A Nonpartisan Guide to the California Recall Election and its Candidates

Keani Vierra
Aug 30 · 13 min read
Candidates running in the California Gubernatorial Recall Election, clockwise from top left: radio talk show host Larry Elder, former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlin Jenner, businessman John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former Congressman Doug Ose, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley.

The state of California will hold a special election on Tuesday, September 14th to determine its governorship. Governor Gavin Newsom is at risk of being recalled (removed), depending on the results of the election. Special elections can be confusing, and the process isn’t always made clear. Voterly’s here to answer any and all questions voters may have about the process, the candidates, and what groups support the recall.

California’s Recall Process

In order to understand how California got here, we must understand the state’s recall process. The recall has been part of the state’s political system since 1911. It is intended to give constituents the power to remove any elected public official who is not righteously serving the public… but it’s not as simple as that. There are serious criteria that must be met in order to trigger an election. According to California’s Recall Procedures Guide, a petition must be prepared and circulated, collecting registered voters’ signatures to the amount of at least “twelve percent of the last vote for the office. Signatures must be obtained from at least five different counties and must be equal in number to at least one percent of the last vote for the office in each of five counties.”

In this case, to trigger a recall election of Governor Newsom and reach that 12% threshold, close to 1.5 million signatures would need to be collected.

What’s Happened So Far?

The pursuit to recall Gavin Newsom has gone on for years. He has been faced with recall attempts five other times, prior to the most recent. It was in February of 2020 that the California Patriot Coalition began circulating their petition. The effort was led by group member Orrin Heatile, a Republican and retired sheriff’s sergeant. The petition cited Newsom’s policies on immigration, homelessness, taxes, and the state’s drought, as reasons for the recall.

So what changed between this recall attempt and previous ones? Heatile’s petition gained traction once the pandemic ensued. Many Californians showed dissatisfaction over the economic shutdowns, slow vaccine distribution, and concern for unemployment fraud. The rate at which signatures were being collected practically doubled once Newsom was seen dining indoors at the upscale restaurant, French Laundry, while his indoor dining restrictions were in place.

By March of 2021, 2.1 million signatures were submitted in support of recalling Governor Newsom. While only 1.5 million would be needed in order to trigger an election, the Secretary of State must then verify each signature and disqualify any that don’t meet the guidelines. In the end, about 1.7 million signatures were verified. Those who signed the petition are then given 30 days from the time the petition was filed to withdraw their signature. Only 43 of the 1.7 million withdrew within that timeframe, triggering California’s second-ever recall election for governor.

What Happens Next?

A recall election will be held on September 14th of this year to determine whether Newsom will stay in office or be replaced. By now, all 22 million of California’s registered voters should have received their ballot in the mail. While everyone has the option to fill out their ballot from home and either mail it back or drop it off at a dropbox, there will also be the option to vote in person at the polls on September 14th.

If you are a registered voter but have not received your ballot, double-check your registration status and mailing address here. If you are not registered, you can register online up until Monday, August 30th. If you are reading this past the deadline, it’s not too late! You can still register in person on Election Day at certain polling stations. Check with your county clerk to find out where you can go to register and vote on Election Day.

The Ballot

There are two questions that will be on the recall ballot. The first question asks “Do you want to recall the governor (remove him from office)?” The second question asks “If the governor is recalled, who do you want to replace him?” followed by a list of the 46 candidates running. A vote YES on question one is a vote to remove Newsom from office. A vote NO is a vote for Newsom to remain in office.

Even if you vote NO on question one, you are still able to answer the second question, choosing which candidate you’d like to replace Newsom with, if he is in fact recalled.

The Candidates

Simpler than the actual recall process is the qualifications to be on the ballot. In order to run, the candidate had to be a California registered voter with no felony convictions, and able to either pay a $4,000 filing fee or collect 7,000 signatures in support of their campaign. The leniency in qualifications is what led to an expansive list of 46 candidates found below:

Republican Larry Elder- Known as a conservative talk radio host, author, and attorney, Elder is now running to be California’s next governor. He advocates for rollbacks on all COVID mandates and state spending (specifically toward unemployment programs), an increase in home building, school choice prioritization over teacher unions, and fire-prevention tactics that begin with brush clearance.

