CM – How the democratic strategy of a replacement candidate could affect the recall


The Democrats are under fire for failing to put up a potential top-class replacement candidate and instead have urged voters to leave the second question blank.

The look of this effort was poor, but Newsom and the Democrats did probably right. Critics have greatly underestimated how difficult it would be for Newsom to lose the recall and win a Democrat the replacement race.

The 2003 governor’s removal and the 1994 removals of the six states have skipped “no” voters the replacement race. On the other side of the coin, the “yes” vote has the ability to unite around its strongest candidate. A Democratic replacement candidate would have simply messed up the message and possibly helped screw up the campaign.

In 2003, Lt. Gov. (and former spokesman for the congregation) Cruz Bustamante, who beat Gray Davis in her 2002 re-election races, theoretically a very strong substitute. But the results were different. The yes vote for removing Davis was 55.4%. But on question 2, the top Republican candidates together have more than 62.5% of the vote. Bustamante only got 31.5%. A whopping 8% of voters skipped the substitute race (and surprisingly, 4.6% skipped the yes / no question). We can be pretty sure that many of those voters were Democrats who voted no against Davis.

You may think that Arnold Schwarzenegger was a special candidate or Bustamante was a particularly bad candidate. But in 2018 Senator Josh Newman, a Democrat from Fullerton, lost a recall vote against him by 58.1%. The vote was supposedly about a gas tax, but a strong political component led Newman’s impeachment to deprive the Democrats of a super-majority in the Senate. In the replacement race, voter turnout fell by more than 6%. Republican Ling Ling Chang won the six-man reserve race with 33.8% of the vote, but the total number of votes for the Republicans was 58.1%.

In 2008, then-Senator Jeff Denham, a Republican from Atwater, saw himself , opposed to a dismissal in order to give the Democrats a veto-safe two-thirds majority in the Senate. Denham won easily with 75% of the vote. The only substitute candidate was a Democrat, and only 38% of the electorate cast their vote. But the numbers show the strange developments that can happen between races. Only 20,043 people voted to remove Denham, but 30,946 eventually voted for the Democrat in the replacement race. More than 10,000 voters voted to keep Denham and elect a Democrat to replace him.

In 1995, Republicans gained control of the assembly, but Spokesman Willie Brown put forward the ultimate Houdini political ploy, one Getting Republicans to vote for him and, if he was successfully recalled, wooed another Republican by his side. In the end, three members of the assembly were recalled that year, all of whom were targeted by Republicans – Paul Horcher and Doris Allen, both elected Republicans but ultimately backing Brown, and Michael Machado, a Democrat from a marginal seat.

Horcher overwhelmingly lost, 61.6% against. In the replacement race, voter turnout fell by more than 16%. The Republican candidate won 39.25%, but the Republicans combined got 76% of the vote, beating the votes for keeping Horcher.

Machado easily retained his seat with nearly 63% of the vote. In the replacement race, only 66% of voters cast their votes. Despite his feat, a Republican would have been elected to replace Machado, and together the Republicans won 68%.

Anyone who flipped after Horcher’s removal was also kicked out, with 65% of the vote against them. More than 90% of the voters who cast their vote in the recall campaign voted on a substitute candidate. The Republicans won that race by 68.44%.

In 1994, when the recall returned to the city after an 80-year absence, Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti knocked back the challenge, being 59% voted no. Almost 40% left the replacement empty. The only Democrat would have won the reserve race, but that may be because the Republicans didn’t believe much in a chance and didn’t band together. In fact, the four Republicans together got 63.5% of the vote.

If we go back to 1914, the state Senator E.E. Grant removed on recall and replaced with the senator he defeated to win office, Eddie Wolfe.

The other states to check out are Colorado, which has the exact same one-day / two-step process like California, and Michigan, which at the time had a two-day / two-step process in which the replacement vote takes place on a different day. (Michigan has since changed its recall law.)

In 2013, Colorado had its only state recall vote in its history in which two Democratic senators lost their seats. The Democrats did not provide a replacement and the Republicans went to victory. The turnout fell sharply, but it was all on the Democratic side. Even without real opposition, the Republican successors lost less than 3% of the vote.

Michigan has had four recall votes. In 1983, two Democratic state senators were removed from office. Both were later replaced by Republicans. In our only counterexample, a member of the Michigan House was ousted and replaced by another Republican in 2011. That vote came months later, though, giving Republicans plenty of time to band together.

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Perhaps most revealing is the 2008 recall attempt against Michigan House spokesman Andy Dillon. The recall took place on election day when Dillon ran for re-election. So Dillon appeared twice on the ballot, once for his election and once for his recall. He won both slightly, but the drop in the vote on the recall is remarkable. While nearly 4,000 voters for Dillon fell (86%), the recall forces retained 99% of the vote and lost a total of 54 votes.

The notion that the party’s candidate would lose the recall, but a member of the White Knights Party created a split opposition will strike back is not what happens. In fact, if you lose the recall, the most likely outcome is that if you lose the recall, you will lose the reserve race. While the news was botched, Newsom and the Democrats were right to act accordingly.

Joshua Spivak is a Senior Fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College, [email protected] He is the author of Recall Elections: From Alexander Hamilton to Gavin Newsom. This comment was written for CalMatters.

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