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California recall comes down to wire, driven by voter anger over COVID, crime and homelessness

More than 1.7 million Californians signed a petition to seek governor’s ouster and place the question before voters.

September 12, 2021 10:30am

Updated: September 12, 2021 10:42pm

Voters head to the polls Tuesday to determine the fate of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall election over a variety of concerns about his leadership, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent polling suggests Newsom will survive the recall effort, though more than 1.7 million Californians signed a petition to seek his ouster from office and place the matter before voters.

A Survey USA and San Diego Union-Tribune poll released Thursday shows 54% of respondents said they will vote "no" on the first ballot question – Shall Gavin Newsom be recalled? – with 41% responding "yes" and 5% undecided.

And a poll from the Berkeley Institute of Government Studies and Los Angeles Times released Friday shows 60% of those surveyed saying they will vote "no," with 39% saying they will vote "yes."

Polls from earlier in the summer showed the recall election much tighter.

Recall supporters have cited numerous reasons as to why they want to remove Newsom from office. Those reasons include his unilateral executive orders during the coronavirus pandemic, among the strictest in the nation. Newsom's orders closed businesses across the state, leading to among the highest unemployment rates in the country. Newsom also closed churches for months during the pandemic and threatened church leaders with large daily fines if they allowed in-person worship. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled with faith leaders in lawsuits challenging the California governor's restrictions.

Other reasons recall supporters cited is increased crime in the state, Newsom's response to the state’s growing homeless crisis, the economy, joblessness, and the state’s unemployment claims process through which billions of dollars of payments went to inmates in prisons in and out of California while thousands of residents with valid claims waited months to receive payments.

If a majority of voters do vote "yes" on the first recall question, conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder is favored to replace him. Elder joins more than 40 candidates on the ballot seeking the governor's office if Newsom is ousted, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley and Democrat Kevin Paffrath.

Newsom claims “Trump Republicans” are behind the recall efforts, and top Democrats – including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren – have expressed their support for him.

Polls are open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday. Thousands of votes already have been cast through early voting and mail-in ballots.

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