While the final result wasn’t unexpected, the political news over the summer was the fate of California Governor Gavin Newsom, who survived an effort to recall him Tuesday by gathering over 60% of the vote so far – enough to safely assume he will stick around to finish his term next year and perhaps help propel him to re-election against whichever hapless candidate the California GOP will throw on the ballot. Interestingly enough, had Newsom somehow been recalled, the overwhelming winner of the race to replace him would have been black Republican, columnist, and talk show host Larry Elder. Larry received nearly half the vote in an exceptionally crowded replacement field with one caveat: it did not boast a major Democrat, probably because no connected Democrat would risk crossing the state’s political machine. (Yet the field did have the athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner, who ran as a Republican.)
But the reason I’m bringing this up is the theoretical one: here in Delaware, Governor John Carney has led his state in much the same way that Newsom has governed California, using the heaviest of hands last year to browbeat individuals and businesses into attempting to stop the spread of the CCP virus. While things have eased up somewhat in recent months, Carney is running a state that is fat and happy with federal largesse at the moment but one that doesn’t seem to be sharing in the economic recovery from COVID all that well. While recall isn’t an option that’s available to Delaware voters, the question is whether such a bid could succeed if it were.
In California, the Newsom recall (which, by the way, was the 55th such effort, with success coming only in 2003 when Gray Davis was recalled in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger) needed about 1.5 million signatures on a petition drive. (The number is 12% of the number of voters who participated in the previous gubernatorial election.) Based on the 2020 election, such an effort in Delaware would need a little over 59,000 signatures – and I think we could pick up a lot of that in Sussex County. One thing that would help is that Carney is not too far along in his term, so whoever succeeds him would have a long time to be in office.
But the question would be twofold, just as it was in California: could a Delaware recall vote of John Carney succeed, and who would run to replace him?
If you listen to the political pundits, they will say that the reason the recall failed (after looking somewhat promising initially) was that once Larry Elder emerged from the field as a contender, the contest became less on Newsom’s record and more like a standard election, which in California accrues a huge advantage to Democrats. If the system were set up in such a way that the Newsom recall would have been done first, then the election to succeed a few weeks later (with the lieutenant governor stepping in for the interim) it may have had more of a chance to succeed. Chances are that, in the end, the LG would have run for the top spot in the second election and won, but the key goal of getting rid of Newsom would have been achieved.
Here in Delaware, there are no shortage of Republicans who would have likely thrown their hat into the ring for such an election, with the top-tier candidates being the last two who the GOP has nominated for governor, Julianne Murray and Colin Bonini. But I suspect there may have been a high-profile regressive Democrat who jumped in as well, figuring he, she, or they would motivate their far-left voters to join in the recall effort and rid themselves of a more centrist Democrat. That would make things a lot more interesting and give a whole bunch of heartburn to the Delaware Democrat Party.
In a best-case scenario, the two forces combine with independents who are sick to death of “Governor Carnage” and push him out of office – say 35% of the total are Republicans and independents and 20% are those far-left Democrats. Assuming the GOP didn’t shoot itself in the foot and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by running enough people to split the vote, it would put a Republican in the governor’s chair even if he or she had to face a strongly Democrat General Assembly.
The more likely outcome, though, would find the Democrats having enough party discipline to prevail. That’s one thing they do pretty well, given the fact both their incumbent U.S. Senators have run against a “progressive” candidate recently and crushed that opposition. (By that token the regressives must be happy with LBR because no one with any significant bankroll or support base opposed her in the last two primary elections.) It would probably be something on the order of the California outcome, with over 60% voting against their best interests to retain.
Now if I were still in Maryland and recall were possible, THAT would be an intriguing coalition trying to recall Larry Hogan. I’ll just leave it at that.