“We can’t risk opening the door to some new administration that would be far less prepared to get people vaccinated and far less committed to protecting health care,” Rosselli said, adding that he had spoken with other labor leaders and hoped to win over “some friends that could make some significant contributions.”
Two of the state’s most respected polls this week showed that Newsom’s support has fallen after the state’s worst stretch of the pandemic, during which hospitals were filled beyond capacity and the state surpassed 40,000 Covid-19 deaths. The Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies survey painted a worse picture for Newsom, showing his approval rating has plummeted from two-thirds in September to 46 percent now among all registered voters. Newsom may take comfort in the Public Policy Institute of California poll, which showed him at 52 percent support among likely voters; that’s a drop from the 59 percent he had in November, but still slightly higher than his pre-pandemic numbers.
Growing voter dissatisfaction may lead to the recall qualifying, but that doesn’t mean it will pass. Democrats have a 46 percent to 24 percent registration advantage over Republicans in California, and the IGS poll shows a 45 percent plurality said they would vote to retain Newsom, compared to 36 percent backing his removal.
A day after those polls underscored Newsom’s precarious footing, the governor appeared Wednesday at a press conference in which Bay Area allies lavished praise on his coronavirus management. “I talk to mayors all over the country, and I cannot tell you how lucky we are in California to have Gavin Newsom as governor,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in introducing him.
As allies rally to Newsom’s defense, they will likely remind voters in this overwhelmingly Democratic state that the recall was launched by conservatives and Republicans who supported President Donald Trump — and that the top two GOP challengers backed the president who was deeply unpopular in the state. However, even in California, they can’t overreach in their defense of Newsom; state Democratic Party chair Rusty Hicks was roundly criticized last month when he declared the legal recall effort a “coup,” trying to draw a parallel between the signature drive and the U.S. Capitol siege.
Unlike a normal gubernatorial race, recalls do not limit campaign contributions. That means Newsom could draw on the full financial might of his supporters, including the state’s powerful organized labor movement. California Labor Federation spokesperson Steve Smith said labor leaders were discussing contingency plans to protect a “Democratic governor who’s done a lot of good things for workers.”
“It may not qualify, but we’re always going to be thinking ahead,” Smith said, and while he said groups had not specifically discussed financing, “obviously any campaign you’re talking about a resource allocation.”
But an effort to marshal that support could run into lingering tensions with labor officials who still seethe over what they see as Newsom’s uneven record, including vetoing a job security bill and lending a sympathetic ear to gig companies like Uber in a showdown over worker classification. A union official told the Los Angeles Times that Newsom was “putting us out to die” after shuffling essential food workers out of a top vaccine tier.
Teachers unions, an indispensable political force for California Democrats, are also pushing back on Newsom’s efforts to reopen schools. After the governor said union demands would effectively mean classrooms remain empty, the California Teachers Association retorted that their insistence on vaccines as a prerequisite was “neither a new nor unreasonable notion.”
Some Black women remain angry with Newsom for not appointing a Black woman to replace Vice President Kamala Harris, whose departure from the Senate means the chamber has no African American women. “Newsom and the Party better hope that Black women don’t decide to teach them both a lesson and either sign on to the recall or sit it out should it make it to the ballot,” Jasmyne Cannick, a Los Angeles-based political strategist and Democratic Party delegate, said in an email.
And the governor’s effort to build a united front of elected Democrats has run into the same coronavirus turbulence driving the recall effort. Late last year, Newsom called state legislators to ensure they had his back. Several elected officials joined a January press conference organized in part by Newsom’s team that denounced the recall as a project of the right-wing fringe. But numerous Democratic lawmakers publicly assailed Newsom’s reopening decision last week, saying they had been blindsided and questioning the rationale.