California will require toy sellers to provide a non-gendered section in their stores under a new law

A family shops for toys in a department store.
A family shops for toys in a department store.

  • Big retailers that sell toys and childcare items in California must provide gender-neutral sections.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law on Saturday and it goes into effect in 2024.
  • California is the first US state to require the move, though some retailers are already doing it.

A new law in California requires large retailers who sell toys and childcare products in the state to offer a gender-neutral section in their stores.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill during his final action of the 2020-21 legislative session on Saturday, making his state the first in the nation to have such a requirement, the AP reported.

The law was authored by state Assemblymember Evan Low and applies to companies with 500 or more employees in the state, such as Target, Walmart, or Macy’s, while small independent shops would be exempt.

According to the text of the law, a retailer may offer separate sections for girls and boys, but it must provide a “reasonable selection of the items and toys for children that it sells” in a non-gendered section. The rule goes into effect on January 1, 2024, and stores that fail to comply could be fined up to $250 for a first violation and $500 for all subsequent violations.

Low told the AP the law was inspired by the 10-year-old daughter of one of his staffers who asked her mother why certain items were “off limits” for girls but acceptable for boys.

“Part of it is to make sure if you’re a young girl that you can find a police car, fire truck, a periodic table or a dinosaur,” Low told the Los Angeles Times . “And then similarly, if you’re a boy, if you’re more artistic and want to play with glitter, why not? Why should you feel the stigma of saying, ‘Oh, this should be shamed’ and going to a different location?”

State Senator Melissa Melendez, who opposed the bill, said the legislature should “let parents be parents.”

“Unlike the author, I actually have children, five of them to be exact, and I can tell you it is very convenient for parents,” she said, according to the AP. “I don’t think parents need the government to step in and tell them how they should shop for their children.”

The non-profit Consumer Federation of California argued in favor of the bill, saying it would help consumers compare prices on similar items more directly.

“Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate,” the CFC said.

Some retailers like Target have already moved away from using gender-based signage in their stores, particularly in toy sections.

“We know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary,” Target said in 2015.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs bill requiring large retailers to provide gender-neutral toy sections by 2024

This Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, file photo, shows prices in the toy section at Walmart in Teterboro, N.J.
This Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, file photo, shows prices in the toy section at Walmart in Teterboro, N.J.

  • Large California-based retailers must provide gender-neutral toy sections by January 1, 2024.
  • The bill defines large retailers as stores with 500 or more employees.
  • Stores that fail to comply with the bill may be fined between $250-500.

For his final action of the 2020-21 legislative session, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 32 bills into law, including a bill requiring large retailers throughout the state to provide gender-neutral toy sections by 2024.

Retail stores with 500 or more employees must provide a gender-neutral section for child care items and toys, regardless of whether the products have been traditionally marketed to a specific gender, according to the bill authored by state Assemblymember Evan Low.

Retailers can still offer other toys and items for children in traditional boys and girls sections if they choose to, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Part of it is to make sure if you’re a young girl that you can find a police car, fire truck, a periodic table or a dinosaur,” Low told the Los Angeles Times. “And then similarly, if you’re a boy, if you’re more artistic and want to play with glitter, why not? Why should you feel the stigma of saying, ‘Oh, this should be shamed’ and going to a different location?”

Beginning on January 1, 2024, any retail department store that fails to comply could be fined up to $250 for a first violation and $500 for all subsequent violations, according to the bill.

Some retailers like Target have already moved away from using gender-based signage in their stores, particularly in toy sections.

“Historically, guests have told us that sometimes – for example, when shopping for someone they don’t know well -signs that sort by brand, age or gender help them get ideas and find things faster, a Target press release from 2015 said. “But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.”

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California will require an ethnic studies course to graduate from high school

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Gov. Gavin Newsom of California.

  • California is among the first states in the US to make ethnic studies a required course for high school graduates.
  • The new law will first apply to students graduating from high school in the 2029-30 school year.
  • An ethnic studies guide was finalized and approved by the state Board of Education in March.

