Who might replace Gov. Newsom in the California recall election?
If voters decide to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 14, there are 46 people on the ballot who hope to take his job. And unlike the recall question, which requires a majority to pass or fail, the next governor of the nation’s biggest state could get the seat simply by beating out the other 45 candidates.
If voters decide to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 14, there are 46 people on the ballot who hope to take his job.
And unlike the recall question, which requires a majority to pass or fail, the next governor of the nation’s biggest state could get the seat simply by beating out the other 45 candidates. That’s why the replacement race — if it comes into play — is wide open.
Here are a half-dozen of the bigger names:
The bear. Sure, you might know Cox already — he’s the Republican who lost to Newsom in 2018 by nearly 3 million votes — but his early speeches in the recall race drew attention because he shared the stage with a bear. The wealthy former investment manager offers some ideas (overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act; end all mask and vaccine mandates; reduce taxes across the board by 25%) that might fire up his Republican base and face resistance in California’s Democratic-controlled legislature. Cox once wrote a book titled “Never Trust Any Politician,” yet he has run for (and lost) a half-dozen political posts in two states.
If elected, Cox would try to reduce homelessness by requiring mental health and drug treatment as a condition of receiving homeless services. He also would build more reservoirs and push to repeal California’s “sanctuary” laws.
• Age: 66
• Hometown: Rancho Santa Fe
• Campaign money: Filings show Cox has the biggest war chest of all the replacement candidates ($10.2 million), but $9.1 million of that has come out of his own pocket.
The conservative radio host (“The Larry Elder Show”) and author might be the quintessential modern GOP candidate, with big-name recognition and little political experience. For the “let’s shake things up” crowd, Elder brings a host of ideas — repealing mask and vaccine mandates, eliminating the minimum wage, pushing California to overturn Roe v. Wade — that echo themes of the Trump administration.
He also suggested women and minorities do not face systemic discrimination or racism. He says now that he believes climate change is real, but questions what role climate change has in the state’s wildfire woes, despite what scientists say on that front. And Elder’s ex-fiancée recently told Politico — and later filed a police report — that he flashed a gun at her while they were arguing in 2015. Elder has denied that claim.
• Age: 69
• Hometown: Los Angeles
• Campaign money: Recent filings show Elder raised more than $4.4 million in the last quarter, including about $1 million from people who gave $100 or less.
The self-described moderate Republican (who supported President Donald Trump in 2020) was mayor of San Diego from 2014 to 2020, creating a track record that could help or hurt him with different voters. A program he pushed to change construction regulations (partly by easing some environmental rules) led to more affordable housing in San Diego and some reduction in homelessness. He said he’d try something similar as governor. On the minus side, his effort to keep the Chargers in San Diego failed. And though he touts his work to lead San Diego’s fight against climate change, a former ally on that front is now a critic, saying Faulconer led only after others gave him political cover.
If elected, he said he would lift mask and vaccine mandates in schools, reduce homelessness by adding shelter beds and cracking down on urban camping and end state taxes on incomes of less than $50,000 a year.
• Age: 54
• Hometown: San Diego
• Campaign money: Filings show Faulconer raised about $4.4 million, most coming from people who gave $100 or more.
Forget the gold medal of 1976. Forget the reality show (“Keeping up with the Kardashians”), the documentary (“I Am Cait”), and the relentless tabloid headlines. Jenner, a Republican, said she entered the race to improve California, not boost her brand. But as a candidate, Jenner has had a personal film crew with her at many public appearances and she’s struggled to stay relevant. She’s polling poorly and her interest in politics, at times, has appeared to flag. For example, she reportedly skipped a July debate in Orange County so she could film reality television in Australia. Reports also show that her campaign owes more than it has brought in.
If elected, Jenner said she would finish the California section of Trump’s border wall, push against schools teaching critical race theory and boost spending on firefighting while vetoing all new taxes.
• Age: 71
• Hometown: Malibu
• Campaign money: Filings show Jenner has about $781,000, most from donors who gave $100 or more. Recent reports suggest Jenner has contributed $25,000 of her own money, but that her campaign remains behind on some bills.
