Tuesday, 21 Sep 2021

California’s Pandemic Recall

California Republicans began the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom before the pandemic upended everything. But without a doubt, the pandemic enabled the recall: The courts gave organizers more time to collect the necessary signatures, and Newsom’s handling of the pandemic, including his visit to a swanky restaurant in wine country amid his own lockdown orders, eroded his support.

When the state lifted restrictions earlier this summer, Newsom all but declared the pandemic over, celebrating with Minions and robots at Universal Studios in Hollywood. His political future looked rosy, too. Democratic leaders in the state lined up behind him, and many agreed that the sooner they could get the recall election done, the better the results would be for Newsom.

Now, with the vote just weeks away, the biggest threats to Newsom seem clear — and they are not the Republican candidates. The governor is being forced to grapple with multiple crises all at once, including a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, one of the worst droughts in state history and out-of-control wildfires. By definition, a recall is a referendum on the incumbent; in effect, Newsom is running against himself.

It is hardly surprising that he and other Democrats have portrayed the recall effort as an extension of Trumpism, painting opponents as right-wing outliers in a deeply blue state. And the numbers in the state clearly favor Democrats, who have a firm hold on state government and far outnumber Republicans in voter registration. The anti-recall campaign has raised more money than all of the Republican candidates combined. Indeed, Republicans have not won a statewide office since 2006 (the year Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected governor, after winning in a 2003 recall).

But polling shows that Republicans are far more fired up about the election than Democrats. And this is where things get complicated. Are Democrats so confident that they will not even bother to cast their ballots? Two recent polls have really shaken Democrats in the state — one found that likely voters statewide are almost evenly split, the other that voters in San Diego support recalling Newsom.

A recall election is relatively easy in California — just a handful of states have a similar process, and almost none have a lower threshold to get it on the ballot. Still, successful recalls are rare — the last statewide one happened in 2003 — and polls suggest most voters want to make it more difficult.

But if a majority of voters choose to remove Newsom from office, the challenger with the most votes will take his place. With dozens of Republicans on the ballot, that means a candidate with, say, just 20 percent of the vote could win. (Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host leads in some polls with around 18 percent.)

As Chris Lehane, a Democratic political strategist who worked in state politics during the last recall effort, put it: “There’s no arguing there’s voter fatigue.”

“The last four years was an incredibly exhausting experience,” he said, adding that the state’s Democratic voters “need to realize that this recall is by no means a slam dunk,” or they risk waking up to the same kind of shock they faced after the 2016 election.

It’s a cliché to say that California is America’s future, but there is no question that a Republican win in the deep blue state would have reverberations nationally. It is a point that Newsom is making to rally his supporters, arguing that a successful recall would provoke more attempts to oust elected officials.

Jennifer Medina reports on national politics from Los Angeles for The Times.

THE LATEST NEWS

The Virus

Louisiana and San Francisco reinstated indoor mask mandates. Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to wear masks indoors.

Seventy percent of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine dose.

After 18 months of changing messaging, Americans have grown skeptical of public health advice.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he had tested positive. If he had not been vaccinated, he said, his symptoms “would be far worse.”

As the new school year begins, here’s how to think about risk in the classroom.

Politics

The White House urged states to enact local eviction moratoriums after a federal ban expired.

Citing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, the Biden administration will keep a Trump-era rule to turn away migrants.

The State Department is offering potential refugee status to more Afghans who worked with the U.S.

$65 billion for broadband, and $73 billion to modernize the power grid: Here’s what’s in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

Economic challenges and uncertainty await President Biden and the Fed this fall.

Tokyo Olympics

Simone Biles won bronze on the balance beam. See her routine.

The U.S. defeated Spain in men’s basketball, moving on to the semifinals. And the U.S. beach volleyball duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman are in the semifinals.

Laurel Hubbard, a weight lifter from New Zealand, became the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Olympics.

Dalilah Muhammad set the standard for hurdling. She’s looking to defend her gold.

Other Big Stories

A labor officer found that Amazon illegally discouraged organizing at an Alabama warehouse and recommended holding a new union election.

A Haitian judge and two clerks who investigated the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse are in hiding after receiving death threats.

Investigators grilled Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York for 11 hours last month as part of a sexual harassment inquiry.

“We’re living in hell”: This mining town is Mexico’s most terrified city.

Opinions

Covid vaccine hesitancy among Republicans is a frustrating irony for Trump administration officials who helped develop the shots, writes Alex Azar, Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary.

MORNING READS

What canal? Cruise ships are leaving some Venice-bound tourists in a less desirable location.

Out there: When the space station started spinning, NASA went to work fixing it.

Animal shenanigans: A cat on the field. A mantis on a hat. Monday baseball had it all.

Advice from Wirecutter: Here’s how to clean a grill.

Lives Lived: George Forss was selling his photographs of New York City for $5 on the sidewalks when a renowned photojournalist discovered his work and took up his cause. Forss died at 80.

ARTS AND IDEAS

A bellwether for Broadway tours

More than a year after the touring production of “Wicked” shut down, the cast and crew have reunited in Dallas. The show is the first Broadway tour back onstage, a month before musicals are set to resume on Broadway.

Touring is big money in the theater industry and provides income for many theater workers. For “Wicked,” that includes 33 actors, an 18-person crew, six musicians and three stage managers. The company also relies on local crew members in each city.

Precautions vary from place to place. In New York, Broadway ticket holders are required to show proof of vaccination and wear masks; in Dallas, “Wicked” requires its cast and crew to be vaccinated, but not the audience.

The “Wicked” team is also sharing its safety protocols with crews from other tours as they prepare to restart later this summer. Actors aren’t allowed to interact with the audience, meaning no stage-door meet-and-greets, and orchestra pits will feature partitions to better contain aerosols from the instruments. Read the full article on the return of “Wicked.” — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook

Tender fish skewers topped with herbs and lime are a great weeknight meal.

I’d Like to Thank the Academy

Jason Momoa would like action movies to get a little more respect, please.

What to Read

Start-ups aren’t great for marriages, Lauren Oyler writes in a review of two new novels.

World Through a Lens

See endangered orangutans on Sumatra, the only place on Earth where great apes, elephants, rhinos and tigers coexist.

Now Time to Play

The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were availability, livability and viability. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Distant (three letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.

P.S. The Times’s California Today newsletter has a new writer: Soumya Karlamangla, a former Los Angeles Times reporter. Sign up.

Here’s today’s print front page.

“The Daily” is about a labor shortage in the U.S. On “The Ezra Klein Show,” L.M. Sacasas discusses the technologies that shape our lives.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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