California will require its high school students to complete a course in ethnic studies to receive a diploma, starting with the class of 2030.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed the bill, AB 101, into law, making California among the first states in the nation to designate ethnic studies a graduation requirement for public school students.

After years of advocacy and vocal opposition from an array of lawmakers and organizers, the curriculum set to be taught in schools will help students understand the contributions of Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous Americans, along with other groups that have faced discrimination and marginalization in the US.

The new law mandates that public schools in the state have at least one ethnic studies class beginning in the 2025-26 school year, with a compulsory one-semester course for students graduating in the 2029-30 school year.

Democratic Assemblyman Jose Medina of Riverside, who authored the legislation, lauded the bill’s signing.

“It’s been a long wait,” he told The Associated Press. “I think schools are ready now to make curriculum that is more equitable and more reflective of social justice.”

While criticism of the course of study has not dissipated, the bill easily passed the California legislature by wide margins.

Newsom vetoed a nearly identical piece of legislation last year, calling for a revision of the curriculum guide that would be “inclusive of all communities.”

Former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown also vetoed similar legislation in 2018, recognizing the value of ethnic studies but concluding that schools could offer the course of study without a statewide mandate.

The revised ethnic studies guide was finalized and approved by the state Board of Education in March.

“Ethnic studies courses enable students to learn their own stories – and those of their classmates,” Newsom said in a signing statement. “I appreciate that the legislation provides a number of guardrails to ensure that courses will be free from bias or bigotry and appropriate for all students.”

A release from Newsom’s office also said that the legislation “will help expand educational opportunities in schools, teach students about the diverse communities that comprise California, and boost academic engagement and attainment for students,” citing a Stanford University study.

In a statement, Medina made note of the long battle for the implementation of ethnic studies across the state.

“I want to acknowledge the countless young people, high school and college students, teachers and professors, who have organized, demonstrated, boycotted classes, and gone on hunger strikes to demand a more equitable and inclusive educational system,” he said. “The signing of AB 101 … is one step in the long struggle for equal education for all students.”

The new law comes as battles over race and education have swirled across the country, notably after the death of George Floyd last year, which prompted a national debate on systemic racism.

Conservatives, who have largely opposed classroom teachings of systemic racism, have launched a crusade against critical race theory, which has examined how America’s history of racism continues to reverberate through laws and policies that exist today.

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California’s recall election revealed dwindling Democratic support among Latino voters, but experts are mixed on what that means for future elections

A voter is seen wearing a face covering with the Spanish translation of the word "vote" written on it.
A guest listens as US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Latino community leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House August 3, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • California’s September 14 recall election saw Gov. Gavin Newsom retain statewide power with ease.
  • The results show falling Democratic support among Hispanic voters, the state’s largest voting bloc.
  • But one expert warned exit polls lack some key nuances when it comes to analyzing the Latino vote.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom easily kept his governorship in the September 14 statewide recall election, with several outlets, including Insider, calling the race less than an hour after polls closed across the state.

But while Democrats in the solidly blue state are framing the decisive win as a mandate from the state’s overwhelmingly liberal base, the voting behavior of a key demographic group has left some members of the party worried. Meanwhile, political junkies have latched on to exit polls and early voting data, hoping the numbers might provide insight into what upcoming elections could hold, not only for California, but for the US broadly.

Hispanic voters constitute the largest voting bloc in California, and while they helped Newsom stave off a recall, they did so at a smaller margin than they have voted for Democrats in past elections. That assessment specifically applies to Latino men.

According to an NBC News exit poll, Latinos voted in favor of Newsom and against the recall 60% to 40% – a slight decrease from 2018, in which Latino voters elected Newsom with 64% of the vote.

The decline is part of a “consistent trend” in diminishing national Democratic support among Latinos, according to Ben Kaplan, CEO of TOP Data, a national political polling agency, who noted the group’s dwindling approval began in the 2020 election when Trump overperformed with Latino voters.

