“His attack on working women is unconscionable,” Faulconer said of Elder, before addressing “all the working moms out there.” “I’m going to support your right to raise a family, to have a career. Unlike what Larry Elder is talking about, I’m going to make sure that California’s daughters have the same opportunities as California’s sons. We need a governor that’s going to stand up for working women and knows that every woman in this state can have a career, can raise a family.”
Vote-by-mail ballots have now been sent to 22 million voters across the state who are being asked two questions: first, whether they want to recall Newsom, and second, who they would like to replace him with. There are no establishment Democratic candidates vying to replace Newsom among the 46 candidates who qualified for the ballot, and party leaders are urging Democrats to skip the second question altogether and just vote “no” on the recall before returning their ballots.
In recent days, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California has joined with other groups that favor abortion rights in trying to activate their members both in the Golden State and nationally against what they have framed as an “extremist recall attempt.”
Newsom has highlighted those issues — and how they could be at risk given the governor’s purview over the state budget and the line-item veto — while also noting that a Republican governor would have broad powers to appoint judges and other key positions like the heads of agencies in California.
He has also emphasized the importance of Democrats’ narrow control of the 50-50 US Senate, asking female voters to imagine who a Republican like Elder would have appointed to fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat after President Joe Biden chose her to be his vice president. Many of his Democratic allies have noted that Newsom’s appointment power carries huge significance for their party, because US Sen. Dianne Feinstein is 88 and less than half-way through her six year term — even though her aides say she has no plans to retire early.
Newsom digs into Elder’s past comments
During a livestreamed conversation hosted by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California last week, Newsom noted that while 50% of voters would have to vote to recall him, the replacement candidate could be decided by a simple plurality — “meaning it could be a very small subset of the electorate that will ultimately determine the fate and future” of California, he said.
“That could directly impact women’s reproductive rights and the issues of women and girls,” Newsom told activists during the conversation, noting his own advocacy for increasing access to reproductive services, expanding supplemental payments to physicians and working to “double the health care and reproductive budgets in this state.”
“I’m proud of being a sanctuary state. I’m proud of being a universal state” when it comes to reproductive rights, Newsom added. “I’m proud of being a state that offers refuge to so many, particularly in the world we’re living in today. And all those values and principles — this notion of a universal state — that, God forbid, if Roe is overturned, will be even more consequential.”
Elder’s campaign did not respond to CNN’s request to discuss how the controversy over his past comments has affected female voters, and he has declined CNN’s queries about most of his past remarks regarding women.
In a memo to reporters on Wednesday, the campaign noted that Elder’s 2000 assertion that women know less than men about political issues, economic issues and current events stemmed from his interpretation of a study at that time by the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania. The study asked both men and women 25 questions about policy related to the political primaries at the time, the Elder campaign said. “Men knew more than women in 15 categories. Women outperformed men on only one question,” Elder’s communications director Ying Ma said in the memo. “The study concluded that women knew less because they got their information from local news.”
It is not only Democrats who are expressing dismay with that record as they appeal to California’s female voters. Faulconer, who became mayor of San Diego in part by building a bipartisan coalition in that city, cited Elder’s comments about women as evidence that Elder “is unfit to serve as governor of California” and called on him to drop out of the race.
A potentially powerful counter narrative for Democrats
That may be especially the case among women. As the Covid-19 pandemic has continued to disrupt daily life, the burdens of child care and homeschooling have often disproportionately fallen on women. Many have dropped out of the workforce — or lost jobs — as a result of the pandemic at alarming rates. Their exasperation has often been directed at their leaders, and some of them joined in the grassroots effort collecting the signature petitions that led the Newsom recall to qualify for the ballot.
In a conversation with CNN’s Kyung Lah, a group of Democratic women from Los Angeles who supported Newsom when he won with more than 60% of the vote in 2018, explained those frustrations with the Democratic governor as they fail to see measurable progress on some of the most difficult problems in California like the skyrocketing cost of living, wildfires, drought and homelessness, which has exploded in the state with tents blanketing the corridors of many middle class neighborhoods.
When asked whether she blames Newsom, Los Angeles voter Alisa Sandoval told Lah: “He’s the leader, everything starts from the top and it goes down.” But she also said she would feel “sick” if a Republican were elected as a result of Newsom being recalled.
Cherryl Weaver, also a registered Democrat, said she too is leaning toward voting to recall Newsom and is “disappointed by the Democratic Party in general” at a time when Republicans do not hold any statewide office.
“In my mind, when he was running, there was nobody else in the world that would have been better,” Weaver said, “and instead it’s become politics.”
The continuing problem of homelessness in Los Angeles — despite Newsom’s significant investment in housing programs — has been both heartbreaking and scary for Democratic voters like Michelle Helseth: “It’s like: let me work, let me pay my taxes, but provide me with safety…and not be accosted by two homeless people within a matter of 15 minutes.”
California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said the aggravations felt by many women during the pandemic — and the perception that Newsom was driven by politics as he changed Covid-19 rules and regulations — has created a real opportunity for Republicans during the recall.
Many mothers paid attention, she noted, to the fact that Newsom’s own children were back in the classroom during the fall of 2020, and that he attended a dinner party unmasked at an expensive Napa Valley restaurant at a time when he was telling Californians to stay home and avoid large gatherings with families outside their households.
“Let’s be real, moms are pissed off,” Millan Patterson said in an interview. “Parents are just so fed up with the ‘Do as I say, but not as I do’ rhetoric that we get from this governor,” Millan Patterson said. “Every single day — every single decision that he makes — makes it easier for us to make the case to women that Republicans are going to do what’s best for our children, and not the teachers’ union.”
But In Elder, Democrats see their own potentially powerful contrast.
Jodi Hicks, president/CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said the contrast between Newsom and Elder on policy issues has increasingly crystallized the stakes of the recall for many Democratic voters. She acknowledged that there was apathy about the race among some progressive voters, even as recently as a few weeks ago, but said she has noticed that is changing.
Hicks noted, for example, that she has seen a rapid uptick among supporters of Planned Parenthood who are volunteering to phone bank and text on Newsom’s behalf in these final weeks.
“We really believed we needed to sound the alarm and do some of the events that we’ve done, and I do think that in having those conversations, it has definitely moved the needle in talking about what’s at stake in this election,” she said.