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Who’s Running in Newsom Recall? Californians of All Stripes

The field of 46 candidates includes GOP politicians, a reality TV personality, a YouTuber, a retired detective, a cannabis advocate, several business owners and even a New Age shaman.

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A recall Newsom volunteer carries a sign during a petition signign event at SaveMart in Sacramento on Jan. 5, 2021.
Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters
California’s second gubernatorial recall election in history is shaping up to be pretty different from the first.

Just 46 candidates filed all the paperwork necessary by the July 16 deadline to run to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall — a field that includes GOP politicians, a reality TV personality, a YouTuber, a retired detective, a cannabis advocate, several business owners and even a new-age shaman.

What it doesn’t include: Anyone with the star power that actor and body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoyed when he disrupted the political scene in 2003 and ousted then-Gov. Gray Davis. It also doesn’t include any prominent Democrats who might be seen as a viable alternative to Newsom by California’s overwhelmingly blue electorate.

That’s good news for Newsom as he fights to keep his job, said the man who managed Davis’ unsuccessful campaign against the 2003 recall.

“The biggest problem was Arnold getting in and galvanizing the recall vote. And the second biggest problem was (Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz) Bustamante getting in,” said Democratic consultant Garry South.

“In this current field, there is nobody who can have that kind of impact.”

But a lot will hinge on how many Californians decide to vote. Polls show that Republicans are enthusiastic about the recall, while Democrats are not very tuned in that it’s happening. Even though, overall, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 22 percentage points in California, Newsom could be damaged by strong turnout among GOP voters and weak turnout among Democrats.

“A sleepy race can pose its own challenges for Newsom,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican consultant who worked on Schwarzenegger’s campaign. “If there is a lack of intensity among Democrats, something weird could happen.”

Newsom enjoys a massive fundraising advantage over his challengers and has already raised $32 million and counting to fight the recall. State law allows the target of a recall to accept unlimited sums of money — and his campaign committee has already received several donations of $1 million or more. Challengers can only accept as much as $32,400 from each single donor.

But a recent spike in COVID cases and new mask mandates in some parts of California create uncertainty that could change the political landscape.

The recall ballot includes two questions. The first requires a yes or no answer: Do you want to recall Newsom? On the second question, voters can pick one candidate to replace him. Unless a majority votes “yes” on the first, the second doesn’t matter, except perhaps to show who has the most support heading into the 2022 regular election for governor.

“Across our state, Democrats are united against this Republican recall,” said Nathan Click, a spokesman for Newsom’s anti-recall campaign. “They understand this recall is nothing more than a partisan power grab.”

The most well-known challengers include Republicans Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender reality TV personality and former Olympic athlete; Larry Elder, a conservative talk show host; John Cox, a businessman who lost to Newsom in 2018; and Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego.

“We have the broad brush that this election deserves,” said Anne Dunsmore, a manager for the recall campaign.

She said she is happy with the field of candidates, “some who have a background in politics and some who don’t, but who have remarkable followings in the endeavors they are involved in.”

Dunsmore said she believes that having lots of candidates in the race — even if none are likely to consolidate a huge number of votes — will help the effort to oust Newsom by bringing in more people to vote “yes” on the question of whether to recall him.

The 46-person field is actually much smaller than it was in 2003, when 135 candidates ran to replace Davis.

This year, candidates had to initially comply with a new requirement: submitting five years of tax returns that were posted publicly on the secretary of state’s website. But on July 21, a judge ruled that the requirement should not have applied to the recall. That put Elder, who sued over the tax returns, on the ballot, along with three others who were only rejected due to the tax document requirement.

Several people who flirted with running — including Trump administration official Richard Grenell, California secession advocate Louis Marinelli and adult film performer Mary Carey — did not, in the end, submit the required paperwork.

On July 17, the secretary of state’s office released a list of candidates who have “fulfilled the qualifications and requirements to appear on the ballot.” The office issued a certified list, with final ballot designations, on July 21. 