“An isolated incident, you don’t put too much credence in it,” he said. “But the trend now is definitely in that direction.”

The September 14 recall election was an important one, Kaplan argued, as one of the only real-world, post-2020 tests to provide insight into the 2022 midterms, where Latino voters across the country will play a significant role in deciding which party will take control of the House

The demographic has long been a reliable bloc of voters for Democrats, but overconfidence among elected officials in Hispanic support could explain the group’s early-stage desertion.

“Anytime one party dominates, there is a tendency to take for granted your support and lump them in a bucket,” Kaplan said.

“No group likes to be taken for granted, so we start seeing movement when that begins to happen,” he added.

When Newsom’s victory looked significantly less certain earlier this summer, polling among Latino voters indicated a fairly even split over whether they wanted to keep the governor or kick him to the curb, Kaplan said. And while the Trumpian behavior of Newsom’s main opponent, conservative radio host Larry Elder, helped the Democratic governor recoup the majority of his past Latino support, exit polls suggest his campaign did not succeed in recovering it all.

“I do think there is a lot of potential here for this to be a kind of new battleground in the state,” Kaplan said of the brewing fight over Latinos’ loyalty.

But exit polls only go so far

Much of the immediate analysis of Latino voters’ role in last week’s election may be missing the specificity it deserves, according to Dorian Caal, director of civic engagement research at NALEO Education Fund, a nonprofit that supports Latino participation in the political process.

“We need to be a lot more nuanced at how we’re looking at the Latino vote,” Caal said.

A necessary first step is acknowledging the limitations of exit polls. Accounting for different methodologies, different elections, and margins of error reveal that Latino voters’ support for Newsom in the recall was actually roughly the same as their support for the governor in the 2018 gubernatorial election, Caal said.

“Nothing really changed,” he said. “Especially if we’re using the marker of Newsom in 2018 versus the recall, nothing has really changed around the Latino community.”

“We have to be more cognizant of what the data is telling us,” he added.

Since the 2020 election, widespread interest in Latino voting habits has grown, playing a role in some of the narratives surrounding the demographic come election time, Caal said. And while understanding the Latino vote is important, doing so shouldn’t come at the expense of genuine political engagement.

“We need to understand the Latino vote,” Caal said. “We have to treat it as an important vote in the same way we need to engage the Latino community that has really not been engaged in many states.”

But Republicans hoping to win over Hispanic voters in the coming years would be wise to avoid Democrats’ past mistakes.

“Politicians forget sometimes that a group isn’t one monolithic group that thinks all the same way,” Kaplan said.

Latino Americans have an array of diverse origins and are continuing to grow more distinct as their share in the US population increases. Their ethnicities, cultural beliefs, and voting patterns vary. As Insider’s Havovi Cooper reported following the 2020 election, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Cubans helped secure Florida for Trump, while Mexican-Americans in Arizona played a role in turning the state blue for only the second time since 1948.

“We already knew the Latino community was a diverse community, and therefore we have to treat it as such,” Caal said. “We have to understand the nuances that exist throughout the country, but also in states, where they can differ wildly.”

So what do the California recall results tell us about future elections?

Not much – yet, according to Caal.

As organizations conduct deeper analysis of the results, some key insight into forthcoming elections could eventually emerge, he said.

“With future data, we’ll see some more nuance,” Caal said. “But we won’t see dramatic differences.”

But even with Democrats likely retaining the support of Latinos in 2022, Kaplan warned the party should be wary of a waning depth of affinity among the group.

“I think what polls sometimes miss is the strength of support,” he said. “You could say at a certain point that you support Newsom or the Democrat candidate, but how deep is that support?”

Lukewarm Latino support for Newsom likely played a role in the 50-50 polling among Hispanic voters earlier in the summer, Kaplan said, and that ambivalence could factor into elections to come.

