Why are you so desperate to grab the governor of San Diego?
Governor Gavin Newsom’s recollection has many geographical roots. Its first supporters were the adjutants of the Yolo County Sheriff. The recall petition has gained considerable support in the Northern community. And right-wing Republicans from all over the United States funded it.
However, recall is the replacement of one governor with another. And in the second consecutive Governor’s recall, San Diego County and its frustrated politicians are driving the process.
In 2003, the frustrated San Diegan behind Governor Gray Davis’ recall was Congressman Darrell Issa. In a regular governor’s election, there wasn’t much hope for a conservative Republican like Issa, but the call-off, which has a huge field of candidates, seemed like an opening. So, car alarm mogul Issa offered money to qualify the recall and began running for office before abandoning his campaign in the face of media attacks.
This time, two ambitious San Diegans led an early poll that would replace Newsom if the recall was successful.
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a long-time governor aspirant, may be too modest to win a regular California top two election. However, he saw the widespread recall race as an opportunity and launched the campaign this spring before all signatures were confirmed.
San Diego-based businessman John Cox, who lost badly to Newsom in the 2018 Governor’s election, sees the recall as his second chance. He throws his fortune behind his recall candidates and broadcasts an ad showing him with the bear throughout the state, symbolizing the “beast” change he promises to the state.
Why is San Diego home to recall ambitions? One answer is that the nation has changed politically. Faulconer, who regularly voted for Republicans in the 20th century presidential election, has become more democratic, but still popular enough with local Democrats and convinced that he could win the state as a whole. Election Republicans like Connor. Another answer lies in San Diego’s lesser-known position as a leader in direct democracy. San Diego often creates signatures for voting initiative campaigns at twice the percentage per voter in other counties.
But San Diego’s affinity for recalls goes beyond politics to identity. San Diego is large and the eighth most populous municipality in the United States, but its influence does not match its ambitions. The best city in America is in California, as it claims. San Diego is the largest city in 43 states, but here it is the fourth most populous city with a smaller population than the Inland Empire. The news, sports teams, and their leaders haven’t received the same level of state-wide attention as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
San Diego is also a different kind of place than the coastal big brother. LA and the Bay Area are global mega-regions and are not proudly in step with the rest of the United States. In contrast, San Diego is the most shy American of the cities in California. It’s full of military installations and veterans, raising the flag and hosting the state’s largest Independence Day show. Being on the border also strengthens America’s identity.
San Diego, where many have devoted their careers to protecting the country, often sees the rest of California as far beyond American law and tradition. So it’s not hard to understand why recall, a reactionary tool, appeals as a way to bring California back to reality.
But that doesn’t mean that the recall will succeed in installing San Diegan, and it’s much less likely to slow down the changes. In 2003, the San Diego-funded recall was ultimately won by a foreign-born movie star from Los Angeles.
Pete Wilson, the last Governor of California from San Diego, ran as a moderate, and sticking to Donald Trump’s full supporters doesn’t help Cox or Falconer’s outlook. Wilson, whose statue was temporarily demolished in San Diego last fall, defends his immigration politics with the enthusiasm of a man who wants to make history as California’s answer to George Wallace.
This year, San Diego’s attempt to take Gavin Newsom successfully created another call election. This is by no means a small feat. However, after the elections were confirmed, Governor Newsom became more vibrant and popular.
In California today, San Diego has enough horsepower to demand a reconsideration of the Governor, but probably not enough to control itself.
Joe Mathews is the author of the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.
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