Gavin Newsom's Recall
Two questions, but no choices
You should vote No on the recall. Not because Gavin Newsom is a good governor (he's not), but because the rules of the recall make it fundamentally anti-democratic.
The winner of the recall will become our next governor even if they don't get 50% of the vote. The rules state that the person with the most votes — not a majority — wins. This has already happened: Arnold Schwarzenegger won the first-ever successful recall election with 48.6% of the vote.
The top-polling challenger, Larry Elder (R), currently has between 10% and 23% support. No challenger has anywhere close to a majority. If the recall succeeds, we are guaranteed to have a governor elected by only a small minority of the population. There is no primary. There is no runoff. There is only minority rule.
If you only vote No, you're effectively voting for Larry Elder.
The dynamics and consequences of this contest merit special consideration, and for you to vote with a plan. Don't just vote No. You need to vote No and vote for a sane backup option. Or, at least, the least-worst backup option.
Meet the Kevins
Kevin Paffrath, Kevin Faulconer, and Kevin Kiley are all polling fairly well and could each feasibly be the next governor. Incidentally, I think they're probably the least-worst choices you have, though none of them are good enough for me to endorse.
Kevin Paffrath (D): The landlord YouTuber
Kevin Paffrath (AKA "Meet Kevin") is the only well-polling candidate in the race that's also a registered Democrat. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's a good choice, or even a shoe-in in our one-party state. Paffrath is a "landlord YouTuber" with over 1.6 million subscribers.
Paffrath puts out videos that, charitably, teach people how to be landlords. Uncharitably, he teaches people how to defraud and abuse their tenants. There are also videos about politics, the housing market in general, the stock market, the federal reserve, among others.
His campaign website doesn't have much detail about policy, but he does list out his top priorities. Among them are mobilizing the national guard to build homeless shelters and then… forcibly moving people into them, using prison labor to keep streets clean, and "solving" traffic by... doubling road capacity by building tunnels directly under existing roads. Oh, and don't forget abolishing state income taxes for people making under $250k — a promise that the governor literally does not have the power to do.
It's not all bad, though. He wants to move control of building codes to the state level (hey, I actually agree with that!). Oh, and he wants to legalize gambling.
Like every other top-polling candidate, including the two Kevins below, Paffrath opposes vaccine and mask mandates.
So, he may be a registered Democrat but he's also completely unqualified to run the state and his policy proposals are either illegal or politically unachievable.
Paffrath is an unserious candidate who's probably only running to grow his YouTube audience. It is shocking and utterly disappointing that he's one of the few candidates who wouldn't be a total nightmare.
Kevin Faulconer (R): The center-right mayor
Kevin Faulconer is socially liberal and a center-right Republican. He has executive experience and has enough relationships to actually get some things done.
"[...] he's not your typical Republican: he's pro same-sex marriage, he acknowledges the science behind climate change, backs a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and he won two terms in [San Diego] with a majority of Democrats."
Faulconer is generally pro-housing, and calls himself a YIMBY. As the Republican mayor of Democratic-majority San Diego, Faulconer worked across the aisle with Democrats to build more housing and lower the homelessness rate.
Faulconer made headlines earlier this year by pursuing a handful of pro-density policies in a city known more for its sprawl and affection for unobstructed coastline views than mutli-family apartment buildings. As a newly self-identified “YIMBY”—Yes in My Backyard advocate—Faulconer has moved to ease height restrictions and minimum parking requirements across San Diego.
- Via Cal Matters
However, in the most recent recall candidate debate, Faulconer promised to veto SB 9, which would legalize fourplexes statewide.
Faulconer does a pretty good job on most of the culture-war issues that Republicans typically fail on. He's pro-choice and believes the science of climate change, and he's the only top Republican that's pro-immigrant and against Trump's border wall. Faulconer seems decent on LGBTQ issues (in sharp contrast to the other Republican candidates), and he even supported the federal Equality Act:
Despite the progress that’s been made, LGBT people still face discrimination. Every single American deserves equal rights, and we should give every American an equal chance to succeed in this great country of ours.
But now for the bad news: Faulconer voted for Trump in 2020 (after saying "I could never vote for Trump" in 2016). And he pushed awful lies about Senator Wiener's bill to fix an overly puritanical and backwards law banning anal, oral, and other non-vaginal sex between young people, which unfairly discriminates against LGBTQ youth.