Republican Caitlyn Jenner- Olympic gold medalist, TV personality, and now political candidate, Caitlyn Jenner is running for Governor of California on the premise that the state is “worth fighting for.” She promises to roll back government regulations to avoid another shutdown of schools and businesses, allow for homes to be built, and prevent any tax increase. A point that Jenner was sure to include in her campaign is her stance on trans people in sports. Caitlyn Jenner, herself, transitioned in 2014. However, she firmly believes biological males should not be allowed to participate in female sports.

Republican John Cox- Businessman John Cox campaigns on the fact that he’s not a politician, but an entrepreneur that has worked his way up. He says he will tackle homelessness by shifting money out of “housing-first” solutions and into “treatment-first” programs. He also wants to cut taxes by $30 billion, and eliminate what he deems as wasteful spending. Lastly, Cox has promised that students will never be taken out of the classroom again. He ensures schools would stay open amid the pandemic.

Republican Doug Ose- Ose has dropped out and endorsed Kevin Kiley.

Republican Kevin Kiley- State assemblyman, Kevin Kiley, says he has the experience necessary to govern California and work with its democrat-held legislature. He argues against any vaccination mandate, believes power should be taken out of teacher unions and put toward funding charter or private schools, and that no more money should be put toward resolving homelessness. Kiley stresses that rather than spending more money, it should be spent smarter.

Republican Ted Gaines- Former state senator and assemblyman, Gaines most recently served on the California State Board of Equalization. He oversaw taxes and fee collections, which now translates into the priorities he has laid out in his run for Governor. Gaines says he will defend Proposition 13, an amendment that keeps property taxes low and standardized. He opposes any increase in state taxes and says he will repeal the gas tax. He says he will put more money into home building, protection of homes from wildfires, water storage, roads, and border security.

Libertarian Jeff Hewitt- Having served on planning commissions, city council, and as mayor all in the small city of Calimesa, California, Jeff Hewitt has most recently served on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. As Governor, Hewitt says he would prioritize water policy and commit to raising Shasta Dam by 10 feet. He also says he will reform the California Environmental Quality Act to favor home building and no longer deter new development. Hewitt also wants to address the education system by encouraging educational savings accounts for families, supporting school choice, and allowing local governments to have the power to make decisions regarding schools.

Angelyne Lynne- Running without party preference, Angelyne is a once Hollywood socialite who is now 70 years old. She advocates for homeless solutions, in which funding to solve homelessness will come from religious organizations and donations rather than tax dollars. She also has more obscure initiatives including implementing “Bubble Bath Day,” abolishing daylight savings, and holding a UFO Convention.

Democrat Kevin Paffrath- Real estate broker, investor, and Youtuber, Paffrath is running for governor claiming to be a “true JFK-style democrat.” He wants to end homelessness with a massive infrastructure bill. The bill will focus on creating new & better schools, fire prevention, water infrastructure, streamlining housing regulation to build more homes, supporting mental health and drug treatment, and “much more.” He will also implement proper masking and vaccinations to fight COVID-19, and bring transparency to the Governorship by making daily Youtube videos.

Republican Jenny Rae Le Roux- A business owner from Redding, California and former Bain consultant, Roux describes herself as a ‘Republican, pro-business fiscal conservative.” She wants to celebrate business with reduced fees and taxes that align with competing states. She also promises to address wildfires, water right seizures, and brownouts by managing these issues with a “long-term view.”

Republican Anthony D. Trimino- Owner of a marketing agency, Triminio believes in keeping California open, empowering parents when it comes to school choice and education, reducing state tax, keeping vaccinations a choice, and deregulating housing development to fight homelessness.

Republican Leo S. Zacky- Once the Vice President of his family-owned poultry business before it closed in 2018, Zacky is running for governor as a “patriot on a mission to take back our state.” He advocates against teacher unions and wants to eliminate Critical Race Theory and “pornographic sex education” from the school system. He believes in law and order, strongly supporting the police, ICE, and border patrol. Zacky also emphasizes deregulating businesses and lowering taxes.

Republican Chauncey S. “Slim” Killens- An associate pastor from Hemet, Killens has not released online campaign materials. However, he is known as a Trump supporter who attended the January 6th Capitol Riot but later spoke out against the violence.

