Radical Centrist Guide to the California Gubernatorial Recall

46 candidates will appear on the September 14th ballot for California’s gubernatorial recall election. I plan on voting Yes on the recall of Governor Newsom and retain my endorsement of Louis Marinelli for 2022 but he will not appear on next month’s recall ballot. It looks like it will be a very close election with a poll from SurveyUSA taken from August 2-4 showing support for the recall at 51% vs. 40% against, a survey from YouGov administered on August 6-12 showing 46% Yes and 54% no, and a more recent poll on August 17th from Five Thirty Eight showing a narrowing margin with 48.8% to keep and 47.6% for remove.

Among the candidates running against Newsom, that same YouGov poll conducted on August 6-12 shows Larry Elder as the leading challenger against Newsom at 23% with Kevin Paffrath, Newsom’s main Democratic challenger, next at 13%. The poll shows the other GOP candidates trailing behind with John Cox, Kevin Faulconer, and Kevin Kiley tied at 3% and Ted Gaines, Kaitlyn Jenner, and Doug Ose tied at 2%.

The SurveyUSA taken on August 2-4 shows a partisan breakdown with Republicans supporting the recall by an 8:1 margin, Independents 5:3, and Democrats opposing the recall, but by a 3:1 margin. The demographic breakdown shows White voters supporting the recall by a wide margin of 56% to 35%, Latino support by a more narrow margin of 47% to 41%, Black voters against the recall by a 52-point margin and Asians by a 37-point margin.”

It appears that California’s Asians and African Americans are still fairly loyal to the Democratic Party but among Whites and Latinos, the State’s two largest groups, about half are looking for an alternative, with a recent LA Times column by Gustavo Arellano predicting that Latino voters could cost Governor Newsom his job. The support for the recall shows that a majority oppose single-party Democratic rule, but also that we currently lack a unified alternative to fight for the interests of Californians.

I put forth multiple endorsements for the candidacies of James G Hanink of the American Solidarity Party, Dan Kapelovitz of the Green Party, and Nickolas Wildstar, a Libertarian running as a Republican. While there is no candidate that perfectly matches my views and values, the factors that I’ve taken into account include policy proposals but also who has the best shot at winning if the recall passes.

Starting out with James G Hanink a former LMU professor who is the nominee of the American Solidarity Party. His campaign platform calls for localized government, distributist-based economic solutions and more communitarian social values. The case can be made that distributism addresses the flaws of capitalism but also protects private property and is preferable to mass state ownership and management of the economy. While Hanick is socially conservative, he has a consistent whole life message and has communitarian values that are needed to counter social atomization. The American Solidarity Party may struggle to appeal to California’s more socially liberal coastal demographic but could have appeal to significant segments of Californians, including working class religious Latinos in the Central Valley and Inland Empire as well as the White working class Obama-to-Trump voters in Northern California. Regardless of if the American Solidarity Party gains traction, distributism is something that has the potential to have a wide appeal to a range of the public from conservative populists to Progressives.

All left-leaning voters should consider the candidacy of Green Party candidate and criminal defense attorney Dan Kapelovitz. Even though he may be ideologically to the left of me, out of the three candidate I’ve endorsed, he has the best chance of challenging Larry Elder. Kapelovitz is attuned to California values and could unite the progressive faction that is disillusioned with Newsom. Another reason to support his candidacy is his advocacy of ranked choice voting as a signature issue. Ranked Choice would empower independents and anti-establishment candidates and that alone is enough for those who want to grant a voice to alternative candidates to coalesce around his campaign. Kapelovitz takes strong stances in favor of animal rights, a basic income, ending mass incarceration, and building more affordable housing.

Nickolas Wildstar (Campaign Site) is a recording artist, political activist, and was a former candidate for Fullerton City Council, Fresno Mayor, and a Libertarian candidate for California Governor in 2018. Wildstar was also active in the campaign to recall Newson, and while he has more libertarian stances such as calling for making state income taxation voluntary, he has a populist streak, calling for economically empowering Californians through a public bank and public ownership of utilities. The fundamental difference with Larry Elder’s strain of  conservative libertarianism is that Wildstar’s vision has the potential for empowering the people via public banking and political decentralization while Elder’s economic vision is more pro-corporate.

Other candidates that I’d like to give a shoutout to who deserve more media coverage, include Michael Loebs (Campaign Site) who has taught as a lecturer at San Francisco State University and is chairman of the California National Party, a political party dedicated to California Independence. While Nickolas Wildstar has also expressed support for California independence and the Calexit advocate, who I initially endorsed, Louis Marinelli is not on the ballot, Michael Loebs has made Calexit his signature campaign issue. Michael Loebs has stances that are generally to the left on both economic and cultural issues with his platform calling for both a Universal Basic Income and a negative income tax.

Another candidate who deserves a shoutout is Adam Papagan, a tour guide and entertainer from LA who is running unaffiliated. His campaign message that anyone can insert oneself into the narrative encapsulates California values and is enough to consider his campaign. He has a political message that is a kind of leftwing populism that is simple and pragmatic rather than overtly ideological like a lot of progressives, calling to build more housing and to tax billionaires to help out Californians in need.

