In three weeks, Californians will decide whether to recall Governor Gavin Newsom from office – and if so, who will replace him. It’s only the second time in history one of the state’s governors faces the possibility of being removed from office via a recall election.
The petition to oust Newsom met its signature goal in April, and California Secretary of State Shirley Weber certified the recall reelection on July 1. Organizers collected over 2 million signatures supporting the recall effort; the secretary of state’s office deemed 1,719,943 of them valid – far exceeding the 1,495,970 needed to initiate a recall election.
It was the sixth attempt to recall Newsom since he took office in 2019 and the only effort to meet the signature requirement from registered voters to qualify for the ballot.
The special election to determine Gov. Newsom’s fate will be held on September 14, 2021. The ballot – which will be mailed to all registered voters starting on August 16 – asks two questions:
- Should Gavin Newsom be recalled from the office of governor?
- Who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled?
- For the first question, a majority vote is required to remove the governor.
- If question one passes, Newsom will be replaced by the leading vote-getter for the second question, no matter their overall share of the total. The winner will serve the remainder of the term, which ends after the 2022 midterm elections.
Lately, the top political betting sites have had their eyes on this recall election.
Despite recent poll numbers indicating that voter turnout may be a significant problem for Gavin Newsom, he’s firmly the front-runner to remain in office. On this page, I’d like to explore why – along with figuring out if any of the markets possess betting value.
Will Gavin Newsom Be Recalled in 2021?
- Matchup Odds
It’s worth noting that Gavin Newsom hasn’t been an unpopular governor. Early in the pandemic, his aggressive initial response – including the first statewide stay-at-home order – garnered nationwide praise and exceptional approval ratings.
- In September 2020, 64% of California’s registered voters approved of the job the governor was doing, versus only 36% who disapproved.
- One year later, 50% of the state’s registered voters approve of Newsom’s job, compared to a growing 42% who do not.
Over time, Gov. Newsom’s support began to decline as Californians grew tired of his strict lockdown orders that decimated small businesses, put millions out of a job, and isolated children who were forced to attend school remotely.
Public opinion swung against Newsom when he was spotted at a lobbyist friend’s birthday party at an uber-expensive Napa Valley restaurant called The French Laundry.
Meanwhile, the governor had just been instructing California residents to stay home and skip spending Thanksgiving dinner with their families. “Rules for thee, not for me,” was a phrase bandied about with great frequency after the story broke.
Now, Newsom’s covid mandates appear to be a significant vulnerability.
Every GOP challenger for his seat – including front-runner Larry Elder and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer – has seized on this weakness and promised to ban restrictive covid-19 lockdown measures.
Larry Elder says today that if he is elected Governor of CA he will repeal all mask and vaccine mandates immediately. pic.twitter.com/RsOhae1mbJ
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) August 22, 2021
However, mounting frustrations over the pandemic response may not be enough to dump Newsom.
The governor’s deep ties to California’s elite, along with increased national attention, have resulted in anti-recall committees raising $32.5 million to defeat the effort. Comparatively, groups in favor of ditching the governor have raised $16.8 million.
Oddsmakers consider a wide range of factors, including polling, historical data, and more, to determine that percentage. In order to make the correct picks and find betting value, we must do the same.
Everything Hinges on Voter Turnout
Recall elections are usually determined by one crucial factor: voter turnout.
Registered voters looking to boot a public official out of office are typically more motivated to participate in recall elections than people content with the current situation. As a result, recall supporters often have an advantage, even if they only represent a small minority of the electorate.
For example, California is a well-known Democratic stronghold in statewide races, but turnout for special elections has historically maxed out at approximately 33%.
Of course, that percentage is based on special elections conducted under normal circumstances. Turnout may get a boost from mail-in voting. Last year, Newsom signed a law requiring ballots to be mailed to every registered voter for any election in 2021.
Gavin Newsom is “very concerned” about voter turnout. This is after he changed several laws to set the method and timing of voting exactly to his liking.
