Big-name Democrats join Gavin Newsom’s fight to remain California governor: ‘It’s democracy that’s at stake’

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

(SACRAMENTO) — Gov. Gavin Newsom has just nine days left to convince Californians that he deserves to keep his job. Now, some of the biggest Democrats nationally are traveling to the Golden State to help the governor make his case.

Three years into his first term in charge of the nation’s most populous state, Newsom is fighting to hold the job in the face of a recall vote he’s criticized as a partisan effort by Republicans.

In a bid to energize his base, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren kicked off a weekend of campaign stops for the governor in Culver City on Saturday, while Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is set to join Newsom at a rally in Southern California on Sunday. And after canceling a campaign trip last week, Vice President Kamala Harris is set to travel to the Bay Area Wednesday, according to Symone Sanders, Harris’ chief spokesperson.

“[Warren] commented, ‘Well this is like the entire presidential campaign,'” Newsom joked in a sit-down interview Friday with ABC News’ Zohreen Shah. “I’m so honored, but more importantly, they’re these strong women, and I think that’s one thing those three have in common.”

The governor added the support from Warren showed how high the stakes are for the recall.

“The consequences of California turning red not blue are profound in terms of the agenda that the senator is advancing, [President Joe] Biden is advancing,” Newsom said.

The results of the recall — a two-part ballot asking voters if they want to recall the governor, and if so, with whom — may depend as much on apathy as Newsom’s record in office.

“At the end of the day, if you can get more Democrats out, he’ll be fine,” Michelle Jeung, a Democratic strategist and partner at women-led political research firm MJE Strategies, told ABC News. “They need the national figures, because they don’t necessarily feel highly motivated by Gavin himself.”

Conservative radio host Larry Elder is the front-runner among Newsom’s opponents, according to FiveThirtyEight’s poll tracker, though he’s polling at just 22.6%. But in a fractured field of alternates to Newsom — including 29-year-old YouTube star Kevin Paffrath; businessman John Cox, who lost to Newsom in 2018’s election; and former Olympian and reality star Caitlyn Jenner — Elder could still be elected governor if more than 50% of voters vote to recall the governor.

Ying Ma, Elder’s communication director, panned Newsom’s effort to call in national reinforcements.

“Involving others to try to rescue him merely shows that he’s in trouble and are desperately afraid of being kicked out of office very soon,” Ma told ABC News.

The push to excite Californians around Newsom comes with recent polling showing a tight race — just 52.1% of voters say they’ll vote to keep him, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average.

The embattled governor enjoyed some promising news this week though. A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California showed 58% of likely voters will vote “no” on the recall.

“[We’re] taking nothing for granted,” Newsom told ABC News.

Warren, who like Klobuchar and Harris ran for president in 2020, made the argument that she’s in California because “fights are happening right now at the state level.”

“Look at Texas — a governor who is working hard to take away a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and to block access to abortion,” Warren said, referring to the newly enacted law targeting abortion. “Look at what’s happening in Florida — a governor who’s saying that when public schools want to try to protect kids and teachers with masks that he’s going to cut off their funding.”

Both the governor and the senator made sure to emphasize the outcome of this recall wouldn’t just affect the 40 million Americans that live in California, but would have profound consequences across the country as Democrats look toward 2022 with a split Senate and narrow majority in the House.

“It’s democracy that’s at stake here,” Warren explained, adding a warning to Californians not motivated to vote because they think Newsom has a surefire victory. “If they don’t show up, people in California could wake up tomorrow and Larry Elder could be their governor and the rights that have so defined California for so long, just gone.”

When asked about the different decisions he could’ve made that might’ve prevented the race from being so close, Newsom said, “The last 18 months have been hard on everyone. … I’m trying to focus on our resiliency, let folks now we have their backs, they matter, we care.”

He added, “All of us need to raise the bar of expectation in terms of the work we do and our support for people that are still struggling and falling behind.”

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