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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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An almost impossible election?

Uploaded: Aug 11, 2021
IF Gov. Gavin Newsom is recalled during the upcoming Sept. 14 special election, voters face a ridiculous situation: choosing one of 46 candidates running to become the new governor of California.

It’s an incredible election because it’s on an unexpected and untraditional day – the second Tuesday of September, and because this recall effort was engineered by a strong, determined group of Republicans who ostensibly want to assume control of another state legislature.

And most of all, if people are at least aware there is an election a month away, few have had the time, opportunity or interest to parse through this multitude of candidates, much less their qualifications for office, and then finally figure out who to vote for. To date, it’s been a very lackluster campaign.

I scanned the list of candidates and found that few of the many have had ANY experience in government and not many have had any managerial experience -- unfortunately, they boast about that.

And the more I thought about this Sept. 14 vote, I wondered why we had to have the recall and select a new governor the very same day and on the same ballot (to save money, I guess, because it costs a lot to run an election). It’s the state purse that rules this time, not the public’s preference to choose the “right” person.

My bigger question is if Newsom loses, then why doesn’t our Lieutenant Governor, Eleni Kounalakis, assume command, as has just happened in New York State.

So, I called California’s Secretary of State’s office and asked.

“That’s a good question,” the state employee said. ‘I’ll find out – please hold for a minute or so.”

Seven minutes later she was back. The Lieutenant Governor assumes the gubernatorial role if the governor is “impeached or resigns.”

And not if his health is seriously impaired? I asked. She said she would find out; I told her to forget about it. But I had a few more questions and she transferred me to the press office.

The press officer said the concurrent recall vote and the selection of a new governor is a state constitutional rule, which is “the way the process works,” as it did in the recall of Gov. Gray Davis, which resulted in Arnold Schwarzenegger taking over. And there is no limit on the number of people who could run for governor. He did not know if there had been any recent legislative efforts to improve the recall process.

So, people, we are left with a problematic process.

Of the 46 candidates, 24 are Republicans, 10 have no party preference, nine are Democrats, two are members of the Green Party and one is a Libertarian.

Newsom’s name is not on the candidate list. From what I’ve read, the Dems decided not to run any recognizable name, fearing a prominent Democrat might draw Dem votes away from a “no” vote on the Newsom recall. If 50 percent or more vote “no” to the recall, Newsom remains in office.

Reviewing the list, it seems to me that there’s no experienced Democrat to choose, and most of the GOP candidates are quite conservative.

Larry Elder, who seems to be one of the top GOP candidates, is running on the following platform, according to the SJ Mercury:
• Get rid of pandemic mandates.
• Do not fire bad teachers (he is reversing his previous position).
• The minimum wage should be zero.
• He doesn’t believe in “climate change alarmism.”
• He doesn’t believe in the wage gap and doesn’t support welfare spending.
• He thinks Roe v. Wade should go.
• Blaming Trump for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in D.C. is unfair, he said.

Not much of a “help others” campaign.

Newsom made some mistakes during his current term, and exercised poor management over such issues as providing unemployment insurance in a timely manner. He see-sawed back and forth over COVID-19 rules. But he also made a lot of good decisions.

The choice is either Newsom or one of the 46 others on the ballot. I fear that those who are strong supporters of Newsom will not turn out, thinking he has a victory in his bag. But polls show he may not win because of low supporter turnout.

We need to have a governor, that’s for sure. So at least mail in your absentee ballot, which is certainly not hard to do.

The next gubernatorial election is a little more than a year from now in November 2022. Who can predict just what will happen?

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 8:42 am

Bystander is a registered user.

The important thing to remember is that even if you vote No, you should still vote for one of the 46 names or else you will have no say in who is chosen as a replacement. In the case of Yes winning, the top voter automatically becomes governor. You may think that voting No is enough, but why not at least have some say in his replacement if he is recalled.

Posted by BobH, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 10:53 am

BobH is a registered user.

Given that this is likely to happen again, the process needs to be changed. As the author points out, the current process is stupid. I propose:

1. Recall election is just a yes or no to recall the current governor.

2. If recalled, the Lt. Governor becomes the governor until a new election is held.

3. A new election is scheduled two months later to select a new governor.

Something like this would be more rational, perhaps even discourage recall elections like we have next month.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 11:10 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

I hope there's a large turnout. This is serious business for Californians.

Posted by Mrs Norman Conradson, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 11:44 am

Mrs Norman Conradson is a registered user.

Recalls should be limited to gross offenses when the legislature refuses to impeach. Wait til the next election to make a change. The rules should be changed to make recalls much less likely and easily turned over to the next in line who is already serving in an elected office. That not being currently our option, we MUST vote because the disgruntled Republicans will surely turn out to make trouble for the majority. Give the governor a chance during this difficult time to be in office. The pandemic was not his fault.

