House

Original Author: Katherine Doyle

Original Location: Newsom sounds alarm on California recall, pulling White House into the race

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