California's Recall Circus Has an Actual Bear

It’s going to be a long summer in the Golden State.


When California's secretary of state determined last week that there were enough valid signatures to force a recall vote for Gov. Gavin Newsom, I predicted it would be a circus. I meant that figuratively, but on Tuesday candidate John Cox literally brought a live bear to a press conference.

The 1,000-pound kodiak bear named Tag, which Cox has selected as a mascot for his campaign, predictably got more attention than Cox did, causing him to complain that people weren't focusing on policy. Perhaps that's because Cox, a Republican businessman and habitual candidate, hasn't presented much actual substance for us to sink our teeth into. His initial campaign ad revolves heavily around the bear, calling Newsom a "pretty boy" and saying that California has to "do things differently" without actually explaining what that means.

The "beast," you see, is Cox himself, who is going to "hit the ground running" and apparently cut the cost of living and "slash taxes." But he doesn't offer any actual policy proposals, let alone how he'll overcome a Democratic Party that holds a super-majority over the state legislature? There are no actual policy proposals or actions he says he will take that will lead to these solutions. His campaign page on "solutions" just lists six uncontroversial outcomes he supports, such as lowering the cost of energy and fighting homelessness, all presented as though these are things that Cox can somehow just will into happening. No wonder the bear got all the attention.

Here's the ad. Just try to figure out what he would actually do as governor:

Cox faced off against Newsom in the 2018 election and lost in a landslide: Newsom beat him by more than 20 percentage points.

Caitlyn Jenner's first ad similarly has little actual substance, but it leans less on mocking Newsom and more on sweeping views and swelling music:

Jenner also has the benefit of having friends in conservative media. On Wednesday night she sat down for an hour with Sean Hannity on Fox News, spelling out her conservative bona fides. She declared her support for the police, said she had "watched the state crumble," called herself a "thoughtful disruptor," and noted that Newsom gives the impression that "there's one set of rules for Sacramento, and one set of rules for everybody else."

Oddly, Jenner seems to think (or wants us to think) that California is still fully closed and that the hair salons where she lives aren't open. They're open here in Los Angeles and have been for a couple of months. The reality is that California is finally opening back up. The push for the recall revolves heavily around Newsom's poor management during the pandemic, and you certainly won't get much defense of the governor from Reason. But the fact that things are going back to normal means a lot of Californians are probably less likely to vote to recall him.

Jenner did namecheck libertarians, saying she gets along with everybody: "Democrats, Republicans, libertarian, vegetarians, it doesn't make a difference to me." She also proposed dumping the costly high-speed rail construction and using that money instead for desalinization plants to prevent future water shortages. Arguing against the rail plan, she noted that there are plenty of flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a comment that prompted some inane tweets from people who seem to think that flying between the two cities is something only rich jetsetters can afford.

In fact, flying between L.A. and San Francisco is pretty cheap and accessible (currently starting from $77). That's less than the bullet train is likely to cost. Back in 2015, studies estimated that tickets would be $86 a pop, and now it will almost certainly have to be higher, given the project's cost overruns. (Its price tag has ballooned to three times the initial estimate.) If anything, Jenner is being too kind, since the route between the two cities won't even be high-speed rail the entire way. High-speed rail is not being designed to make long-distance transit more affordable for low-income people, and it will not meet their transportation needs.

I noted on Monday that Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt—a member of the Libertarian Party—is running in the recall. In a subsequent interview, Hewitt differentiated himself from other candidates by pointing to his 11-year record as an elected official.

"I've taken on Cal Fire and the very professional firefighters union," Hewitt tells Reason. "I've also taken on pensions. I've shown that I know how to build coalitions and such. If I move to the governor's office, the fundamentals of governing remain the same."

Hewitt accuses Newsom of ignoring the science by ordering such a broad lockdown. The vast majority of people who were vulnerable to COVID-19 were older, Hewitt argues, so shielding them should have been the priority, not shutting down the whole state.

"We should have been spending our time and money making those who were vulnerable safe from it," Hewitt says. "Over the next 10 years, this is going to be shown to be some of the worst decisions ever made."

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, was one of the first out of the gate to announce he was running, dropping his first campaign ad back in February:

Faulconer's ad hits the same themes as the other recall candidates, but he fleshes out some specifics about why Californians are upset enough to sign onto a Republican-driven recall in a heavily Democratic state. He doesn't just take note of the chaotic, incomprehensible state COVID-19 guidelines. He name-checks A.B.5, the anti-gig economy legislation that was partly rejected by voters in November. He notes the billions of dollars in unemployment fraud the state failed to catch during the lockdown. He has thrown his support behind chef Andrew Gruel's fight against COVID-19 regulations that have harmed the restaurant industry.

And those are only the most prominent candidates. At least 22 people have gotten at least some media coverage by publicly declaring themselves candidates. When Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in 2003, 135 candidates ran.

