SACRAMENTO — Forty-one candidates have met the qualifications to run in the California gubernatorial recall election, less than a third of the number who ran in the state's memorable 2003 contest and well below what some political experts months ago had predicted, according to an official list released Saturday night.
Republicans comprise roughly half the field with 21 candidates, ranging from former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. Conservative talk show host Larry Elder did not appear on the list, which suggests his paperwork did not meet all of the qualifications, but he said later that "I fully expect to be on the final certified list of candidates" that will be released Wednesday.
The recall field is notably absent of prominent Democratic politicians after Gov. Gavin Newsom's campaign successfully deterred other leaders in his party from giving their voters an attractive option. Of the eight Democratic candidates, the one with the largest following is Kevin Paffrath, a YouTuber who has gained internet fame with his "Meet Kevin" channel that focused on real estate and investing before he entered the gubernatorial race.
That marks another distinction from 2003, when Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante joined the recall field of 135 candidates. Some strategists had wondered if the Democratic Party would field a caretaker candidate this time who might be an option should Newsom falter, but the party is all-in on the governor, who has shown much more polling strength than former Gov. Gray Davis did 18 years ago before he was recalled.
Recall ballots will land in mailboxes starting Aug. 16 ahead of the Sept. 14 election. The ballot will ask voters if they want to recall Newsom, and if so, who should replace him. Newsom cannot appear on the list of replacement candidates, but if voters reject the recall, that list becomes moot.
Other notable Republican candidates include former Rep. Doug Ose; businessman John Cox, who has brought everything from a giant ball of trash to a 1,000 pound bear on the campaign trail; state Board of Equalization member Ted Gaines; and longtime Newsom critic Assemblymember Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin).
Elder's omission could be significant for the party, depending on what happens. He was believed to have a large following in Southern California and had gained momentum since announcing his run on his radio show this past week.
Among other candidates are Angelyne, a Los Angeles billboard star who also ran in 2003, and cannabis consultant Jacqueline McGowan.
The recall has an estimated cost of $276 million for taxpayers. It will be only the second gubernatorial recall election in California history, and it lacks the star power that came when actor Arnold Schwarzenegger swept into office in 2003. The field that year also included everyone from child actor Gary Coleman and Hustler mogul Larry Flynt to former Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth. Arianna Huffington ran two years before she founded the Huffington Post, but she dropped out of the race days before the election and endorsed Davis.
The most famous candidate this year is Jenner, a former Olympic gold medalist, Kardashian family member and transgender celebrity. In a move that surprised California political insiders this week, Jenner flew to Australia and plans to stay there for weeks, reportedly to tape Big Brother VIP.
Newsom has momentum, including nearly $30 million in campaign funding, and polls so far show challengers face a long shot to oust the former mayor of San Francisco. But Republicans have seized on every issue from wildfires to homeless to criticize Newsom, zeroing in on mask requirements in schools and in Los Angeles County as their latest criticism.
The California secretary of state's office on Sunday plans to release five years of tax returns that candidates submitted as a new requirement to make the ballot. It's the first time the state's elections chief has required gubernatorial candidates to provide such records under a 2019 law that was primarily aimed at forcing then-President Donald Trump to release his tax returns. The U.S. Supreme Court that same year struck down the presidential requirement, but the gubernatorial mandate remains, though whether it should apply to recall elections was subject to debate.
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