Tuesday is Election Day but I have already voted. Twice.
I voted against the first question, asking that Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled from office. I then voted a second time on the second question for a potential replacement for Newsom.
The Newsom campaign and the California Democratic Party are insisting that supporters of Newsom skip the second vote; to me that has been an irresponsible and incoherent strategy.
The conventional wisdom in the Newsom camp is that if a credible Democrat was on the ballot to replace him, then California voters might be tempted to pull the plug on our fair haired governor. That insults the intelligence of Democratic voters and put us in potential jeopardy of having a Republic governor and a reactionary one at that.
Back when Democratic Governor Gray Davis was recalled, there was huge concern when Lt. Governor Bustamante put his name in contention on the second part of the recall vote.
Davis was furious, concerned that Latino voters might want to replace him with Bustamante. As it turned out he didn’t have to worry as voters, including Latinos, went heavily for Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I believe that Newsom’s decision to deny Democrats a credible alternative was selfish and was not doing Democrats any favors. While I fully support Newsom he has been his own worst enemy, being too white, too privileged and too pretty. Democratic voters have held back and are only now voting because Larry Elder just scares them. That is hardly a ringing endorsement of Newsom.
Due to Newsom’s fears of being undercut by Democratic rivals, there are no serious Democratic candidates on the ballot, leaving many voters to consider the possibility of having Angelyne lead the Golden State. Having Angelyne at the helm is nowhere near as scary as having Larry Elder.
I thought that if the Democrats were so nervous about Newsom then maybe placing Eleni Kounalakis, the Lieutenant Governor, on the second part of the ballot would be a prudent form of insurance. She is not really a rival, but the logical constitutional successor and putting her on the ballot would have given Democrats credible alternative. I wrote Kounalakis’ name on my ballot as a write in candidate.
But I then learned that while I have the “right” to vote for a write-in candidate, unless that candidate registered as a write-in candidate, my vote would not be counted or recorded as to the second question of the recall vote. That is a pretty nasty way to prevent write-in candidates. My second vote was wasted.
As a Democrat your options are now limited. Currently Kevin Paffrath, a Democratic “social media personality” from Ventura is pretty much your only alternative. One of his main platform positions is to pipe water from the Mississippi to quench California’s needs; if you can get past that, maybe he is your candidate.
So why is voting in the second question all that important? For me I hate seeing the reactionary Larry Elder running in first place with up to 38 percent of the vote. The game for Elder is not so much to win but as to position himself for the next election. That election will not be for Governor; why would anyone want the job? What Elder is positioning himself for is to be the Republican standard bearer for the U.S. Senate.
This recall has just been an opportunistic manipulation of California’s system of “direct democracy” by nihilistic Republicans. Predictably, when no Democratic alternative on the second question, the Republicans get to show case their leading contender, who in this case is not just someone from the lunatic fringe, but rather the lunatic mainstream.
Just do the math. For every voter who votes for a candidate on Tuesday who is NOT Larry Elder, his percentage of the vote decreases. While Paffrath is apparently in second place with 10% of the vote, it is possible that a concerted effort could knock Elder down the polls a bit and take the luster off Elders’ current standing.
But whatever you do, vote by Tuesday.
Note: Steve Martin is a former President of the Stonewall Democratic Club and was an elected delegate to the Democratic Convention.