“What this bodes for 2022 and 2024, is that there tends to be Democratic support overall in the Latino community, but it might not be as deep as it once was,” Kaplan said. “It’s more tangible, it’s more mutable, it’s more often split.”

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How Gavin Newsom beat back the California gubernatorial recall effort

Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to the press while visiting Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland, Calif., on September 15, 2021.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California last Tuesday survived the biggest test of his leadership by rallying voters against a gubernatorial recall election fueled by grievances over COVID-19 restrictions, housing affordability, uneven economic opportunities, and homelessness.

While the eventual recall was a blowout in the governor’s favor, there were underlying issues that seriously threatened his standing earlier in the summer – the lack of urgency among Democratic voters, minimal engagement with the state’s growing Latino population, and the conservative buzz surrounding radio talk show host and first-time political candidate Larry Elder, who was able to channel the frustrations of millions of state residents.

As California continues to count its remaining ballots, a fuller picture is emerging of Newsom’s win.

With 92% of the vote in, voters rejected the recall effort by a 63% to 37% margin, nearly identical to the 2018 gubernatorial election results, when Newsom defeated Republican businessman John Cox by a 62% to 38% spread.

But the huge victory also exposed Newsom’s vulnerability in not connecting with more voters on a personal level.

Dan Schnur, who teaches political communication at the University of Southern California and the University of California-Berkeley, pointed out that Newsom was able to win despite his fairly average standing among many Democratic voters.

“The final results obscure the fact that he’s never been particularly well-loved, even by the base of his own party,” he said.

This account, based on interviews with California political observers and the recount data, focuses on the governor’s broad victory and what it says about the future of Golden State politics.

Biden speaks before California recall
President Joe Biden speaks during a rally in support of California Gov. Gavin Newsom at Long Beach City College on September 13, 2021.

Newsom overcame complacency and turned out Democrats

California has become such a Democratic stronghold at the presidential level that now-President Joe Biden’s win over former President Donald Trump (63.5% to 34%) last fall was a foregone conclusion.

While Biden received over 11 million votes – a record for a presidential candidate in the state – Trump received over 6 million votes, which was the highest number of votes for any Republican candidate in state history.

Democrats currently make up 46.5% of all registered voters in California, while Republicans make up 24% and independents comprise of 23%, according to the Public Policy Institute of California – which by the numbers would indicate a huge advantage for Newsom.

However, voter turnout is key, and tepid party support, combined with Republican enthusiasm about Elder’s candidacy, threatened to derail Newsom, especially as he struggled to connect with some of the very same voters who sent him to the Governor’s Mansion nearly three years ago.

In a Berkeley-IGS survey that was released in July, registered Democrats, by a nearly 30% margin, were less likely than Republicans to demonstrate a high level of engagement in the recall election – one of many polls that caused consternation among Democratic leaders.

Conservatives, incensed by what they felt were heavy-handed COVID-19 restrictions that hurt small businesses and stifled the economy, were animated over potentially recalling Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor and lieutenant governor. The July Berkeley survey showed that 33% of the voters who were likely to vote in the recall would be Republicans – a troubling sign for the governor.

After recalibrating and partaking in a rigorous campaign schedule, including rallies with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Newsom was able to to change the dynamics of the race by emphasizing Elder’s opposition to key issues including abortion rights and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Larry Elder
California gubernatorial recall election candidate Larry Elder speaks at his election night party in Costa Mesa on September 14, 2021.

Larry Elder was not an appealing candidate to non-Republicans

In the previous California gubernatorial recall election in 2003, then-Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was booted from office and replaced with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger – a Hollywood leading man famous for action movies like “The Terminator” represented a moderate wing of Republicanism that was still influential in the state at the time – won over his party and peeled off independents and even some Democrats.

This year, Democrats overwhelmingly opposed against the recall on the first ballot question and largely abandoned picking another candidate to become governor if the recall was successful.

Elder, a fierce advocate of small government who opposed the minimum wage, dismissed gender wage gaps, balked at gun-control measures, and supported charter schools and school choice, was unable to garner much support beyond the Republican base, which comprised of roughly 25% of the electorate in the recall election.

