In California, both Republicans and Democrats say the threat of a recall election has shaped Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
Things have been looking up in California. Vaccines will soon be available to everyone over 16. Los Angeles schools are about to bring hundreds of thousands of students back to classrooms. Disneyland, dark for a year, will throw open its gates in just a few weeks.
At the state capital, however, the coronavirus pandemic still clouds Gov. Gavin Newsom’s horizon. Soon, the secretary of state is expected to announce that a campaign to recall him has officially qualified for a special election.
Led by Trump stalwarts, amplified by Republican National Committee money and fueled during the pandemic by Mr. Newsom’s own political missteps, the recall initiative is widely regarded as a long shot. Putting it on the ballot requires roughly 1.5 million signatures from disgruntled voters, a drop in the Democrat-dominated bucket of 40 million residents.
But even if Mr. Newsom prevails, the pandemic has both tested and tarnished him politically.
Mr. Newsom presented the plan last month as proof of his determination to ensure that rich Californians did not crowd the poor out of access to scarce vaccinations. But the policy change also helped Mr. Newsom politically.
A new tweak in the system for determining health restrictions let a county move into a lower tier once a critical mass of vaccinations had been administered in disadvantaged ZIP codes. Many of those targeted ZIP codes were in Los Angeles, where teachers’ unions were refusing to return to classrooms until the county was out of the strictest level of health rules. Parent groups, meanwhile, were demanding in-person instruction.
Dr. Smith — whose Bay Area county has plenty of poor people but virtually none of the targeted ZIP codes — said the vaccine targets were part of a “fake equity plan,” based less on fairness than on Mr. Newsom’s desire to open up Los Angeles.
“What’s really going on has nothing to do with distribution,” said Dr. Smith, who serves in a nonpartisan position but said he identifies as a Democrat. “It has to do with the governor’s desire to buy himself out of the recall election by reopening Southern California as fast as he can.”
It is unclear how much voters will care about Mr. Newsom’s mix of motivations. Californians, who overwhelmingly opposed former President Donald J. Trump in the last election, are unlikely to replace a Democratic governor if their main alternatives are limited to the current challengers, who are Republican supporters of Mr. Trump.
Gain access to all our Premium contents.
More than 100+ articles.
Unlock this article and gain permanent access to read it.