— Kevin Kiley (@KevinKileyCA) August 23, 2021
A recent survey conducted by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times suggests that Californians who are likely to vote in September are split nearly 50/50 on whether or not to recall Gov. Newsom.
The results highlight how California’s sizable Democratic voter majority may not outweigh Republican voters’ enthusiasm for the recall effort. One side is relatively indifferent, while their opposition is highly motivated to oust Newsom.
Mark DiCamillo, the director of the UC Berkley poll, claims that highly motivated GOP voters are sure to inflate the potency of the pro-recall vote.
- 90% of Republicans conveyed a high level of interest in the recall election.
- Only 58% of Democrats, and
- 53% of independent voters were equally interested.
“Democrats, at least in the middle of July, almost unanimously believed that Newsom will defeat the recall. I think that may be contributing to some complacency among those voters. Republicans, on the other hand, are confident that they can turn out the governor,” explained DiCamillo.
“I think the Newsom campaign really has to light a fire among the Democrats and say, ‘Look, the outcome is in jeopardy unless you get out there and vote.’”
Tying the Recall Effort to Trump
The Newsom team’s primary strategy for inspiring Democratic turnout is to invoke Donald Trump’s name as often as possible in connection with the recall efforts.
He has framed the opposition as Trump-supporting, far-right, anti-vaxxers, hoping the anti-Donald sentiment that carried a relatively unpopular Joe Biden to a record number of votes will still work ten months later.
“Californians see this Republican recall for what it is — a blatant attempt by Trump supporters to grab power and impose their agenda on California,” said Nathan Click, a spokesman for Newsom’s anti-recall campaign. “But Democrats can’t get complacent. The only way to prevent the Republican takeover of California is by voting NO by Sept. 14. If Californians vote, we win.”
While I understand the logic behind the strategy, I’m not sure it’s the most effective approach.
- Donald Trump isn’t the fixture on the news and social media that he once was.
- He’s no longer in American’s faces 24 hours a day.
- Californians already voted him out of office successfully; there’s no way to reignite the intense fear and hatred that Trump inspired in 2020.
The governor would be much better served by constructing a message aimed at garnering support from Hispanic voters. We saw Trump and the Republican Party make significant inroads with Latino voter blocs in several states last year. Should the trend continue in California, it would be disastrous for Newsom.
Here’s an excerpt from the Times of San Diego discussing this topic:
Latinos are the largest ethnic group in California at 39% of the population, and a growing share of the electorate at about 28% of registered voters. The group has been disproportionately sickened and hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic that upended California’s political landscape and fueled the drive to recall Newsom. Democrats who want to keep Newsom in office and Republicans trying to oust him are all vying for Latinos’ votes in the Sept. 14 election.
The real kicker can be found later in the article:
Nearly two-thirds of Latinos voted for Newsom when he was elected governor in 2018, and surveys this spring showed that most Latinos want to keep Newsom in office. But a recent poll by Emerson College found Hispanics are the only ethnic group with a majority in favor of removing him — giving hope to Republicans trying to expand their voting base for the recall.
The first ad that GOP candidate Kevin Faulconer launched in his bid to replace Newsom featured the former San Diego mayor introducing himself in Spanish and telling voters that the recall is “la mejor oportunidad” to fix what’s wrong in California. A new radio ad this week by a committee backing the recall reminds voters in Spanish that “Newsom closed our local schools while sending his own children to an exclusive private school that stayed open.”
Gov. Newsom’s stringent lockdown measures had a disproportionately negative effect on low-income families, many of whom are people of color. Should they decide to support the recall – or merely refuse to vote against it on the governor’s behalf – that could be enough to determine the outcome.
California Political Royalty
If you’ve read any of my previous political betting articles, you know I’m pretty cynical when it comes to US politics. While I’d love to believe in the integrity of our system and have faith in everyone’s vote being given the same weight, I can’t do it. Nothing I’ve observed or read about in political history books resembles the fabled “Democracy” we’re taught about in schools.
In reality, the candidate with the most cash in their war chest and deepest connections to the real power-players – namely, dynastic old-money families and corporate interests – almost always wins. And when it comes to having close relationships with the elites, few politicians have it better than Gavin Newsom.