As for Newsom himself, he and Democrats have decided to play up the cost of having a recall. Apparently, government frugality is suddenly important.

"Now is not the time to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on a recall effort," Newsom said in a Tuesday press conference with the California Professional Firefighters union. "It is nothing more than a partisan power grab."

A power grab it may be, but it's a power grab that has managed to get pretty far in a state where Republicans account for only 24 percent of registered voters. I'm not sure playing up partisanship will help Newsom keep his polling lead, but we'll see.

NEXT: Arizona's Newly Enacted Forfeiture Reforms Will Make It Harder for Cops To Steal Property

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  1. Maybe if Newsom had just been a better governor, none of this would have happened. But nah democrats never self examine except their navels.

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    2. "The reality is that California is finally opening back up."

      The recall is heading for the polls and Caitlyn announces, and Gavin starts letting businesses open. Somehow I think that's more than a coincidence.

      1. We'll see how open CA actually gets. It has already been announced that after June 15, employers will have to follow emergency "common sense" guidance from CalOSHA.

        Something tells me that their guidance will have as much relationship to common sense as common sense gun control does.

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  2. BOTH SIDES!!!
    Sure Newsom was so incredibly shitty that even a blue state's citizens recalled him, but Republican challengers lack suBstanCE.

    1. We NeEd MoRe AdULtS!

  3. When you only ever talk to those in your immediate circle, you can end up being surprised. I mean, Gavin Newsom's office reserved the table at the French Laundry and invited the guests, so why, when he said he should have left when he saw how many were there, did the state media accept that as an apology?
    California is a state run by and for government employees. The rest don't count at all.

  4. As Gov. Newsom would be up for reelection in 2022 this seems like a waste. Likely outcome is his winning the recall and then being on a straight shot for 2022. In politics timing is important and this seems like very poor timing for Newsom's opposition.

    1. There is a lot of animosity toward Newsom, ever since the French Laundry incident, so folks want to express that animosity. Even if it’s not the rational thing to do.

      1. If the election is properly fortified, all is well.

        1. The Gray Davis recall was back before California adopted the own primary laws that now make it all but impossible for anyone but a Democrat to be elected.

          Schwarzenegger won as a Republican. It would be hard for that to happen now.

          1. Schwarzenegger had no trouble winning as a Republican because he was a RINO. The same may very well be repeated this time: Jenner is running as a Republican.

            And he/she is answering questions about his/her policy positions, though you have to be willing to look at alt-media to hear them. I recommend starting with

    2. Given California's 'jungle primary' system, this is about the only shot that any non-D candidate has. It may be a long shot but they have to take it. Waiting for 2022 is a guaranteed loss.

      I used to think that jungle primaries would disrupt the status quo and let outsiders have a shot at being elected. Having seen it in action, it's clear that it does the exact opposite and entrenches the majority party.

      1. Open primaries were sold as, well, being more open, but if you read the details it cemented Democratic rule.

        1. In St. Louis, they sold our new 'non-partisan' primaries, which also allows a voter to vote for multiple candidates, as a way by which at least one mayoral candidate should receive at least 50% of the vote in at least one election.

          What we ended up with was a couple of far left Democrat candidates eking out the two largest minorities of vote totals, and then being the only ones allowed to run for mayor in the general election. Systems like these do not increase choice for voters. Nor are they designed to.

      2. "Jungle primaries" aren't primaries. They're free-for-all elections with a runoff round. If we must use them, we should at least adopt the "instant runoff election" procedure so we don't have to vote twice per election year.

    3. I think republicans were trying to take advantage of the covid lockdown, anger from parents about their kids not going to in class learning, and "scandal"(more of an embaressment to be honest) of Gavin newsom eating at an expensive restaurant during lockdowns. But that scandal was months ago, high rate of vaccination is letting california ease restrictions, and 50% and counting of schools in the state has been partially opened up so republicans were betting on fleeting advantages to win the recall(and for some reason they think they can pull off another schwarzenegger)

  5. I lived in California for the Gray Davis recall election. There were something like over 200 candidates besides Schwarzenegger, and it was nuts.

    Even though I was a Libertarian, I just had to vote for Georgy for Governor:

    She was an attractive female computer geek (at least, attractive for a computer geek). If I recall correctly, her campaign merchandise included thongs with her name on them.

    She was one of the relatively sane candidates.

  6. It's California and it's politics. Wouldn't you expect style over substance?

  7. If the bear was on the ballot without John Cox, it would win in a landslide.

    1. And I’d volunteer to unleash it on the California Assembly!

      1. I'm sensing a pay-per-view opportunity here!

    2. true, as a californian I support that bear! Honestly I feel that Cox is riding off of the bear's popularity and political success though. Governor Newsom has quite the competition and I wonder what his policy on salmon is going to be...

