Californians Get 42 Choices To Potentially Replace Gov. Gavin Newsom

The list of candidates is released, but radio host Larry Elder is suing over his exclusion. (Updated: a judge ruled in Elder's favor.)


California voters have 42 candidates to consider as potential replacements for Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on September 14, the date of California's recall election. An initial list of candidates was released Saturday (and revised on Sunday to add a candidate) and will be formalized by the Secretary of State's office today.

There's drama brewing over who will and won't be included. Conservative libertarian talk show host Larry Elder announced on July 12 he was going to run as a candidate in the recall and filed papers. But he was not included in the list released this week past weekend because the state requires candidates for governor to submit five years of tax records to the Secretary of State, and Elder reportedly did not.

Elder says he supplied all needed paperwork and that the explanation for his disqualification was vague. On Monday, he filed a lawsuit challenging the decision to leave him off the ballot. He also criticized the requirement that he submit his tax records, arguing that the law, which was passed in 2019, requires this tax information for his name to appear on a primary ballot, not on a recall ballot.

This afternoon a judge agreed with Elder and ordered him placed on the ballot, and according to Politico, also agreed with his argument that recall candidates for governor were not actually required to submit their tax returns at all.

Elder is not the only legal challenger, and the details of some of the others covered by the Associated Press highlight the Calvinball nature of California's recall rules. Former San Diego Mayor and Republican Kevin Faulconer made the list, but he's nevertheless challenging the Secretary of State's refusal to let him list himself as a former or "retired" mayor as his occupation. A third candidate, Kevin Paffrath, is suing to get his nickname and YouTube channel title ("Meet Kevin") printed on the ballot.

Newsom himself has gotten caught up in the tiresomely messy management of the recall. Newsom neglected to list his party designation on his paperwork so that he'll be labeled as a Democrat on the ballot. Hilariously, he was permitted to do so by a law that Newsom himself signed, but he missed the deadline. Newsom sued to try to get his party listed but a judge ruled against him. It's doubtful that many recall voters will be confused by the lack of party identification, but its absence is a bit amusing given that his defense against the recall is to paint it as a partisan Republican effort to unseat him.

Speaking of the argument for removing Newsom, here's how the Associated Press is describing it: "The push to oust the first-term, Democratic governor is largely rooted in frustration with school and business closures during the coronavirus pandemic that upended daily life for millions of Californians."

While that's certainly an accurate assessment of how the recall proponents were able to get enough signatures, there's a lot more going on in the state and a lot more dissatisfaction than just the overly oppressive COVID-19 regulations and Newsom's role in the state's temporary shut-down.

The reality is that more and more people in California are starting to see the terrible consequences of the state's aggressive anti-growth policies and regulations that increase costs of living and drive out residents. The callousness of the economic shutdowns (which inevitably harm the poor more than the wealthy) was a symptom of a governmental mindset that has, over the course of decades, crushed the state's once-famous dynamism.

Matt Welch, Reason's editor at large, just wrote in our August/September issue about California's slow population slide, which will cost the state representation in Congress for the first time.

Today, over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf provides a massive, heavily researched piece describing how badly the state's entrenched political and regulatory system, fed and fueled by NIMBYs kicking the development ladders down behind them and labor unions demanding their cut, has absolutely wrecked the state's growth and has stopped newcomers and younger people from pursuing success.

Examples of this rot abound. He notes, for instance, truckers in the state being forced to spend thousands of dollars to comply with anti-pollution regulations by installing filters that don't actually improve air quality; and a compound pharmacy that makes drugs for animals that has stopped making certain supplements because the testing costs imposed by the state were so onerous and unique to California that it no longer made any economic sense.

Friedersdorf also tells the tale of a man who wanted to build a small theater in Shafter, a town of about 17,000 in central California, only to get screwed over by absurd state regulations that don't actually protect people:

[Larry Starrh] estimated that their building was big enough to fit 1,000 people in it, but early on, he was advised that he shouldn't exceed 300 people, or he would be subject to more costly building standards. "So I told the inspector we'd build the theater for 300 people," he said. "We ordered 300 of these really expensive theater seats that roll back. They're being built in England. Six months or a year later, we finally have the seats. Then the inspector comes back and says, 'Well, if you're putting 300 seats and there's a 60-piece orchestra, you've got more than 300 people. You've got to have that re-engineered.'" Instead, Starrh decided to put some of the pricey seats in storage. Fewer people are able to attend performances as a result. He says he doesn't think anyone is any safer for it.

It's an anecdote, but there are so many of them across the Golden State that it's a clear trend. Reason writers like myself and Christian Britschgi have highlighted the absurd lengths that NIMBYs in California will go to in order to stop developers from responding to the state's housing needs, all to protect their stagnant fantasy of a community that looks exactly how they remembered growing up. The fact that these communities developed in the first place because of the state's dynamic growth is lost on them. Or really, they just don't care.

Below, ReasonTV on California's stagnation:

This post has been updated to note a judge's ruling Wednesday afternoon putting Elder on the ballot as a recall candidate.