Posted by Wyatt Richter, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 11:52 am

Wyatt Richter is a registered user.

Gavin Newsom is no prize example of a CA governor but neither are his potential and prospective opponents.

Once CA is rid of ALL Republican blowhards like Kevin McCarthy/R-Bakersfield, the state and nation can begin to move forward.

As for Newsome, he will never get higher than a CA governor because voters do not respect him.

Posted by Sheri, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 1:07 pm

Sheri is a registered user.

If you vote No, write in Lt Gov Eleni Kounalakis as a replacement, just in case the Yes crowd prevails.

Posted by Miriam+Palm, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 1:29 pm

Miriam+Palm is a registered user.

Thanks for this useful and insightful column, Diana.

Posted by rita+vrhel, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 3:24 pm

rita+vrhel is a registered user.

While i am not a big fan of Gov. Newsom, I will vote to KEEP HIM as I abhor the spending of public funds for this recall when an election will be held next year. To me this is an example of if you have enough money you can set up a recall costing the public several hundreds of million of dollars. Would not these funds have been spent better on public education, housing or almost anything!

This is a Republican power grab. You can vote Newsom out in 2022 and not encourage these renegade elections. But please vote.

Thank you

Posted by vmshadle, a resident of Meadow Park,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 3:57 pm

vmshadle is a registered user.

The threshold for numbers of signatures to set the recall process into motion is ridiculously low, at a mere 12% of votes cast for that office in the previous election.

Add to that the fact that Newsom was set to come up for election in 2023 anyway, and you have a gratuitous waste of taxpayer time, money, and other resources.

Per Google, Michigan at least requires 25% of signatures of votes cast.

Why are we kneecapping our own political process and the orderly operation of state government like this?

Posted by Rebecca+Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 5:05 pm

Rebecca+Eisenberg is a registered user.

Diana, thank you so much for your research! I had the exact questions. I would support the recall if there were a viable alternative (as there was with Gray Davis). Given no such alternative, in my mind, there is little choice but to support our flawed & failing governor.

THAT problem -- the lack of viable alternatives -- is actually my biggest beef with Newsom and the California Dynasty from which he comes. Newsom is virtual (or actual) family with the same set of people who have been governing California for decades: The Gettys, Browns, and Pelosi, as shown in the chart in this helpful article:

Web Link

By "keeping it all in the family" for so many decades, while failing to recruit a representative set of potential successors, Newsom has consolidated his power but virtually drained empty the Pipeline. For most of Newsom's elections, he has not had a truly competitive opponent. That is bad for everyone.

Newsom's monopoly power, IMO, has resulted in lazy thinking, a drought (literally!) of new ideas, and a history of continuing to repeat the same mistakes expecting a different result. For example, Newsom keeps propping up PG&E's monopoly on power in CA, even while PG&E burns down families' homes and countless acres of wildlife. It's intolerable!

Newsom also is considered by many involved with Prop 15 to be the primary reason Prop 15 failed, even though it was supported by virtually every school district, local government, environmental conservation organization, and other governmental and public interest group. Prop 15 would have created $15 billion in annual revenues for schools, parks, and senior citizens a year with zero cost to individual taxpayers (despite what the mostly-out-of-state opposition said). By withholding his endorsement of Prop 15 until the end, Newsom likely killed it.

We URGENTLY need new leadership in CA. Unfortunately this recall won't bring that.

Posted by Rebecca+Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 5:06 pm

Rebecca+Eisenberg is a registered user.

This is the web link - hopefully will work this time:

Posted by YP, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 5:24 pm

YP is a registered user.

California has..

the highest cost of housing
the highest cost of gas
the highest level of poverty when taking in the cost of housing which all of you should agree is important
the highest number of homeless
rising crime rates
All under the Democrats who have run the government with super majorities since Arnie left in 2011
Oh and I forgot to mention raging fires and brownouts because we've moved to fast to green sources of energy
And yet we want more of Gavin???

Posted by YP, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 5:30 pm

YP is a registered user.

oh and one last fact
California income equality ranks #48 according to Gini coefficent, So all you liberal bay area bleeding hearts ask yourself what has our state become over the last couple decades. Wealthy people like you in Palo Alto, struggling families elsewhere. The 'Golden State" no more

Web Link

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 8:05 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Gavin Newsom has been a TERRIBLE governor. He is the epitome of "entitlement." He was simply born into the right family at the right time. He has no real accomplishments in life to warrant his rapid (and well-plotted) advent into politics. He's yet another example in politics of style over substance.

Posted by WilliamR, a resident of another community,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 8:16 pm

WilliamR is a registered user.

