Many Californians Don’t Know There’s a Recall. That’s Not Good for Newsom.

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California Today

The special election is set for Sept. 14.

Jill Cowan

Aug. 25, 2021, 8:49 a.m. ET


A drop box for voting by mail at the library in Paramount.
Credit...Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

PALMDALE — The light was fading on what had been a breezy 101-degree afternoon by the time the two women with clipboards approached Ashley Reyes, who sat watching her son and his cousins play in her gated driveway.

Had she heard, the women wondered, about the election coming up on Sept. 14?

“No,” Reyes replied, a look of puzzled curiosity crossing her face. What election?

I saw this scene and many similar ones play out this month when I tagged along with Karen Diaz, 27, and Tanairy Guzman Reyes, 22, as they knocked on doors in Palmdale, a city north of Los Angeles. They were hoping to bolster support for Gov. Gavin Newsom as he faces an attempt to recall him from office.

Voters, who by now should have gotten their ballots by mail, will be asked two questions: Should Newsom be recalled from office? And if so, who should replace him?

The recall was once a long shot initiated by Republicans who disliked the governor’s positions on issues like the death penalty and immigration. But the effort gained steam during the coronavirus pandemic, as conservative Californians bridled at business restrictions and mask mandates.

As my colleague Shawn Hubler and I recently wrote, Democratic voters vastly outnumber Republicans in California, but experts say Newsom could be stymied by ambivalence and a lack of awareness about the election, particularly among those most likely to support him.

That has progressive groups, including the state and national Democratic parties, working to sound the alarm: Newsom could be replaced by a Republican if Democrats don’t cast their ballots.

For many of the state’s Latino voters, the fear is acute that Newsom’s successor might roll back rights for undocumented immigrants or remove restrictions that protect essential workers, experts told me.

“This election is too important to sit out,” said Diaz, who is the electoral field manager for the immigrant advocacy group CHIRLA Action Fund, based in Los Angeles.

We trudged up and down the sun-bleached streets of the neighborhood where Diaz grew up — her “home turf,” she said. She knew that many of the voters would be hearing from a political campaign for the first time.

Her colleague, Guzman Reyes, who grew up in neighboring Lancaster, said she wasn’t initially aware of the recall election, but when she found out that Newsom could be removed, she wanted to alert community members.

“A lot of people don’t vote in special elections,” she said. “And it’s coming out of nowhere, really.”


Credit...Rozette Rago for The New York Times

While experts initially predicted that the election would be in November, Newsom’s allies moved to hold the vote earlier, allowing the governor to capitalize on optimism that we were finally leaving the pandemic behind. But as the Delta variant rages, that plan could backfire, experts say.

So, Diaz and Guzman Reyes knocked on door after door, approaching people who were washing their cars or tidying their garages.

Some of the residents, like Reyes, pledged to cast their votes for Newsom after speaking with the canvassers. One woman said her voice didn’t matter.

A few, though, had already heard about the election.

Javier Rivera, 49, said he would vote to keep Newsom, who he said had handled a difficult situation well. He sees the governor as a staunch opponent of the former president.

“I would have voted for Daffy Duck if he was against Trump,” he said.

But Rivera said he was concerned: “For whatever reason, it feels like most of the noise is coming from Republicans.”

Edgar Robleto, 62, who spoke with Diaz and Guzman Reyes through a metal screen door, said he wanted Newsom “gone.” Pandemic restrictions, he said, were “overboard,” and he’d lost work as a bus operator.

“My credit cards are to the top,” he told me.

But Robleto said he didn’t know whom he’d vote for to replace the governor. He said he would find information on Facebook and YouTube, and wait to hear from leaders of his church.

For more:

Jill Cowan is a New York Times reporter, currently based in Los Angeles.

The blood-testing start-up Theranos collapsed in scandal in 2018.

Yet female entrepreneurs say they’re still compared to its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, even when their companies bear little resemblance to Theranos.

As the Times reporter Erin Griffith writes, the audacity of Holmes’s story “has permeated popular culture and left behind a seemingly indelible image of how female founders can push boundaries.”

Read the full piece.


Credit...Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times


  • Caldor fire: The fire east of Sacramento has burned more than 100,000 acres in 10 days and is quickly approaching the Lake Tahoe basin.

  • California’s fire history: Last year’s fire season was the worst ever recorded in the state, and officials are warning that more records could be set this year. The Los Angeles Times has compiled a list of the largest and most destructive fires to date.

