September 18, 2021

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Many Californians Don’t Know There’s a Special Election – The New York Times

5 min read

PALMDALE — The light was fading on what had been a breezy 101-degree afternoon by the time the two women with clipboards approached Ashley Reyes, who sat watching her son and his cousins play in her gated driveway.

Had she heard, the women wondered, about the election coming up on Sept. 14?

“No,” Reyes replied, a look of puzzled curiosity crossing her face. What election?

I saw this scene and many similar ones play out this month when I tagged along with Karen Diaz, 27, and Tanairy Guzman Reyes, 22, as they knocked on doors in Palmdale, a city north of Los Angeles. They were hoping to bolster support for Gov. Gavin Newsom as he faces an attempt to recall him from office.

Voters, who by now should have gotten their ballots by mail, will be asked two questions: Should Newsom be recalled from office? And if so, who should replace him?

The recall was once a long shot initiated by Republicans who disliked the governor’s positions on issues like the death penalty and immigration. But the effort gained steam during the coronavirus pandemic, as conservative Californians bridled at business restrictions and mask mandates.

As my colleague Shawn Hubler and I recently wrote, Democratic voters vastly outnumber Republicans in California, but experts say Newsom could be stymied by ambivalence and a lack of awareness about the election, particularly among those most likely to support him.

That has progressive groups, including the state and national Democratic parties, working to sound the alarm: Newsom could be replaced by a Republican if Democrats don’t cast their ballots.

For many of the state’s Latino voters, the fear is acute that Newsom’s successor might roll back rights for undocumented immigrants or remove restrictions that protect essential workers, experts told me.

“This election is too important to sit out,” said Diaz, who is the electoral field manager for the immigrant advocacy group CHIRLA Action Fund, based in Los Angeles.

We trudged up and down the sun-bleached streets of the neighborhood where Diaz grew up — her “home turf,” she said. She knew that many of the voters would be hearing from a political campaign for the first time.

Her colleague, Guzman Reyes, who grew up in neighboring Lancaster, said she wasn’t initially aware of the recall election, but when she found out that Newsom could be removed, she wanted to alert community members.

“A lot of people don’t vote in special elections,” she said. “And it’s coming out of nowhere, really.”

While experts initially predicted that the election would be in November, Newsom’s allies moved to hold the vote earlier, allowing the governor to capitalize on optimism that we were finally leaving the pandemic behind. But as the Delta variant rages, that plan could backfire, experts say.

So, Diaz and Guzman Reyes knocked on door after door, approaching people who were washing their cars or tidying their garages.

Some of the residents, like Reyes, pledged to cast their votes for Newsom after speaking with the canvassers. One woman said her voice didn’t matter.

A few, though, had already heard about the election.

Javier Rivera, 49, said he would vote to keep Newsom, who he said had handled a difficult situation well. He sees the governor as a staunch opponent of the former president.

“I would have voted for Daffy Duck if he was against Trump,” he said.

But Rivera said he was concerned: “For whatever reason, it feels like most of the noise is coming from Republicans.”

Edgar Robleto, 62, who spoke with Diaz and Guzman Reyes through a metal screen door, said he wanted Newsom “gone.” Pandemic restrictions, he said, were “overboard,” and he’d lost work as a bus operator.

“My credit cards are to the top,” he told me.

But Robleto said he didn’t know whom he’d vote for to replace the governor. He said he would find information on Facebook and YouTube, and wait to hear from leaders of his church.

For more:

Jill Cowan is a New York Times reporter, currently based in Los Angeles.


The blood-testing start-up Theranos collapsed in scandal in 2018.

Yet female entrepreneurs say they’re still compared to its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, even when their companies bear little resemblance to Theranos.

As the Times reporter Erin Griffith writes, the audacity of Holmes’s story “has permeated popular culture and left behind a seemingly indelible image of how female founders can push boundaries.”

Read the full piece.


Red-pepper flakes, capers and tomato paste turn a simple cherry tomato sauce into an easy weeknight pasta that tastes more complicated than it is.

Today’s California travel tip comes from Kay Johnson, a reader who lives in Redding. Kay writes:

My favorite spot to visit is the Sundial Bridge here in Redding. The bridge was designed by the internationally renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, whose latest project is the Oculus transportation hub in the World Trade Center in New York City. Of course, the best days to visit are the first weekend of each summer month when free tours are available. Then folks can easily go north to see Lake Shasta Caverns (including a ride across Shasta Lake to access the caverns) and Mt. Shasta; east to see McArthur-Burney Falls and Mt. Lassen; or west to visit the gold-mining town of Weaverville and the pristine Trinity Alps wilderness — all of the fabulous variety the far northern part of California has to offer.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Please include your name and where you live so we can share your tip in the newsletter. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com.


Do you have questions about the upcoming recall election? Send them to us at CAtoday@nytimes.com and we’ll try to answer some in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


In January 2017, Amy Verhey went to Bissap Baobab, a Senegalese restaurant in San Francisco, to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

There, she began talking to Chidiebere Nnaji, a student from Nigeria who often sought refuge in the bar, which reminded him of home.

In July of this year, Verhey and Nnaji married in Mill Valley. Read the story from The Times.


Thanks for reading. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Like apple seeds and rhubarb leaves, in large quantities (5 letters).

Soumya Karlamangla, Steven Moity and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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