Agreed that Newsom is no real prize personally or as governor, but my cat knows more about running California than most of the replacement candidates, especially Elder, Jenner and Cox.

Posted by Cherjo, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 9:28 pm

Cherjo is a registered user.

Diana, I have always been enriched by your journalism and look forward to when I see you in print next. Even if I don't fully agree, I always learn something that makes me question the issue further for a better understanding. Thank you for all the research you do on our most important current events and for presenting an essay that gently leads people to think with common sense of the possible consequences of their choices for themselves and our community and state.. You are a rare gem and greatly appreciated for your dedication and continuing hard work.

YP, you have so many complaints I don't understand why you continue to live in a community and state you don't seem to have a good thing to say about. We are all responsible for your own happiness. I am proud of our progressive and forward thinking State that has lead many other states to wisely adopt the same standards to protect people and our environment.

Posted by WilliamR, a resident of another community,
on Aug 11, 2021 at 10:17 pm

WilliamR is a registered user.

Two issues with writing in Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis:

1. She has to register with the Secretary of State's office as an official write-in candidate in order for her votes to count, and I don't think she has done that yet.
2. How many people can correctly spell K-O-U-N-A-L-A-K-I-S ?

Posted by VaxMan, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 12, 2021 at 7:22 am

VaxMan is a registered user.

Given the other candidates currently under consideration, Newsom might be the best CA has to offer at this time.

And though this is not saying much, his Covid-19 public health mandates are progressive and effective.

The French Laundry incident was hypocritical at best but no different than Nancy Pelosi having her hair done in San Francisco last year.

There are two sets of for the common folk and another for elitist politicians.

Welcome to America.

Posted by Janice Selznick, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 12, 2021 at 11:37 am

Janice Selznick is a registered user.

You go on about how much experience the various candidates have. It's good to raise this issue. It's also good to raise the issue of hypocrisy (French Laundry dining sans masks with healthcare lobbyists) and diminished mental capacity (president applesauce brains, for example). Let's do the recall!

Posted by Janice Selznick, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 12, 2021 at 1:23 pm

Janice Selznick is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Anthony, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle,
on Aug 12, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Anthony is a registered user.

This current system is certainly ridiculous. So we may get Larry Elder for a year, just enough time for him to turn California into Florida in terms of the pandemic, but he'll be out in 2022 because he could never win a statewide majority...

Of course if this happens, the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for putting all their eggs in the Newsom basket and the typical apathy and complacency that seems to happen when votes like these come up (Republicans being much more enthusiastic about recalling Newsom than Democrats are about keeping him). Maybe I'll be surprised, but I won't count on it.

Posted by YP, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 12, 2021 at 5:58 pm

YP is a registered user.


I'm fortunate to have a second home out of state. My kids now out of PAUSD so headed there more often. For those of you that know Hotel California, I will prove them wrong.

Posted by Dennis Petry, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 13, 2021 at 8:07 am

Dennis Petry is a registered user.

It really doesn't matter who the governor of CA is. Nothing ever improves regardless of who is in office, a Democrat or Republican.

Incompetence is the only parameter.

Posted by Stelios Karoulis, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 13, 2021 at 9:54 am

Stelios Karoulis is a registered user.

In Greece and other countries, when political bureaucracies do not function in the best interests of its citizens, the politicians are replaced and dysfunctional political systems dismantled.

Posted by Lenora J., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 13, 2021 at 3:55 pm

Lenora J. is a registered user.

I'm voting for Caitlyn Jenner...for entertainment purposes only.

Besides, CA voters have very little actual say in how the state is operated.

Posted by John B. Sails, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 14, 2021 at 6:45 am

John B. Sails is a registered user.

As a dem, I am confident, because like with vaxxing, we are smart enough to use the mail in ballot.

Posted by Lillian Podesta, a resident of Woodside,
on Aug 14, 2021 at 8:38 am

Lillian Podesta is a registered user.

• I'm voting for Caitlyn Jenner...for entertainment purposes only.

Speaking of 'for entertainment purposes only', other Hollywood celebrities should consider entering the race to make it even more entertaining.

And even better than winning an Oscar or Emmy.

Kanye West, Britney Spears, Mel Gibson, OJ Simpson, Brad Pitt + a host of others would be fun and farcical...the CA state motto.

Posted by Darby Jenkins, a resident of another community,
on Aug 14, 2021 at 10:15 am

Darby Jenkins is a registered user.

>> other Hollywood celebrities should consider entering the race to make it even more entertaining.

California/Hollywood is the entertainment capital of the world so why not?

Could things get any worse if another actor assumed the role of CA governor?

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 18, 2021 at 10:28 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

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