A Republican member of the state Assembly since 2017, Kiley represents the 6th district, which includes the towns of Roseville, Rocklin and Folsom, north of Sacramento. He’s an attorney and a former high school English teacher and he co-owns a farm with former recall candidate Doug Ose. On the first day of his term, Kiley said, he would end California’s state of pandemic emergency and repeal mask and vaccine mandates for students and teachers.
He also would try to end the state’s high-speed rail project and divert that money to roads, bridges and other forms of hard infrastructure. He also would push to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District into smaller districts, oppose the teaching of critical race theory and reverse the expansion of Medi-Cal payments to undocumented residents.
• Age: 36
• Hometown: Rocklin
• Campaign money: Filings show he has raised about $846,000, mostly from people who gave $100 or more.
It might seem weird that in a state where Democrats hold a 22 perentage point voter registration lead over both Republicans and people who align as no party preference, that the biggest name Democrat replacement candidate is a political newcomer. But because Democrats didn’t push a well-known Democrat to the ballot in case Newsom is booted, Paffrath’s party affiliation makes him a player. The real estate investor and YouTube host (with 1.7 million subscribers to his shows about personal finance, stocks, taxes and real estate) has topped at least one replacement poll and shown strongly in some others, even though most voters don’t know who he is.
A self-declared “JFK-style Democrat,” Paffrath is pitching ideas that don’t all fit with his stated political party — or, in some cases, with state and federal law. He would, for example, try to use the National Guard to sweep California streets of homeless people and then house those people in empty malls and other buildings. Experts say that’s a constitutional non-starter. He recently pitched the idea of fighting the drought by building a pipeline from California to the Mississippi River. And he’s on record in support of making it easier for Californians to carry concealed weapons.
If elected, Paffrath would keep in place all mask and vaccine mandates and encourage everybody in the state to get vaccinated, possibly via social media challenges. He also would legalize gambling, redirect money away from high-speed rail and tax casinos.
• Age: 29
• Hometown: Ventura
• Campaign money: Filing data shows he raised about $293,000, most of which came prior to polling that showed him with some strong support.
Others in the race
Angelyne, no party preference, entertainer; Holly L. Baade, Democrat, shaman, yoga instructor, life coach; David Alexander Bramante, Republican, real estate; Heather Collins, Green Party, business owner/hair stylist; John R. Drake, Democrat, college student; Rhonda Furin, Republican, nonprofit; Ted Gaines, Republican, member State Board of Equalization; Sam L. Gallucci, Republican, pastor/consultant; James G. Hanink, no party preference, retired teacher; Jeff Hewitt, Libertarian, Riverside County Supervisor; David Hillberg, Republican, aircraft mechanic/actor; Dan Kapelovitz, Green Party; attorney; Kevin K. Kaul, no party preference, real estate; Chauncey “Slim” Killens, Republican, retired corrections officer; Patrick Kilpatrick, Democrat, actor/screenwriter/producer; Jenny Rae Le Roux, Republican, business consultant; Steve Chavez Lodge, Republican, retired homicide detective; Michael Loebs, no party preference, lecturer; David Lozano, Republican, attorney; Denis Lucey, no party preference, teacher; Jeremiah “Jeremy” Marciniak, no party preference, former business owner; Diego Martinez, Republican, business; Jacqueline McGowan, Democrat, cannabis policy advisor; Daniel Mercuri, Republican; business owner; David Moore, no party preference, public school teacher; Robert C. Newman II, Republican, farmer/psychologist; Adam Papagan, no party preference, entertainer; Armando “Mando” Perez-Serrato, Democrat, business owner; Dennis Richter, no party preference, retail; Brandon M. Ross, Democrat, physician/attorney; Major Singh, no party preference, software engineer; Sarah Stephens, Republican, pastor; Denver Stoner, Republican; deputy sheriff; Joe M. Symmon, Republican, community volunteer; Anthony D. Trimino, Republican, marketing and advertising; Joel Ventresca, Democrat, retired airport analyst; Daniel Watts, Democrat, attorney; Nickolas Wildstar, Republican, entertainer/political candidate; Leo S. Zacky, Republican, poultry.
CalMatters contributed to this report.