According to exit polling conducted for CNN and other outlets by Edison Research, 94% of Democrats opposed the recall, while 89% of Republicans supported it, with independents narrowly rejecting the effort by a 52%-48% margin.

While Elder currently sits at 47.8% of the vote, having earned over 3.1 million votes on the ballot question designating a gubernatorial successor, the rejection of the recall effort at the top of the ballot kept Newsom in office.

Schnur told Insider that Elder’s positions allowed Newsom to effectively use Trumpism as a political foil.

“Newsom was originally having some trouble framing this as a campaign against Donald Trump, primarily because Trump wasn’t on the ballot or in the White House,” he said. “Elder gave Newsom a way of framing the anti-Trump argument in the present tense. Instead of talking about the former president, he was able to talk about something that voters were facing now, and that helped him immeasurably.”

Modoc National Forest
A sign at the Modoc National Forest.

California has ‘shades of blue in many communities of red’

The modern image of California is largely shaped by its glittering Los Angeles skyline and the tech corridors of the San Francisco Bay Area, but the state is much more conservative in its interior stretches, where the election results of many counties largely mirrored the 2020 election.

In rural northern California, counties like Lassen (84%), Modoc (78%), Tehama (69%), and Shasta (67%), voted overwhelmingly in favor of the recall – and subsequently these counties strongly backed Elder as their top choice in the second ballot question.

While Elder’s strong conservative views, including his opposition to broad COVID-19 restrictions, appealed to many in these counties, as well as a significant number of residents in the state’s exurban communities, it wasn’t enough to appeal to a wider audience – which has been the dilemma of the California GOP for years.

The state party, which launched the careers of former Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, has not won a gubernatorial race since Schwarzenegger’s reelection bid in 2006.

Mindy Romero, the founder and director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California, told Insider that while the state’s political ideology is more multifaceted than its reputation suggests, the GOP in recent years has continued to elevate candidates that lack appeal on a statewide level.

“The problem for the Republican Party is that politics is local,” she said. “I actually say that we’re not deep blue. I say that we’re shades of blue in many communities of red. In those red communities, we have a lot of elected officials, including members of Congress, who are Republicans. Some of the messaging that they use that works in those communities is antithetical to many Democrats. But at a local level, the messaging works and helps them politically.”

She added: “It’s hard for Republicans to make ground, because locally, they’re going to put forth candidates that are going to be more to the right.”

Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom greets volunteers who were working the phone banks to help campaign against the gubernatorial recall at Hecho en Mexico restaurant in East Los Angeles on August 14, 2021. Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León, California state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, and other Latino dignitaries were on hand to support the governor.

Latino voters, a growing slice of the electorate, backed Newsom

Latino residents now make up 39% of California’s population and are the largest ethnic group in the state – according to the exit polling conducted by Edison Research, they made up 24% of the electorate in the recall election.

For much of the summer, Democrats fretted that they weren’t doing enough to appeal to this critical slice of the electorate, especially as Elder campaigned hard for Latino, Black, and Asian votes.

However, in representing nearly a quarter of the vote in the recall election, the Latino vote was key in the eventual outcome.

According to the Edison exit polling, Latino voters rejected the recall effort by a 60%-40% margin.

But there were signs of concern for Democrats, even with the broad victory.

Newsom actually lost ground with Latinos, albeit slightly, from his 2018 gubernatorial victory, when he carried the group with 64% of the vote, according to NBC exit polling.

For Democrats, the question remains: How can the party engage with this diverse slice of the electorate in a meaningful way?

Romero told Insider that both parties have a chance to improve their relationship with Latinos, but said that Democrats, who count on the group as part of their base, should have done more outreach this year.

“Both parties have a chance with the Latino vote because it’s not monolithic,” she said. “Newsom’s campaign did not reach out to Latinos as it could have. There was lot of work by community organizations and by unions that it looks like helped bring out a lot of Latinos, but in terms of the party-driven work, it was either late or it didn’t happen in the way that you would expect.”

