Auditions for California Governor Are Officially Open

With little fanfare, the third attempt to recall Governor Newsom got underway on June 10th. Proponents have until November 17th to gather 2.0 million signed petitions, in order for 1.4 million of them to withstand verification and qualify the recall for a special election in early 2021.

There isn’t a seasoned political professional anywhere who takes this effort seriously, because without millions of dollars to pay signature gatherers, state ballot initiatives never qualify. But this season could be different.

Skeptics should consider just two questions: Are there more than 2.0 million California voters who would sign a recall petition, and if so, can the recall campaign find 2.0 million voters in California willing and able to sign a recall petition?

The answer to the first question is undoubtedly yes. There aren’t just 2.0 million California voters willing to sign a recall petition, there are at least twice that many. So why can’t they be found? To this, the answer is unequivocal. They can. And it doesn’t require millions of dollars any more. It requires a grassroots army, a technology platform to facilitate signature gathering, and publicity. And the grassroots army is already formed.

Behind this latest effort to recall Newsom there is an organization with tens of thousands of volunteer activists spread all over the state, with most of them already trained from the earlier recall efforts. The lead proponent, Orrin Heatlie, is a retired police sergeant who has, with extraordinary determination, built a good management team around him and is fully committed to the goal of qualifying a recall.

The online resource the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign has built is user friendly and offers a comprehensive array of tools including pages to download a petition, circulate petitions, meet county coordinators, volunteer, schedule events, and locate places to sign petitions. It is a state-of-the art resource, and heralds a revolution in citizen government.

The reasons to recall Gavin Newsom don’t have to be explained during a signature gathering campaign. Any one of California’s nearly 5 million citizens who voted for Trump in 2016 are more than likely to support a Newsom recall, as are millions of others who have been put off by Newsom’s performance since taking office. And over the next few months, millions more are going to reject Newsom as the economic fallout from the COVID pandemic triggers massive government service cuts and tax hikes.

A more pertinent argument against this recall effort is why bother qualifying a recall for a special election, if the general electorate won’t turn Newsom out of office? This is a good question, since it causes many potential supporters to not want to waste their time. But beyond the sheer disruptive value of making Newsom fight to stay in office, there is the chance that someone famous will jump into the race to be the new governor, a great candidate, someone with the common sense and courage to finish what Schwarzenegger started back in 2002.

Conservatives tend to condemn Schwarzenegger for his pivot back in 2006, but they conveniently forget some of the reasons for Schwarzenegger’s defection. When Schwarzenegger took office in 2003, he took aim straight at the public sector unions that even back then were running California’s state and local governments into the ground. He declared total war on these unions in 2005, putting four initiatives onto the state ballot: delayed teacher tenure (Prop. 74), paycheck protection (Prop. 75), spending caps (Prop. 76), and non-partisan redistricting (Prop. 77). His consultants talked him out of a fifth initiative, pension reform. And then what happened?

Where were the GOP members of the assembly and senate? Were they rising with one voice, putting their careers on the line to support a wholesale overhaul of California’s political landscape? Where were the big donors? Where were the consultants? Where were the grassroots? With rare exceptions, they didn’t show up. And the ones who did show up, underfunded, fought without passion. In a campaign that could have made history, Schwarzenegger was abandoned. His defection a year later must be understood in that context. But what he did represents a chance that does not have to be missed a second time.

Meanwhile, here in the present, any aspirant to becoming governor of California may see a powerful synergy between this grassroots army, turning in hundreds of thousands of signatures every week, and putting their own influence and endorsement behind the recall. Who is waiting in the wings? Who would like to seize this opportunity to save California, and by extension, possibly realign politics across the nation?

This is the wild card, the tantalizing possibility, that gives greater life not only to an attempt to qualify the recall for the ballot, but to prevail in the special election, and send Gavin Newsom into an early and ignominious retirement.

There is another potential synergy at work in this recall. By supporting the recall campaign there is a chance for establishment GOP officeholders, professional operatives, and major donors to reestablish a relationship of trust and partnership with their own GOP grassroots. Go find a candidate who, like Schwarzenegger, has the charisma to win the special election and the courage to try to transform the entire state with one comprehensive slate of ballot initiatives, and this time, don’t turn your back on them.

California is ready for change. California’s voters are realizing that until the cost-of-living is lowered through regulatory reform, and the schools are improved by standing up to the teachers unions, their lives are just going to get harder. Newsom is just the latest embodiment of the party that got Californians into this struggle to survive.

This recall campaign is a chance for California’s GOP to be relevant again, and a chance for all Californians to realize that Democrats are not making their lives better, no matter how many BLM bromides they utter, or statues they topple.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

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