Here’s a look at who will be on the ballot in California’s historic recall election:

Politicians


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From left, Republican recall gubernatorial candidates Kevin Kiley, Doug Ose and Kevin Faulconer.
Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; Doug Ose for Governor
Kevin Faulconer, 54, is the Republican former mayor of mostly Democratic San Diego. He supported immigration reform, believed in climate change and distanced himself from former President Donald Trump, until voting for him in 2020.

Ted Gaines, 63, of Shingle Springs, is a Republican former state senator and Assemblymember who is now on the California State Board of Equalization, which oversees taxes and fee collection.

Jeff Hewitt has been a Riverside County supervisor since 2018. Before that, the 68-year-old hero to Libertarians nationwide was mayor of Calimesa after serving as a City Council member.

Kevin Kiley is a Republican assemblymember from Rocklin. The 36-year-old former deputy attorney general and former teacher made headlines by suing Newsom over pandemic executive orders.

Doug Ose, a 66-year old Republican, is a former Sacramento-area U.S. representative whose 2018 campaign for governor failed to gain traction.

Ose has raised $158,000.

Media Celebrities


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Recall candidate Caitlyn Jenner speaks in Sacramento on July 9, 20201.
Marissa Garcia for CalMatters
Angelyne is a “‘billboard icon” of Los Angeles, spotted around Southern California in her signature pink Corvette. Now 70, she has tried to keep an aura of mystery, and changed her legal name to AngelLyne Lynne. She is running without a party preference.

Larry Elder, 69, is running as a Republican. The talk radio host is a frequent guest on Fox News and spoke out in support of former President Trump. Trained as an attorney, Elder wrote a conservative newspaper column for several years and has authored books arguing against liberal views on racism.

Caitlyn Jenner, 71, a Republican, first came to prominence as an Olympic gold medalist in 1976. She was once married to Kris Jenner — mother of the Kardashian sisters, the reality TV stars — before becoming one of the most prominent public figures to transition.

Kevin Paffrath is a real estate broker and investor from Ventura. The 29-year-old Democrat has 1.7 million subscribers to his YouTube channel on the housing market, real estate and the stock market.

Paffrath has raised $133,000.

Self Funders


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Recall candidate John Cox speaks during a campaign event at Miller Regional Park in Sacramento on May 4, 2021.
Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
John Cox, 66, is a self-proclaimed anti-politician from the San Diego area who has run for U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate and the presidency as a Republican and who lost to Newsom in 2018. This time, he’s campaigning with a live bear and a ball of trash. He has already put in $5 million from his own wallet.

Jenny Rae Le Roux, 40, is a business owner from Redding and former Bain consultant who describes herself as a “Republican, pro-business fiscal conservative.” Le Roux has contributed $100,000 to her campaign.

Anthony D. Trimino, from Ladera Ranch, is the owner of a marketing and advertising agency. The 45-year old Republican has put $50,000 into his campaign.

Leo S. Zacky, 29, of Los Angeles, was the vice president of Zacky Farms, a family-owned poultry business that closed in 2018. The Republican loaned his campaign $25,000.

Conservative Activists


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Demonstrators hold up signs during a protest to reopen California at the state Capitol in Sacramento on May 1, 2020.
Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Chauncey S. “Slim” Killens, a 63-year-old associate pastor from Hemet, is running as a Republican. Killens, a Trump supporter, attended the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, but spoke against the violence.

Sarah L. Stephens, 39, is a pastor from Riverside County running as a Republican. She has helped organize events such as the “Redeeming America” tour, seeking to unite businesses to reopen during the pandemic.

Nickolas WIldstar, 39, of Fresno, is a Libertarian activist running as a Republican. A digital marketer and a rapper, Wildstar ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018 and city council and mayor in Orange County, where he recently lived.

Liberal Activists



Michael A. Loebs, a 39-year-old lecturer in political science at San Francisco State University, is running with no party preference. He is an organizer with the California National Party, which advocates for secession from the U.S. and policies including universal basic income and single-payer health care.