Republican Sarah L. Stephens- A pastor from Riverside, Stephens believes in opening the economy. She helped organize events like the “Redeeming America” tour which encouraged businesses to stay open during COVID-19 lockdowns. Stephens also says she will lower taxes and send kids back to school.

Republican Nickolas Wildstar- A libertarian activist who is running as Republican, Wildstar has not released online campaign materials. He has previously run for governor in 2018, city council, and mayor of Orange County.

Michael A. Loebs- Running with no party preference, Loebs is a political science lecturer and San Francisco State University. He works as an organizer for the California National Party, which advocates for the state’s secession from the union. He believes in universal basic income, negative tax income, county-based gun regulation and gas tax, and medicare for all.

Democrat Joel A. Ventresca- Having previously worked for the city and county of San Francisco aging and airport commissions, then later losing bids for city treasurer and mayor, Ventresca will now run for governor. He promises to enact high-quality healthcare and education, raise the minimum wage to $16-an-hour, disempower the top 1% economic elite, and remove monetary influence over politics and elections.

Democrat Holly L. Baade- Former journalist and now holistic teacher, Baade is running for governor with sustainability and environment protection in mind. She promises to open the economy, allocate funding to the state, local communities, and regional emergency response teams to prevent fires, as well as to innovative water resources, “greening the garden state,” creating initiates for free energy, and incentivizing people to make environmentally conscious choices.

Republican David A. Bramante- Realtor and housing developer, Bramante says he will end all COVID-19 mandates, protect the right to bear arms, remove gas and sale taxes, create more reservoirs, end shadow economies, and legalize any and all car modifications.

Green Party Heather WJ Collins- Playa Del Rey resident and hairstylist, Collins has no online campaign materials.

Democrat John R. Drake- At 20 years old, Drake is the youngest candidate to file a statement of intention to run. He promises to raise teacher pay, create affordable housing, increase sex education and support a woman’s right to choose, enact LGBTQIAP+ youth protections, and further enforce gun regulations and restrictions.

Republican Rhonda D. Furin- A seasoned teacher, Furin says her top priority is education as she runs for governor. She believes in localizing the education system and ridding the state of Common Core standards. She promotes school choice, merit-based teacher pay, and charter schools.

Republican Sam L. Gallucci- A software developer and pastor, Gallucci promises as governor he will solve homelessness by prioritizing mental health treatments, fight for small businesses by lowering taxes, address wildfires by implementing strategic deforestation, and eliminate power and water shortages through incentive programs.

James G. Hanink- Previously a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University, Hanink is a member of the American Solidarity Party which promotes Christian values. His platform promotes pro-life, marriage between a man and a woman, localized government, and safety and opportunity for all immigrants and refugees.

Republican David Hillberg- Aircraft mechanic and actor, Hillberg has no online campaign materials.

Green Party Daniel I. Kapelovitz- A criminal defense attorney from Los Angeles, Kapelovitz openly opposes the recall. He’s running, however, because he believes he is the best alternative option as a progressive candidate. He advocates for animal rights, criminal justice reform, science-based public health measures, and implementing fire prevention tactics.

Kevin K. Kaul- A real estate developer from Long Beach, Kaul is running with no party preference and has no online campaign materials.

Democrat Patrick Kilpatrick- Actor, screenwriter, and producer from Los Angeles, Kilpatrick wants to incentivize film and television production in California, allocate funding to children programs and teachers, lower taxes, zero tolerance for crime, and secure borders. Socially, Kilpatrick is pro-choice and in “complete support for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Republican Steve Chavez Lodge- Former police detective and police commissioner, Chavez has no online campaign materials.

Republican David Lozano- Having previously run for Congress, Lozano is a former deputy sheriff and attorney. He is running for governor to end homelessness with his “A New Hope” project, implement police reform, remove mask mandates, ensure every Veteran is housed and cared for, promote legal immigration, and reduce state and local taxes.

Denis P. Lucey- Running with no party preference, Lucey has no online campaign materials.

Jeremiah E. Marciniak- Running with no party preference, Marciniak owns a rental and car sales business. His only online campaign material is a youtube video.

