Strict application process poses difficulties for CA recall election candidates

photo of governor Newsom
Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons
Several of the candidates who are running in the state recall election Sept. 14 spoke out about difficulties they were having with the application process. (Photo by Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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Forty-one candidates are running against California Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election, where voters will decide if the governor will step down and who may replace him.

The candidates include small business owners, actors, legislators, detectives, farmers and more, according to the secretary of state’s preliminary list of candidates.

In order to file for candidacy, applicants were required to submit 65 to 100 valid nomination signatures and five years of tax history and pay a fee of $4,194.94 by Sept. 16. A candidate could also collect 7,000 signatures in lieu of the filing fee, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The recall election timeline states that candidates may purchase space for a 250-word statement in the state Voter Information Guide from July 1 to July 16.

“The system is definitely set up to facilitate the rich and try to keep third parties out of sight and mind,” said candidate David Moore in an email. “That’s not tough if you have a lawyer and accountant working for you, but required a lot of late nights to get them filed within a week for an individual like me.”

Moore, who says he submitted his forms in time, was told his candidate statement would not be published in the guide. He claimed that these “technical hurdles” are preventing smaller parties from gaining exposure.

Democratic candidate and cannabis policy advisor Jacqueline McGowan echoed Moore’s sentiments, stating that the information was not readily available online and that the recall election thus far has been “confusing” and “rushed-together.”

McGowan, who is campaigning to right the cannabis industry, said she decided to run after hearing that a friend and cannabis operator had ended his life after “months and years of frustration” with a broken system.

“I believe that other small businesses across California share our concerns about over-taxation and over-regulation, and that Sacramento can do much better,” McGowan said in an email.

Democratic candidate Meet Kevin, who is campaigning to better address the homelessness crisis, mental health education and other issues, has also run into technical difficulties while pursuing legal action in order to use his brand name “Meet Kevin” on the ballot in place of his legal name, Kevin Paffrath.

Other candidates are using the election as a platform for advocacy and exposure. 

Democratic candidate and free speech lawyer Daniel Watts ran for governor during the 2003 recall of Gray Davis and campaigned for lower tuition fees. Watts will once again be running on a one-issue platform, this time advocating for free speech in higher education and a better understanding of the First Amendment.

According to California National Party candidate Michael Loebs, the secretary of state only allows candidates to list a “qualified” political party with more than 70,000 registered members next to their name on the ballot, meaning that Loebs and other small third party candidates are listed under “no party preference.”

“The very fact that the recall is happening is justifying that the two-party system isn’t just failing to solve our problems, it’s making them worse,” Loebs said.

Contact Anishi Patel at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @anishipatel.