Joel A. Ventresca, 69, of San Francisco, worked for the city and county of San Francisco on the aging and airport commissions. He lost bids for city treasurer in 1997and for mayor in 2019. Ventresca, a Democrat, was on the executive committee of the Services Employees International Union.

For the record: The biography for Joel A. Ventresca was corrected.

Regular Joes and Jills



Holly L. Baade, 48, is a spiritual teacher and coach. A Democrat who lives in Fairfax, Baade is also a former journalist.

David A. Bramante is a real estate agent and housing developer from Calabasas. The 39-year-old Republican hosts a podcast on artificial intelligence.

Heather WJ Collins, 61, is a Playa Del Rey resident and hairstylist running with the Green Party.

John R. Drake from Ventura, is running as a “progressive Democrat.” At 20, he is the youngest candidate to file a statement of intention to run.

Rhonda D. Furin, a 56-year-old Republican from Anaheim, is a retired teacher running on a platform to reform education.

Sam L. Gallucci, 62, of Oxnard, is a software developer and pastor. The Republican candidate founded ministries to help at-risk women and children, as well as migrant field workers.

James G. Hanink, 75, of Inglewood, was a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University and is a member of the American Solidarity Party, which seeks to promote Christian values.

David Hillberg, 61, is an aircraft mechanic and actor from Fountain Valley. He is running as a Republican.

Daniel I. Kapelovitz is a 50-year-old criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles and a Green Party candidate.

Kevin K. Kaul, 59, of Long Beach, is running without a party preference and is the founder of the U.S. Global Business Forum, which fosters trade between the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Patrick Kilpatrick, 71, is an actor, screenwriter and producer from Los Angeles. He is running as a Democrat.

Steve Chavez Lodge, 63, is a former police detective and police commissioner who owns a safety consulting firm. A Republican who lives in Trabuco Canyon, he is engaged to “Real Housewives of Orange County” star Vicki Gunvalson.

David Lozano, 63, a San Marino Republican, is a former deputy sheriff and an attorney who lost a bid for Congress in 2020.

Denis P. Lucey, is a 61-year-old teacher from Santa Rosa running with no party preference.

Jeremiah E. Marciniak, 42, of Lincoln, owns a rental and car sales business and is running without a party preference.

Diego J. Martinez, a 45-year-old Republican from San Andreas, was general manager of an auto dealership and now runs a bail bond business.

Jacqueline McGowan, 47, of Napa, is a Democrat and a cannabis advocate who says Newsom has imposed too many regulations on legal marijuana. She says she’s running to “facilitate a fair cannabis market.”

Daniel R. Mercuri is co-CEO of an independent production company, co-partner of a private investment company and a Navy veteran. The 43-year-old Simi Valley Republican ran in a 2020 congressional special election.

David Moore, a 34-year-old public school teacher from Emeryville, is running with no party preference. He was the Socialist Equality Party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

Robert C. Newman, 77, is a Redlands psychologist. A Republican, he ran for governor in 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2018.

Adam Papagan, 33, is based in Los Angeles, where he leads tours of celebrity homes. He is running without a party preference because he is curious about how the government works.

Armando Perez-Serrato, 44, an Orange Democrat, owns a combat supply store in Fullerton.

Dennis Richter, 72, of Los Angeles, works at Walmart and is the Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor. He also ran for Los Angeles mayor in 2017.

Brandon M. Ross, 49, is a Democrat from La Mesa. A doctor, he says he’s running to inspire drug addicts that they can turn their lives around — as he did after getting hooked on opiates and then recovering.

Major Singh, a software engineer, is running with no party preference.

Denver Stoner, 47, a Murphys resident and a deputy sheriff, is running as a Republican.

Joe M. Symmon, 71, of Orange, is a Republican who ran for governor as a Democrat in 2010. He is the founder of Faith Champions Church.

Daniel Thomas Watts, 39, is a Democrat from Vista. A lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases, he ran for governor in the 2003 recall when he was a college student.

This article was first published by CalMatters. Read the original article.
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