AILSA CHANG, HOST:
A reality TV star, a conservative talk show host and a new-age shaman. Those are just some of the 46 candidates now vying to unseat the governor of California, Gavin Newsom - that is, if voters choose to remove him from office in September. After some last-minute maneuvering, the list of candidates in this recall push is now final. Ballots will be sent out in less than a month. And CapRadio reporter Nicole Nixon in Sacramento joins us now to talk about this recall. Welcome.
NICOLE NIXON, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.
CHANG: So I understand this massive list got whittled down. There were some fights in court yesterday to get on the ballot. Who ultimately made it?
NIXON: Well, this list is long, as you mentioned, so we won't get into everyone. But a few of the most recognizable names is Republican reality star Caitlyn Jenner. There are few elected officials, media personalities, and there were some last-minute additions. One is a conservative talk show host, Larry Elder. He wasn't on the preliminary list because of an issue with his tax returns. California requires candidates to show their taxes. But a judge yesterday said that the law does not apply to a recall, only regular elections.
CHANG: OK, well, with all of these candidates, are there any real contenders - I mean, like, anyone who could galvanize voters like Arnold Schwarzenegger did back in - what was it? - the 2003 recall?
NIXON: Yeah. So name ID will be key here since this election is so close and there's not a lot of time to campaign. Kevin Faulconer, San Diego's former mayor, is a front runner. Larry Elder, that talk radio host, has a lot of fans, and they're riled up. Establishment Democrats are lined up behind Newsom, so no big names there. And the question in this recall is really whether Democratic voters turn out, and polling has shown that Republicans are more likely to vote in this race.
CHANG: OK. Well, California is facing a lot of big issues right now. I mean, we've got a spike in COVID cases here. We've got a drought, wildfires. How do you think those issues will affect the recall vote?
NIXON: It's a great question because while the recall petition began just before COVID hit California in early 2020, people - mainly Republicans who were upset about how Newsom handled the pandemic - really pushed it forward. Now, Newsom is saying that this whole thing is just a power grab by Republicans. But cases here are rising with the delta variant, so that could be a problem for the governor. If there are more restrictions, people might blame him. If it complicates kids getting back into classrooms, back to school is right when people will be voting.
And the recall is also at peak wildfire season, though we already are seeing big fires. That timing could affect voters' moods, too. And California's in a record drought, but Newsom has not implemented mandatory water restrictions. It could be that he doesn't want to anger voters before the recall.
CHANG: OK. And real quick on the whole process, California's secretary of state recently said that there are some serious problems with recall laws. What is she talking about there?
NIXON: So she thinks that the entire process here deserves a second look, everything from the number of signatures required to force a recall - it's lower in California than other states - to the fact that we could even have a recall so close to a regular election because Newsom's term is up next year. But she says all of these things should be looked at after this recall.
CHANG: That is CapRadio reporter Nicole Nixon. Thank you, Nicole.
NIXON: You're welcome.
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