  • Airbnb to host refugees: On Tuesday, Airbnb announced that it intended to provide free temporary housing for 20,000 Afghan refugees, and said it placed 165 refugees in housing across the United States, including in California.

  • Minor drop in home prices: In July, the median price for a single-family home in California dropped 1 percent from June to $811,170. It is the fourth consecutive month that median prices in California were above $800,000, The Sacramento Bee reports.


  • School goes coed: On Thursday, Archbishop Riordan High School became the last of the historic Roman Catholic boys schools in San Francisco to go coed, welcoming ​​296 girls to its campus, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • San Quentin lawsuit: The family of Sgt. Gilbert Polanco, a San Quentin State Prison guard who died of Covid-19 in August 2020, has filed a lawsuit claiming a botched transfer of inmates led to an outbreak that killed him, according to The Sacramento Bee.

  • Mars project greenlight: Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory have received the greenlight from NASA for a mission to put two satellites into orbit around Mars, NBC Bay Area reports.

  • Trash crisis in Oakland: Between July 2020 and June 2021, Oakland’s city crews picked up 70,000 cubic yards of illegally dumped trash. The sanitary problem precedes the pandemic, in part because the city has some of the highest waste-collection fees in Alameda County and years of lax enforcement, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • Harry Denton: Often called the “Big Man,” Harry Denton — a fun-loving San Francisco barman — has died at 77, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.


  • Hazardous air quality: The air quality in Lake Tahoe was hazardous on Tuesday because of smoke from the Caldor fire. With a reading of over 300, it was one of the worst in the country, The Sacramento Bee reports.

  • Covid hospitalizations: In Fresno County and other counties in the valley, Covid-19 hospitalizations are rising at the fastest rates of the pandemic. The Fresno Bee tracks the rise.

  • Tulare County water crisis: Residents of Tooleville have long relied on contaminated groundwater for tap water, and declining water levels have made matters worse. So on Aug. 23, the state took a step toward extending nearby Exeter’s water supply to Tooleville, The Fresno Bee reports.

  • Death Valley hiking deaths: Two hikers died of extreme heat on Golden Valley Trail in Death Valley in the past week, which can reach 115 degrees this time of year, according to The Sacramento Bee.


  • Covid-19 rates: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released on Tuesday found that Covid-19 infection rates in Los Angeles County between May 1 and July 25 were 4.9 times higher among unvaccinated people. The hospitalization rate was 29 times higher among the unvaccinated.

  • Return to campus: The University of Southern California, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal State Long Beach returned to in-person classes on Monday, with the University of California, Los Angeles, to start on Sept. 23. The Los Angeles Times details the joys, frustrations and protocols accompanying a return to campus.

  • $100,000 of stolen items: Members of the Pomona Homeless Encampment Action Response Team found $100,000 worth of items that had been stolen from a Union Pacific Railroad train while they cleaned up homeless encampments on Saturday, The Press-Enterprise reports.

  • Large tax fraud: On Friday, the siblings Yan and William Lu — former owners of multiple San Gabriel Valley restaurants, including Mama’s Lu Dumpling House — pleaded guilty to evading taxes of more than $2 million, LAist reports.


Credit...David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Red-pepper flakes, capers and tomato paste turn a simple cherry tomato sauce into an easy weeknight pasta that tastes more complicated than it is.



Today’s California travel tip comes from Kay Johnson, a reader who lives in Redding. Kay writes:

My favorite spot to visit is the Sundial Bridge here in Redding. The bridge was designed by the internationally renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, whose latest project is the Oculus transportation hub in the World Trade Center in New York City. Of course, the best days to visit are the first weekend of each summer month when free tours are available. Then folks can easily go north to see Lake Shasta Caverns (including a ride across Shasta Lake to access the caverns) and Mt. Shasta; east to see McArthur-Burney Falls and Mt. Lassen; or west to visit the gold-mining town of Weaverville and the pristine Trinity Alps wilderness — all of the fabulous variety the far northern part of California has to offer.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Please include your name and where you live so we can share your tip in the newsletter. Email your suggestions to

Do you have questions about the upcoming recall election? Send them to us at and we’ll try to answer some in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

In January 2017, Amy Verhey went to Bissap Baobab, a Senegalese restaurant in San Francisco, to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

There, she began talking to Chidiebere Nnaji, a student from Nigeria who often sought refuge in the bar, which reminded him of home.

In July of this year, Verhey and Nnaji married in Mill Valley. Read the story from The Times.

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Like apple seeds and rhubarb leaves, in large quantities (5 letters).

Soumya Karlamangla, Steven Moity and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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