A Family Affair
For starters, Gavin’s uncle (on his father’s side) is married to Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker of the House has already pledged to lend her influence to keep him in office.
“We respect it,” Pelosi said of the recall campaign, “but we do not like it, and we will defeat it.”
The Speaker added that she’d organized her “own operation working to get out the vote, making calls to defeat the recall of our governor,” and urged “everybody to get out the vote,” at an event on Thursday, also attended by California Rep. Maxine Waters.
But the Pelosi relationship barely scratches the surface of Newsom’s connections. In 2018, the Los Angeles Times published a report titled How eight elite San Francisco families funded Gavin Newsom’s political ascent.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the piece:
A Times review of campaign finance records identified eight of San Francisco’s best-known families as being among Newsom’s most loyal and long-term contributors. Among those patrons are the Gettys, the Pritzkers and the Fishers, whose families made their respective fortunes in oil, hotels and fashion. They first backed him when he was a restaurateur and winery owner running for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1998, and have continued their support through the governor’s race.
A few paragraphs later, the Times details the Newsom’s close familial ties to the Getty’s and Brown’s:
Newsom, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this article, has long been tied to San Francisco society.
His father, Bill, was a lifelong friend of Gordon Getty, the son of oil magnate J. Paul Getty — they attended high school together. Bill Newsom later managed the Getty family trust on behalf of Gordon, estimated by Forbes to be worth more than $2 billion in 2018. Bill Newsom was so close with the family that he helped deliver the ransom money after the 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson, John Paul Getty III.
During Gov. Jerry Brown’s first tenure, he appointed Bill Newsom a judge, and the Newsom family had close ties to Willie Brown, former state lawmaker and California Democratic Party leader John Burton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The report goes on to illustrates the governor’s relationships with eight other prominent California dynasties.
To dig even deeper into the extent to which Gavin Newsom is essentially California royalty, read Ken Herron’s Queen of the Swamp, in which he details how “the four families of Pat Brown, William Newsom, John Pelosi and J. Paul Getty have dominated California politics for over 60 years.”
A Convenient Coincidence
With the governor’s family history and connections in mind, I want you to watch the video linked in the following tweet:
Did @GavinNewsom’s hand picked Secretary of State do this on purpose?
Watch this whole video. Wow!https://t.co/A60DGWCSyZ
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) August 19, 2021
There just-so-happens to be two holes punched into every mail-in ballot’s envelope? And one of those holes coincidentally exposes whether the circle to vote “Yes” to recall Gov. Newsom has been filled in?
Considering his powerful backers, the shenanigans mail-in voting already affords, and the aforementioned envelope situation, I can’t see any recall attempt having much success for as long as Gavin Newsom is in office.
Will San Diego County Vote to Recall Gavin Newsom?
- Matchup Odds
San Diego County has a reputation for being more conservative than much of California. Before 2008, it was a Republican stronghold. However, since 2012, voters registered as Democrats have outnumbered their GOP counterparts.
According to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, as of April 2018, there are 1,671,555 registered voters in San Diego County.
- 611,831 (36.6%) are registered Democratic,
- 491,783 (29.4%) are registered Republican,
- 476,186 (28.4%) declined to state a political party,
- 56,167 (3.4%) are registered American Independence Party,
- 15,418 (0.9%) are registered Libertarian,
- 6,989 (0.4%) are registered Green, and
- 4,869 (0.3%) are registered Peace & Freedom.
- 8,312 (0.5%) are identified as Miscellaneous or Other political parties.
Republicans now sit at 29.4% of all registered voters, their lowest share of the total since 1964. However, San Diego County still leans more conservative than the rest of California, on average. GOP voters make up 24.5% of the state’s registration total.
So, we should probably anticipate San Diego County’s results to skew slightly more in favor of the recall effort than the statewide numbers.
And since we’ve already established that Republicans are more enthusiastic to recall Newsom than Democrats are to save him, I’m willing to take a flier on San Diego voting to oust the governor on September 14.