The first Filipino American attorney general of California backs Newsom in recall election, cites governor’s unprecedented vaccine efforts
AS California voters start to receive their recall election ballots in the mail, Governor Gavin Newsom and other Democrats are ramping up efforts to encourage the diverse communities of the state to vote no on the gubernatorial recall election.
Newsom, a staunch Democrat and the head of one of the most rigorous vaccine campaigns in the country, was first elected governor in 2018 and is currently up for re-election in 2022.
But a growing number of critics, most of whom are Republicans, have been active in trying to vote Newsom out of office, an effort that accelerated during the pandemic.
“Since taking office the problems facing us have grown and his policies have only made them worse. Everywhere you look, Gavin Newsom’s failures of are [sic] obvious,” the Recall Gavin 2020 website reads. (The Asian Journal reached out to the California Republican Party, a major supporter for the recall effort, and API members of the GOP but no response has been received as of press time.)
Despite yielding overall positive approval ratings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (with a few slumps as case numbers, deaths and hospitalizations fluctuated), the race is tightening up and a swift win in historically blue California may not be a guarantee for Newsom.
A month before the recall election on Sept. 14, Newsom and California Attorney General Rob Bonta met with Asian and Pacific Islander (API) media to discuss the recall and encourage API voters to vote against the recall.
“Gavin is a champion for APIs in California, and time and time again he’s put the needs of our families and our communities front and center,” said Bonta, who was nominated for the attorney general post in March by Newsom, during the virtual briefing on Wednesday, Aug. 11.
“When the pandemic hit, Governor Newsom acted quickly to protect our families and most vulnerable community members,” Bonta added. “He listened to the experts, doctors and scientists. He followed data and evidence, and when Donald Trump used the pandemic to spew hate and anti-Asian rhetoric, Governor Newsom stood up and defended our communities.”
Bonta also cited Newsom’s rigorous vaccination efforts as evidence that the governor should not be recalled, adding that the health of vulnerable APIs hangs in the balance amid this election.
As of press time, California has administered 46.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, and 21.5 million — 54% of the entire population eligible for the vaccine — Californians have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
“Nothing is more important to API families than our health and [the] health of our loved ones and the countless lives saved by our Governor’s decisive actions and his courage,” Bonta said.
On the same day of the briefing, the governor announced that vaccine verification and weekly testing would be required for all school teachers and staff as part of the state’s aggressive plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as schools return to in-person learning.
Newsom cited this and other efforts of his administration — including the Golden State stimulus packages and the $76 billion operating surplus this fiscal year — as progress made during his first term as governor.
Last week, Newsom also signed a bill that would expand healthcare — including palliative care and long-term health care — to include undocumented immigrants, a bill that he said “directly benefits API communities.”
“We’re the fastest-growing economy of all Western democracies, outperforming the United States, Germany, Japan and the UK,” Newsom said. “But why this recall is on the ballot is connected to the issue of our diversity. This is a state that is 27% foreign-born, a majority-minority state, and that is our greatness and our strength.”
Among Newsom’s opponents is conservative talk show host Larry Elder who, among the nearly 50 candidates on the ballot, is currently leading in the polls, closely followed by businessman John Cox (who ran unsuccessfully against Newsom in the 2018 gubernatorial race), former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Olympic gold medalist and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner.
But with the growing number of APIs coming out to the polls and casting votes, Newsom — who had hefty support from API communities across California in previous elections — said that input from the community, particularly Filipinos, is pivotal in policy-making.
“I’ve been blessed to have overwhelming support broadly across the Asian community, especially the Filipino community, which is near and dear to me for so many reasons,” Newsom told reporters. “I had the privilege and pleasure to serve a large Filipino delegation in San Francisco and learned so much about the collective histories and the incredible diasporas here throughout Northern California.”
However, Newsom acknowledged California’s political diversity and hopes that APIs, regardless of party preference, will remember the anti-Asian rhetoric proliferated by former President Donald Trump and his supporters, which includes Elder and many of the candidates on the recall ballot.
“But I hope people will pause and consider the anti-Asian hate that was spewed by Donald Trump, and those that embrace Trumpism. That’s the crop of people we have, that would replace this administration,” Newsom said.
Referencing Elder, Newsom continued, “The leading candidate, the one that is almost certain, if we lose, to be your next governor, not only promotes and supports Trump. But was out defending folks and has the support of people who were insurrectionists, including people who were arrested on January 6th.”
As previously reported in the Asian Journal, voters will be asked to fill out two items: a question, “Shall Gavin Newsom be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?” and a vote for one of the “candidates to succeed Gavin Newsom as Governor if he is recalled.” (Voters may also write in a candidate who is not listed, but voters may not write in Newsom.)
Regarding the criticism that the state is receiving over the current laws dictating recall elections, Newsom told the Asian Journal that he’s “thought a lot about it” and that recall elections are nearly the only way that conservative office-seekers have tried to “disrupt the process” in the overwhelmingly Democratic state, citing the successful 2003 recall of then-Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, by former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“It’s the damndest thing, forgive my language, but you have an election next year,” said Newsom, referencing the 2022 midterm election. “You want to take a whack at it, take it next year but the reason they won’t is because these guys have a difficult time or simply can’t because they haven’t won a statewide race since I was in high school.”
In a prior briefing with ethnic media, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber promised to review the state’s recall election laws if the Newsom administration wins the Sept. 14 election.
Because of the way that recall elections are held in California, Newsom could be recalled and a candidate with a small portion of the overall vote could replace him, as previously written about in the Asian Journal.
The API electorate, historically, has among the lowest voter turnout rates, but after 2016, voter turnout increased significantly, positioning APIs as a crucial voting bloc.
Bonta acknowledged this and reminded voters that “[w]e cannot be complacent. Elections are not spectator sports. We need to exercise our fundamental right to vote, our vote is our voice, and we need to make sure we each do our part to beat back this cynical Republican recall effort.”