She added: “Democrats will have to work on addressing Latino issues and having better relationships with Latino organizations, and essentially not taking the Latino vote for granted.”

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California Gov. Newsom’s kids have tested positive for COVID-19

gavin newsom california governor school visit
California Gov. Gavin Newsom at a school reopening press conference in March.

  • Two of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s children tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesperson said.
  • Newsom, his partner, and two other kids tested negative.
  • The kids who tested positive have mild symptoms and will quarantine, Politico reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s children tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, a spokesperson said.

The Governor, his partner, and his two other children have tested negative, Erin Mellon, spokesperson in the Governor’s Office told Insider in a statement.

“The family is following all COVID protocols,” Mellon said. “The Newsoms continue to support masking for unvaccinated individuals indoors to stop the spread and advocate for vaccinations as the most effective way to end this pandemic.”

Politico reported that all of Newsom’s children are under 12 and ineligible to get vaccinated.

The children don’t appear to have been exposed to COVID-19 at their private school or at any campaign events, Politico reported.

The identity of the two children who tested positive was not released to protect their privacy. They currently have mild symptoms and are quarantining.

In July, Newsom pulled two of his kids out of a summer camp after the camp wasn’t enforcing state policy to wear masks.

Earlier this week, Newsom held his position as the state’s governor following a recall election.

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Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says California ‘made the right decision’ not to recall Newsom

arnold schwarze egger reagan
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds a news conference before the GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday, January 30, 2008, in Simi Valley, California.

  • Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the state “made the right decision” not to recall Newsom.
  • Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Schwarzenegger called the pool of GOP candidates “disastrous.”
  • Schwarzenegger won a recall election back in 2003, replacing Gov. Gray Davis.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the state “made the right decision” not to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“I think voters made the right decision,” Schwarzenegger said, speaking to the Los Angeles Times about the results of this year’s recall election, which saw Gov. Gavin Newsom keeping his seat by a significant margin. According to an official tally from the California secretary of state’s office, as of September 16, at least 63.7% of the state voted for Newsom to keep his seat.

“It’s better to stay with someone who you know what they’re going to do, rather than someone who comes in wacky and is changing everything around,” Schwarzenegger added.

Schwarzenegger became governor after the recall election of former Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and served two terms from 2003 to 2011. During the interview with the Los Angeles Times, he declined to reveal his vote in this year’s recall, but critiqued the slate of Republican candidates.

“It’s just disastrous,” Schwarzenegger told The Times, calling out controversial conservative radio talk show host and Republican frontrunner Larry Elder by name.

“This is a good comeback story,” he said. “Newsom was down and in the trenches and against the ropes. I think he woke up and made adjustments, talking issues, and all that stuff. And he was very fortunate he had Elder as the leading candidate on the other side.”

In his critique of the field of GOP candidates, Schwarzenegger – who ran as a Republican in 2003 – said they might have fared better had they addressed issues like the economy, education, and the environment instead of doing the “opposite.”

“The voters want to protect the environment,” he said. “We have the strictest environmental laws in California, and we have proven to the world that you can have strictest environmental laws and at the same time be the most successful economy.”

Newsom is slated to keep his seat as governor, though prominent figures like Elder and former President Donald Trump have baselessly alleged that the vote count was rigged. There is no evidence of widespread vote-rigging in the election. Newsom is expected to run to be re-elected as governor in 2022.

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California’s high-profile recall election could spark a surge in similar unseating attempts across the US, according to a politics expert

Biden speaks before California recall
President Biden speaks during a rally in support of California Gov. Gavin Newsom at Long Beach City College on Monday.