Republican Diego J. Martinez- Previously general manager of an auto business and now running a bail bonds business, Martinez says he will fight the Homeless Industrial Complex, stand up to teachers unions, drill for more natural gas, work with farmers to develop alternative watering methods, and allocate money to expanding roads and freeways.

Democrat Jacqueline McGowan- Encouraging voters to vote NO on question one to prevent the recall of Newsom, McGowan says she is running as “your democratic insurance policy.” An advocate for cannabis, McGowan has lobbied for the deregulation of marijuana and will make those changes if elected governor. She has promised to follow CDC guidelines for all COVID 19 measures, enact criminal justice reform, and work to lower housing costs to prevent homelessness.

Republican Daniel R. Mercuri- A Naval Veteran and previous candidate in a 2020 congressional special election, Mercuri has a very clear list on his campaign site for what he stands for and against.

David Moore- Running with no party preference, Moore is a public school teacher with no online campaign materials.

Republican Robert C. Newman- Having run for governor in 2003, 2006, 2010, and 2018, Newman is no stranger to being on the ballot. Newman is an advocate of the recall. Newman promises as governor to secure borders, enact water policy reform, protect the first amendment, and deregulate public land to allow the people to do with it what they please.

Adam Papagan- Running without party preference, Papagan gives celebrity home tours in Los Angeles. He believes the politicians, celebrities, and millionaires are out of touch, and he has the advantage of running as a “regular guy.” He says he is “just really curious how government works.”

Democrat Armando Perez-Serrato- Owner of a combat supply store in Fullerton, Serrato promises to keep the economy open, eliminate the gas tax, enact $5,000 tax refund checks, and end extreme droughts by building a freshwater pipeline from Canada to California, and calling it the “Perez Pipeline.”

Socialist Workers Party Dennis Richter- A Walmart employee and previous candidate for Los Angeles mayor in 2017, Richter has no online campaign materials.

Democrat Brandon M. Ross- Recovered opioid addict and now doctor, Ross wants to fight the opiate crisis if elected governor. He will allocate funding to outreach and free rehabilitative centers. He believes we no longer should be under COVID lockdowns, the lowering of state taxes for anyone making less than $150,000, and increasing minimum wage to $16-an-hour.

Major Singh- A software engineer running with no party preference, Singh wants to eliminate state-wide COVID mandates while still encouraging vaccinations. He believes in reducing taxes, allowing for school choice to incentivize public schools to improve, working with federal agencies to clear forest brush, and ensuring California is at the forefront of green energy technology and innovation.

Republican Denver Stoner- A deputy sheriff, Stoner has no online campaign materials available.

Republican Joe M. Symmon- Born in Kenya, Symmon moved to the United States in 1983. He has no issue stances on his campaign site.

Democrat Daniel Thomas Watts- A lawyer from Vista, Watts ran for governor in the 2003 recall while he was in college. He has no online campaign materials available.

Donors

Recall elections are serious, as they cost the state and all those involved a lot of money. California’s recall process includes confirming the cost with lawmakers and getting the proper approvals. Senate Bill 152, however, expedited this process by allowing lawmakers to skip the 30-day legislative review as long as they set aside money for counties to pay for the costs of the election. In the end, the estimated cost was finalized at $276 million. While that is the cost to hold the state election, that doesn’t include the cost of campaigns for and against the recall. So who’s funding those?

John E. Kruger, an Orange County entrepreneur is the largest donor to the recall effort. Joining him in support of the recall has been Republican Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee, as well as Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House Speaker.

Anti-recall efforts have raised almost $10 million more than pro-recall campaigns according to Open Secrets. The California Democratic Party and the Democratic Governors Association have donated more than $1.2 million to anti-recall groups. Other top donors include Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and the California Association of Realtors.

Voterly’s Take

California is the largest economy in the United States, and the 5th largest economy in the world. As the highest position in a state’s government, the Governor of California holds great power and influence over not just the state, but the country as a whole. Historically a blue state, this election has the potential to “flip” California, changing the direction in which legislation and appointments are taken. If you are a California citizen who is over the age of 18, this is the chance to participate in a monumental election that could change the state’s political course. Take this opportunity to share your voice and vote in the 2021 California Recall Election.

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