Among the conservatives a candidate who stands out is Daniel R. Mercuri, co-ceo of an independent production company and navy veteran. With perhaps the most in-depth platform of any candidate, a platform that includes economic conservative stances, opposition to vaccine mandates, tough on crime stances, hawkish on illegal immigration, a skeptic of antifa and blm, and for school choice. He  takes out of the box stances on educating Californians on bitcoin, however, and incentivizing the use of vacant properties to house the homeless. He also focuses on unique California issues including a stance on theme parks, recognizing their importance to California and proposes a state digital bill of rights which is the strongest stance against tech censorship of any candidate running. Mercuri is a conservative populist with a unique California bent.

The current GOP frontrunner Larry Elder, is a talk radio host, attorney, and documentary filmmaker. He has a campaign platform that is actually quite simple and lacking in intricate policy proposals for someone who has made a living as a pundit. Elder’s campaign has benefited off of his fame and mass following, but like Newsom he has arrogantly not participated in the debates with other candidates. Larry Elder is an icon of Black conservatism, an LA native, and has taken radically rightwing economic stances such as opposing the minimum wage. He aligns with conservative stances on many crime issues and opposes Critical Race Theory, but he has more libertarian stances that part ways with conservatism. For instance he has opposed protectionist trade policies proposed by Donald Trump, criticized the war on drugs, and blames the high housing costs on environmental regulations in favor of allowing for more housing construction, which may also put him at odds with NIMBY conservatives. Recently an LA Times columnist referred to Larry Elder as White Supremacy in Black Face and predicted that life will get harder for Black and Latino Californians under an Elder Administration. These racial based attacks against Elder are extremely divisive, as he is fairly moderate on cultural issues, but it is his economic views that are to the right of even most Republican elected officials. While government in California is bureaucratic and inefficient, Elder’s economic proposals are austerity measures and he is known for a bootstraps mentality that is out of touch with California’s needs and values. While I agree with Larry Elder on many school choice issues and his opposition to CRT,  his far right economics, and a hostile media further fueling the  culture war will create a barrier to putting those ideas such as school vouchers and opposing mandates of CRT into fruition. Elder is ideological rather than pragmatic on many issues and if elected governor, while he might be a shock to the system, most likely there will be extreme gridlock in Sacramento which has its pros and cons. Looking at the demographics of Larry Elder’s support, the SurveyUSA shows that Elder “runs strongly among older voters, among Republicans and conservatives, and leads among independents 27% to 19%. Elder leads 2:1 in the Inland Empire and by 30 points in rural CA.”

I am very critical of Elder but at least he has consistent ideological principles. In contrast the campaign of fellow Republican Caitlyn Jenner, who has a background as an entertainer and lacks the political track record, feels very manufactured by the GOP donor class. Jenner briefly appeared to be the GOP frontrunner until other candidates such as Elder usurped her support and publicity. Like Elder she takes stances that are economically right wing, such as pro-business, critical of covid lockdowns, and for low taxes and regulations, but is socially moderate, even if she ran afoul on the issue of trans sports. While the entertainment value is a plus, like with Elder her policy proposals are lacking, an issue with many top tier candidates who don’t want to reveal too much about their plans.

Former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, has carved out a niche as the centrist Republican, but his campaign has fallen way behind Elder in the polls. Faulconer has parted ways with Republicans on issue such as climate change, distancing himself from Trump, housing the unhoused in San Diego’s convention center, supports certain criminal justice reforms such as a ban on chokeholds, and is fairly socially liberal. As mayor Faulconer took a middle ground on the pandemic, closing bars but not the beach, and has said no to mask mandates. On a more conservative note he vetoed a minimum wage increase passed by the San Diego City Council. As mayor he was fairly YIMBY, pushing to up-zone San Diego and was friendlier to affordable housing, but has changed his tune recently, a missed opportunity to call out Newsom for failing to build new housing. There has been some concerns about his lobbying ties and his platform is fairly bland but overall he did a decent job as mayor.

Besides Faulconer, the other moderate Republican running is John H. Cox, a self-financed failed previous gubernatorial candidate. Like Faulconer, Cox was an anti-Trump Republican but has vey generic conservative platform proposals such as reopening the economy and slashing taxes, that lack more specific details. Overall a very bland and uninspiring campaign, despite gimmicks such as his infamous Bear commercial, and his attempts in recent years to grab the coattails of populist Trumpism.

Kevin Kiley is a Republican California State Assembly Representative, the youngest of top polling republicans, and has staunchly opposed Newsom’s handling of the pandemic and lockdowns. Kiley takes fairly standard conservative stances of fiscal conservatism and government accountability and supports desalination, deregulation of business, tough on crime stances, and a technology focused message including teaching stem in schools.

