By MICHAEL R. BLOOD and KATHLEEN RONAYNE, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Republican candidates preparing for their first televised debate Wednesday in the looming California recall election face a bet: whether to stack on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom or try to undermine themselves in front of a statewide audience.
It’s the risk of the evening contest at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Orange County, Calif., That will offer a first glimpse to many voters of a partial Republican field hoping to see Newsom ousted from office in the election. September 14.
The two best-known contestants will be conspicuously absent: Caitlyn Jenner has been to Australia to film a reality show, while conservative talk radio host Larry Elder will be at a fundraiser in Bakersfield. His spokesperson said Elder wants to debate Newsom and warned in a tweet that a “circular firing squad” among GOP candidates would only benefit the governor.
This was echoed by Tim Rosales, consultant for contestant Kevin Kiley, who said the four contestants on stage should continue to “shoot Newsom”.
For Kiley, an assembly member from the Sacramento area, “this is his first real, big opportunity to introduce himself” to voters statewide, Rosales said. “He’s going to talk about the contrast between him and Governor Newsom.”
The stakes are high with mail-in ballots sent to voters in about two weeks. Polls suggest the race is tightening, with Newsom’s once comfortable advantage slipping as coronavirus cases climb and mask restrictions return across much of the state.
The debate comes at a time when Republicans have already witnessed signs of infighting that could lower turnout and distract from the goal of toppling Newsom. Candidate John Cox, who was defeated by Newsom in the 2018 gubernatorial race, accused GOP insiders of trying to back Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego.
The recall, which could dismiss Newsom in the middle of his first term, was born out of widespread frustration during the pandemic over stay-at-home orders, crushing job losses due to business closures and shutdowns. long-term schools which together have disrupted the lives of millions of people. .
Former Congressman Doug Ose, who represented a district in the Sacramento area, will join Kiley, Cox and Faulconer.
Library officials said Newsom did not respond to an invitation.
“Every candidate on this stage is trying to connect with voters,” Ose said in an interview. “I always talk about the kitchen table problems. These are not partisan issues.
Ose said he intends to make it clear that his background in Congress and on water, agriculture and energy issues sets him apart from his rivals.
Faulconer also said he intended to highlight his experience as a Republican-elected San Diego Democrat: “I understand that, we’re going to do good.”
The competition is viewed nationally as a barometer of public mood as the 2022 election looms, when a tightly divided Congress will once again be on the line. A Republican upheaval in the heavily Democratic state would be a Staggering blame, and Newsom warned his ouster would have national implications in politics and policymaking.
Republican candidates have described Newsom as an incompetent fool whose failed leadership inflicted unnecessary financial pain during the pandemic. Democrats sought to portray the contest as being run by far-right extremists and supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Newsom earlier seemed in a good position to fend off the recall attempt. But his stance has slipped, with polls showing Republicans eager to vote while many Democrats shrug their shoulders in the election. Newsom is also criticized by GOP candidates for increasing crime rates and energy and water shortages.
Two questions will be put to voters: first, should Newsom be deleted, yes or no? The second question will be a list of alternate candidates to choose from. If a majority votes for Newsom’s impeachment, the candidate with the most votes on the second question becomes governor.
With 46 replacement candidates on the ballot, there is a possibility that a winner will emerge with as little as 20% of the vote if Newsom is recalled – a fraction of what a candidate would need in a typical election to the statewide.
This unusual electoral calculation also allowed Republicans to target their campaigns largely on Republicans and right-wing independents, which could constitute a coalition sufficient to win.
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