President Joe Biden plans on stumping for California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom ahead of next month’s vote on whether to recall him from office, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
Though Psaki did not give a date for when Biden might travel to the Golden State, she said an appearance by Biden to support Newsom was “still certainly his plan” despite the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan, as well as the ongoing illegal immigration crisis playing out on California’s doorstep since Biden took office.
The news came two days before Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to join Newsom for a campaign event in the Bay Area, where both pols have deep roots. The event will take place as Harris makes her way back to Washington from her trip to Singapore and Vietnam.
Democratic activists have expressed concern about polls forecasting a close result on the question of whether to keep Newsom as governor or force him out of office. The intervention of both Biden and Harris signifies that the White House is taking those warnings seriously.
Biden issued a statement earlier this month urging voters to stick with Newsom, saying the governor had been “a key partner in fighting the pandemic and delivering economic relief to working families and helping us build our economy back better than ever.”
Voters who take part in the Sept. 14 recall election must first answer whether Newsom should be recalled. They will then be asked to choose who they think should replace him from a list of 46 candidates.
If a simple majority votes “yes” on the first question, Newsom will be the second California Democratic governor to be recalled in fewer than 20 years. If that happens, whoever from the list of 46 candidates receives the most votes will become the state’s next governor.
Newsom was elected governor in 2018 with nearly 62 percent of the vote after eight years as lieutenant governor under Jerry Brown. However, his popularity took a hit after he imposed draconian restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — which he was caught undermining on numerous occasions.
The recall drive against Newsom went into overdrive after he was photographed last November attending a maskless dinner with 11 others at the exclusive French Laundry eatery in Napa County after telling Californians to avoid gatherings of more than three households. He has also been criticized for sending his children to a private school that adopted a hybrid learning model while most public school students remained stuck in remote learning last school year.
Psaki declined to say whether the White House considered the recall vote a referendum on Democratic governors’ handling of the pandemic, telling reporters that she would “leave the analysis on the roots of the recall to others.”
Newsom and his supporters have characterized the recall election as a desperate attempt by state Republicans to gain power in Sacramento, where Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature.
The last Republican to win a regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in California was Arnold Schwarzenegger. The actor accomplished the feat in 2006, three years after winning the state’s first-ever recall election.