Ted Gaines is an elected official, serving on the board of equalization, and a former state senator. His campaign message is focused on the quality of life but he is a fairly standard conservative. Gaines is pro prop 13 with a straight record of voting in line with the Howard Jarvis Tax Payer’s Association for lower taxes and for building more housing by cutting regulations. He also has a tougher stance on the homeless crisis, and an immigration message that is pro legal immigration but anti-sanctuary city. He supports forest thinning to deal with wildfires, opposes the high-speed rail, and promises to focus on ensuring voter integrity.

Other Republicans running include, Robert C Newman II, Denver Stone, Rhonda D. Furin, Joe M. Symmon who is a Kenyan born Clergyman with a pro-life social conservative message, Sam L. Galluci also a pastor with a fairly pragmatic conservative vision, David Hillberg, Steve Chavez Lodge, David Lozano, Chauncey “Slim” Killens, entrepreneur Leo S. Zacky, Anthony Trimino a Cuban American entrepreneur, Diego Martinez an immigrant from Uruguay and a businessman, Sarah L. Stephens a mother pastor and community leader with a conservative vision to make California Gold Again, Jenny Rae Le Roux a business owner focused on ending fraud, waste, and mismanagement, and David Alexander Bramante the only candidate not accepting donations and an interesting personal story that touches upon the class dynamics of LA. Doug Ose is a former Republican Congressman who qualified for the ballot but recently dropped out due to a heart attack.

On the Democratic side, Kevin Paffrath is a real estate broker, investor, and financial news youtuber. He clearly takes the majority of the anti-Newsom Democratic voters.As a young entrepreneur with videos about crypto currencies and the wall street bets short stop scandal, he has appeal to the sort of demographic who follow Joe Rogan and Elon Musk.

Paffrath proposes the below executive action if elected to governor:

On the homelessness crisis: “Day-One State of Emergency: Ending Homeless on our Streets in 60 Days with the National Guard deployed DAY ONE,”

On schooling: “Day-One State of Emergency: Solving our Schooling Crisis to Educate Students DEBT FREE for a career by 18 and preventing homelessness and crime/recidivism

On housing: “Day-One State of Emergency: State-wide, streamlined Building and Safety to Build 2 million homes in 4 years. 5-7 times the current pace of construction to solve the housing crisis”.

On transportation: “ Day-One State of Emergency: Solving the Transportation Emergency in Partnership with Private Businesses and Optional Toll Roads/Tunnels.”

He is very YIMBY on housing proposing building 300,000 new homes per year, a Future school proposal that “combine[s] college, trade school, high school, & financial education.” Per Paffrath: “they might be separate facilities or combined with our existing educational infrastructure (as a curriculum choice).”

Paffrath has a more conservative stance, however on the homeless crisis. Other stances include support for community policing, No State Income Tax on the first $250,000 of Income, legalizing gambling, working with the federal government toward an “accelerated, faster, LEGAL immigration process”, a handyperson licensing program, and plans to end covid without more lockdowns.

Paffrath presents himself as the Democratic alternative to Newsom but takes many stances that appeal to Conservatives and Libertarians. He is neither a progressive nor a mainstream Democrat but rather has more of a libertarian centrist appeal. He is the runner up after Larry Elder and while I don’t agree with him on many issues he would certainly be an improvement over Newsom and preferable to Larry Elder. The SurveyUSA shows that “Democrat Kevin Paffrath, a YouTuber and real estate broker, takes 27% of the replacement vote today. Paffrath draws particular support from younger voters, Latinos, Democrats and liberals. Out of those who oppose recalling Newsome, but plan to vote for a candidate in the second section of their ballot just in case, Paffrath—not surprisingly as the technical Democract frontrunner—leads 12:1. Paffrath leads 2:1 in greater Los Angeles and by 35 points in urban parts of the state.

Other Democrats include Patrick Kilpatrick, Daniel Watts, Armando Perez-Serrato, Jacqueline McGowan,  Holly L. Baade,  and Brandon M. Ross, and the two main progressive democrat challengers are John R. Drake, a 20 year old Cal Poly Student, and Joel A Ventresca, a retired administrator, analyst, and safety security risk expert with San Francisco International Airport.

Other independent third party candidates include Angelyn, a previous recall candidate and an icon of my childhood in LA where she was on every billboard ad (the appeal here is basically getting to vote for a landmark), Heather JW Collins of the green party, libertarian Jeff Hewitt, independent Major Singh who has an interesting centrist platform, independent Jeremiah Jeremy Marciniak, independents Dennis Lucey, David Moore,  Kevin Kaul. There are so many other candidates, and I apologize for bot being able to cover them all.  

The Recall race will be very close and while Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are campaigning against the recall, the Democrats are so partisan that I predict many will just vote no on the recall and leave the candidates box blank rather than choosing a candidate as insurance in case the recall passes, as Newsom is advising supporters to leave the candidate box blank. Because of this there is a high chance Elder will become governor. Republicans are of course a minority in California, but they seem to have more passion in this particular race. The allegations against the recall being unconstitutional are a total lie, as recalls are a legal tradition embedded in the California state constitution. The recall allows people to get elected who would have had practically zero chance in the general election.