  8. Newsom's poor management during the pandemic,"
    the pandemic is just the straw that broke the camels back . don't forget power outages and ruining some farms by letting all the water run into the ocean for a fish that has survived far worse droughts or his anti-gun stance while letting out 76000 prisoners some who were to be imprisoned for life for violent crimes. some say its a waste of time and money but maybe others will learn to not be a dick governor.

  9. From the Public Policy Institute of California:

    "Governor Newsom’s approval rating among California likely voters is at 53% in our March survey—similar to 52% in January and 52% in February 2020. Today, 42% disapprove of the way that Newsom is handling his job as governor. How important is Newsom’s approval rating in determining support for the recall? Just 4% of those who approve of Newsom would vote yes to remove him, compared to 87% of those who disapprove of him. While Newsom’s approval rating has fallen from the record-high levels reached after COVID-19 struck, it has remained in positive territory—importantly, he consistently has a solid majority of support among Democratic likely voters."

    California, like New York [where Cuomo enjoys similar ratings] deserve exactly what they continue to vote for

    1. Gray Davis was in a sense the last of the Mohicans—by which I mean he was (especially by California standards) a rather moderate Democrat. By the time of the recall he had seriously alienated a huge number among the proggy (left wing fascist) faction. Newsom not so much. We’re it not for the French Laundry I doubt it would have gotten this far. But jeeze, couldn’t a scandal with “French Laundry” in the title involve something, well, saucier? Meh, California’s no fun anymore! Oh well, I WILL have fun voting to recall Gavin and voting for the libertarian guy. I just have no delusions—it WILL be JUST for fun (not a snow ball’s chance in hell my fellow Californians will do anything sensible with this opp)

      1. Were not we’re but thanks spellcheck

      2. There is nothing Newsom might have done in bed that could possibly anger his voters. Everybody knows he is gay, and adultery (if you call it that) doesn't bother gays.

  10. Bear Tax.

    1. Now that really was grizzly of you!

  11. standards) a rather moderate Democrat. By the time of the recall he had seriously alienated a huge number among the proggy (left wing fascist) faction. Newsom not so much. We’re it not for the French Laundry I doubt it would have gotten this far. But jeeze, couldn’t a scandal with “French Laundry” in the title involve something, well, saucier? Meh, California’s no fun anymore! Oh well, I WILL have fun voting to recall Gavin and voting for the libertarian guy. I just have no ,delusions—it WILL be JUST for fun (not a snow ball’s chance in hell my fellow Californians will do anything sensible with this opp)

    1. Um.... is this Invasion of the BOT Snatchers?

  12. "...She also proposed dumping the costly high-speed rail construction and using that money instead for desalinization plants to prevent future water shortages..."

    In 25 years, moonbeam never figured this out.

  13. Newsom is nephew to Nasty Piglosi which also includes Jerry Moonbeam Brown in the same family. The entire triumvirate is meant to continue their dynasty well into the 21st century. The state , however, is run by nitwits and feeble minded liberals most of whom live in an alternate reality.
    Just consider the latest in public brainwashing and indoctrination whereby the state board of same plans to dumb down all students in math.
    Yep...going for the lowest level in the name of "equality". That's public education for ya. Just remember what Commiefornia does, the rest of the nation follows, so your state is next .
    Within a few short years, America won't be able to create anything, build anything, or discover anything new in physics, chemistry, engineering or medicine.
    Everyone will be easily controlled morons.
    H.L. Mencken was correct about public education and those who control public education in Cali prove their true intent and confirm Mencken's opinion.
    But by then 75% of all Californian's will be on welfare and the state will be one vast toilet.

  14. On Wednesday night she sat down for an hour with Sean Hannity on Fox News, spelling out her conservative bona fides.

    So in the current age, "conservative bona fides" means "how much do you love Donald Trump", right?

    1. Gee, to TDS-addled assholes like you, the proggy bonafides mean "are you willing to turn over your entire earnings to avoid mean tweets?"
      Stuff your TDS up your ass, lefty shit; your head is asking for company.
      And then fuck off and die so your dog has a place to piss.

  15. "California's Recall Circus Has an Actual Bear"

    But does it have a clown makeup?

  16. CA is transphobic if they don't elect Caitlyn.

    1. How? Caitlyn Jenner didn't even have the support the trans community before she decided to run for governor. Also isn't there a difference between liking politician's policies and hating them because they trans?

    2. Jenner does not support the "trans agenda": in particular he/she says that trannies should not get to compete as women in sports. So he/she may get my vote, although I'd like to hear his/her views on other conservative topics, especially immigration and guns. And on ending Moonbeam's two biggest boondoggles, high-speed rail and the Peripheral Canal project.

  17. John McCain was the first one I recall saying "libertarians and vegetarians". I'm a hardcore libertarian, and mostly vegetarian, but equating them as political philosophies is actually an insult.

    McCain has stopped saying that. Jenner should also.

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