Understanding Caitlyn Jenner And The Quirky California Recall Race 

Good morning! It’s time to get up!

GOLDEN STATE: Today, I am looking at a major election with no set date on the calendar.

While it’s not guaranteed to take place at all, then campaign to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat already has plenty of star power. There’s even been a bear on the campaign trail. And past history shows a potential for things to get truly weird. 

Caitlyn Jenner, the Republican reality television star, former Olympian, and transgender activist gave the race what was arguably its first viral moment last week in her first major interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. During that conversation, Jenner referenced friends she’s made during private jet trips as proof of why she wants to “fight” to lead the state. 

“My friends are leaving California,” Jenner said. “Actually, my hangar, the guy across … he was packing up his hangar. I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”

That interview actually took place in Jenner’s Malibu-area jet hangar. Jenner’s remark led many critics to ridicule her as out of touch.

While Jenner’s comments made headlines, most of the coverage hasn’t examined the campaign’s unique history and rules. So, I thought I’d kick off this week with a quick primer on how we got here and what will happen next. 

California’s recall process dates back to a 1911 ballot measure which allows residents to recall state officials. It was passed along with a proposition that granted women the right to vote in the state and one that established procedures for citizens to propose initiatives and referendums. These reforms were part of a nationwide push for direct democracy that, in California, was fueled by concerns over the degree of influence the Southern Pacific Railroad company and other “monied interests” held over state government. 

Since then, the process has led to just one special gubernatorial election, the 2003 race that saw Democrat Gray Davis ousted in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican action movie star. That campaign featured 136 candidates who qualified for the ballot including the late “Diff’rent Strokes” star Gary Coleman and at least one prominent porn star. 

Coleman ran with the backing of a Bay Area alt weekly as part of a satirical effort to “highlight the absurdity” of the process and the power of fame in the political arena. Coleman’s bid attracted substantial media attention, much of which made no mention of the point they hoped to make. The editor who cooked up the Coleman campaign plan ultimately admitted it had backfired spectacularly.

“We soon realized there would be no larger point,” Stephen Buel wrote after Coleman’s death in 2010. “Celebrity, it turned out, was the point.”

Now, about 18 years later and after the administration of America’s first reality television president, Jenner is poised to be the one using — and likely building — her fame in a recall effort. However, despite all of the headlines about her Kardashian Kandidacy, it’s not exactly clear when the election will be — or if there will be one at all. 

The recall process requires proponents to gather 1,495,709 valid signatures on petitions backing the effort. On April 26, the state announced that recall backers had turned in 1,626,042 signatures, just 130,333 more than is needed to trigger an election. Due to a rule change made by Democratic lawmakers in 2017, Californians have until June 8 to withdraw their signatures. Officials need to report any withdrawals by June 22. While enough withdrawals could technically end the race, the consensus among most observers is that the process will move forward. 

Following the signature review (and assuming enough backers remain) the legislature will spend 30 days estimating the cost of a recall election. Once that is complete, Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis will need to set a date for the election within 60 to 80 days. That would mean the actual vote would take place around September or October. 

Assuming the recall is scheduled, it won’t simply be a race between candidates. Californians will be voting on two questions, whether Newsom should be recalled, and, if so, who should replace him. That distinction has led some Democrats, notably former San Francisco mayor, power broker, and vice presidential ex-boyfriend Willie Brown to suggest the party should back its own recall candidate as an insurance policy. Newsom allies reject that strategy since it could lead to some Democrats helping Republicans have a shot by voting yes on the recall.

For his part, Newsom has cast the recall effort as a pro-Trump Republican push to undermine California’s progressive policies.

“This Republican recall threatens our values and seeks to undo the important progress we’ve made -- from fighting COVID, to helping struggling families, protecting our environment, and passing commonsense gun violence solutions. There's too much at stake,” Newsom wrote in a tweet last month. 

The recall effort was initially backed by a group led by Orrin Heatlie, a Republican retired sergeant from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office. As the group gained traction in March, Newsom highlighted a 2019 post from Heatlie’s Facebook page, which has since been taken down, where he declared, “Microchip all illegal immigrants. It works! Just ask Animal control!” Heatlie has apparently characterized that remark as an exaggeration aimed at sparking conversation. 

Heatlie’s group has received funding from Geoff Palmer, a real estate developer and GOP donor, and a somewhat mysterious, Biblically-named consulting firm in Orange County. The recall proponents have capitalized on anger over mounting homelessness in the state and aggressive lockdown measures to curb COVID 19. Indeed, some Newsom supporters believe the recall would not have gotten off the ground at all if it hadn’t taken place amid the scandal over the governor’s dinner at the chic French Laundry restaurant, which took place as gatherings in the state were being discouraged due to virus protocols. 

Now, the recall seems set to move forward and it’s Jenner who is dealing with a gaffe. However, Randy Economy, the top spokesman for the recall group, indicated he was pleased with her performance on Fox News. Economy told a local TV station that the group, which has thus far just focused on getting the recall on the ballot, will eventually make recommendations on its preferred choice to replace Newsom. He also suggested it was “silly” for businessman John Cox to campaign alongside the bear. But Economy had nothing but praise for Jenner.

“She looked like a great leader,” he said. “We’re not going to take a position on her as well, but I think the reviews are in and I think she was a success.”

OUTBREAK: Following an outcry over the massive coronavirus surge in India and concerns about America’s delayed support for patent waivers, President Biden is facing mounting criticism for his global vaccine strategy. Indeed, at least one anonymous official told the Washington Post there is no global vaccine plan at all, an allegation the White House predictably pushed back against. 

These worries about global vaccinations come as experts increasingly warn inoculations may be moving too slowly to achieve global herd immunity. That would mean smaller outbreaks — and the potential for dangerous variants — would become a regular feature of our lives going forward. 

HOLY LAND: Hundreds of Palestinians were injured on Monday as they clashed with Israeli police who fired gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets at the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest Muslim sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. According to Israeli officials, the protesters threw rocks leaving twenty police officers and a handful of Israeli civilians were also hurt.

There has been escalating, nightly violence in the holy city for weeks as the Israeli government prepares to evict Palestinians from a neighborhood in the Arab enclave of East Jerusalem. Jewish settlers have waged a legal battle to take the properties, which they say were occupied by Jews prior to 1948. 

The Biden administration has told Israeli officials it is concerned about the violence. Israel has, in turn, urged the White House to stay out of the conflict. 

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Your humble Uprising correspondent was hoping to post the full transcript of my conversation with attorney Ben Crump on Friday. However, I got sidetracked with some other stories I am chasing. That full conversation, which will only be available to paying subscribers, will go up today. It’s a great time to sign up

I am on the fence about whether to email it out directly or simply put it on the site and link in tomorrow’s email. As I experiment with this newsletter, I trying to strike the balance between making sure you don’t miss anything and not flooding your inbox. If you have any preferences let me know by responding to this email or writing to the tips box address included below! 

FUN FACT: Kris Jenner, the matriarch and stage mom who helped start the Kardashian reality show empire, has admitted her family’s show was originally a plan to help promote their clothing line. That show, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” helped Caitlyn Jenner get back into the spotlight years after her Olympic exploits.

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