It’s up to you to decide if his blemishes are disqualifying.
Kevin Kiley (R): The young conservative
Kevin Kiley is definitely more socially conservative than Faulconer, but otherwise they seem pretty similar policy-wise.
Among his worst positions are that he's anti-choice, wants to punish undocumented immigrants by making them ineligible to receive state support and healthcare, and voted against making California a "sanctuary state".
Kiley does have some positive positions, though. Like Faulconer, he believes in the science of climate change and is quite pro-housing. Kiley even co-authored Senator Scott Wiener's SB 50 which would have legalized new homes near transit and high-opportunity areas. Recently Kiley voted with Democrats in favor of SB 9, which legalizes fourplexes statewide — a bill that Faulconer promised to veto, as mentioned above. Kiley also serves on the Committee on Housing and Community Development in the State Assembly.
I haven't been able to find much of anything on Kiley's LGBTQ positions, and he's only rated 25% by Equality California. It's safe to assume he would not be a champion for LGBTQ rights.
The other two
Larry Elder (R) and John Cox (R) are the top contenders and it's likely that one of them will be our next governor. So I hope to motivate you to vote for one of the three people above so we aren't stuck with these clowns.
Larry Elder (R): The right-wing radio host
Larry Elder is a right-wing talk radio host that wants to ban abortions, abolish gun regulations, abolish the IRS, and end welfare. He's in favor of building Trump's border wall, and has said nothing at all about our housing crisis except that he opposes homeless shelters.
I wish I could tell you more about him, but he has put forward no positive vision for the state other than his extremely long-winded rant on his campaign website. And, frankly, I can't make my way through the whole thing.
Elder is the current favorite to win this election, but he's never held public office and I think he never should.
If you do not cast a vote for one of the other candidates, you are guaranteeing that Elder becomes our next governor.
John Cox (R): The old conservative
John Cox isn't a newcomer to politics like Larry Elder. In fact, he ran against Newsom back in 2018 with a platform of building a border wall and banning abortion. He was endorsed by President Trump. Luckily, Cox lost with 38.1% of the vote, but this time we may not be so lucky.
Cox has been traipsing around the state with a bear, hoping to get himself into the press to remind you that he still exists… and it's working. Cox is polling #2 in this election.
If elected, John Cox would push California backwards on fighting Covid-19. In contrast to Kevin Faulconer who believes everyone should get the vaccine (while falling short of mandating it), Cox advised people who already got covid to not get the vaccine, contradicting CDC guidance.
"There's a lot of people that have had COVID and have antibodies," [Cox] said. "They don't need the vaccine. They shouldn't get the vaccine."
While Cox has some decent housing opinions like fixing CEQA and is generally supportive or building more homes, his homelessness policies are trash. He pushes the lie that all homeless people suffer from drug addiction and believes that they should be forced into conservatorship or jail rather than be given shelter and help.
Don't let John Cox become our next governor.
I got 99 problems but an endorsement ain't one
The Democratic Party is only endorsing No. The Republican Party is only endorsing Yes. Not a single political club or voter guide in San Francisco is giving voters enough information to make a rational, informed choice that can help avoid the worst outcomes.
Every political insider I know tells me the same thing: they don't want to endorse a backup option because they don't want to risk their reputation. I get it — politics is about reputation management. But I'm more interested in outcomes than politics.
If your politics get in the way of informing the people, then your politics are BAD.
At least the Democratic clubs have an excuse: the Democratic Party bans Democratic clubs from ever endorsing someone who isn't a registered Democrat. They can't even endorse Independents!
The Democratic Party never took this recall seriously and have justified their just-say-no plan by bringing up the 2003 recall. In that recall, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante ran as the backup option and the Democratic Party believes that "Vote No and Bustamante" confused the voters, leading to their loss. I believe the actual reason Bustamante lost isn't that voters were too dumb to understand the message, but that voters were angry and wanted a change.
The Democratic Party has left Democrats in California with no guidance. We're sleepwalking into far-right control because they never took the recall seriously and don't think we're smart enough to vote No and for a backup option. Don't let it happen. Pick a backup option you can live with or we'll end up with one you can't.