  • California’s September 14 recall election saw Gov. Gavin Newsom retain statewide power with ease.
  • But a politics expert told Insider this could spark similar recall efforts across 19 states.
  • “The other party is out of power, usually frustrated, and just trying to do something to disrupt the status quo,” Ben Kaplan said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom kept his governorship with ease in Tuesday’s statewide recall election, with several outlets calling the race less than an hour after polls closed across the state.

But the high-profile, expensive attempt by politically-weak Republicans in the Golden State to unseat the Democratic governor – who is up for reelection next year – could have far-reaching implications for elected officials across the country.

California is one of 19 states where voters can oust their leaders before a regularly-scheduled election through a recall effort. And while the effort to unseat Newsom has drawn sharp criticism from some who argue the process to recall elected officials should be tougher, one polling expert told Insider California’s well-watched referendum could spark repeats throughout the US.

“I would expect to see a lot of other efforts to recall other politicians on the left and the right as a result of this, because it was so high profile,” Ben Kaplan, CEO of TOP Government, a politics and issue advocacy agency, said.

States in which one party is overwhelmingly dominant will be most likely to witness increased recall efforts, according to Kaplan.

“The other party is out of power, usually frustrated, and just trying to do something to disrupt the status quo,” he said. “They feel like they can’t win an election if it’s a normal election, so they have to find some other way.”

In states where political control is more evenly shared, Kaplan said efforts to replace elected officials will, for the most part, continue to be decided during regularly-scheduled elections.

Of the 19 states that allow recalls, each one has its own criteria determining the circumstances and requirements surrounding the effort. California, notably, has one of the lowest bars for triggering a recall election.

Several states require support from at least 25% of voters who participated in the last election to generate a recall. But statewide officers in California can be recalled with only 12% of the previous vote, and additional signatures from at least five counties, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Similarly, while Colorado, Idaho, and Michigan allow only 60 days for a recall petition to be circulated, California allows 160 days for jurisdictions with more than 50,000 registered voters.

The leaders of the Newsom recall effort received extra assistance on that front, when a judge extended the circulation deadline by an extra 120 days last November due to coronavirus restrictions.

But while the threshold to trigger a recall election may be higher in most other states compared to California, Kaplan said people will likely still try to launch their own attempts, especially given the national publicity California’s gubernatorial recall was able to generate in the months leading up to the vote.

Five different attempts to recall Newsom had failed by the end of 2020 with little fanfare. But a blunder on the governor’s part in November 2020 – he was photographed attending a lobbyist friend’s birthday dinner with several people during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic after months of instructing Californians to avoid such gatherings – kicked the campaign to the forefront of California politics.

A sixth petition, led by a retired sheriff’s sergeant, Orrin Heatlie, and his California Patriot Coalition, collected the required number of signatures in the spring, triggering the election.

“Now, a politician is only one viral gaffe away from giving it a lot of credence if a recall is already in place,” Kaplan said.

Despite Newsom’s eventual win, Kaplan said Republicans’ success in getting the recall effort in front of voters, could provide a roadmap, or at least, a glimmer of hope for those making similar attempts in their own states.

“I think other people will try to get these recalls in place with the hope that there might be some kind of unifying moment that suddenly makes it something that can be on the ballot,” he said.

Whether California’s watershed moment will spark copycat attempts remains to be seen. But either way, the election was an important one, Kaplan argued, providing one of the only high-profile harbingers of what’s to come as a divided nation looks to the 2022 elections and beyond.

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California spent $276 million on its recall election. Here’s how that stacks up against the state’s spending on 3 key issues.

People wait in line outside a vote center to cast their ballots, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in Huntington Beach, Calif.
People wait in line outside a vote center to cast their ballots, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in Huntington Beach, Calif.

  • The failed attempt to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom from his role cost California taxpayers $276 million.
  • We took a look at how that sum stacks up against key parts of the state’s budget.
  • We examined how much the state has allocated to helping its homeless population and funding programs that fight climate change and COVID-19.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will remain in office following a costly recall election that cost taxpayers $276 million, according to the state’s Department of Finance.

To put that sum into context, we took a look at how much California is spending on some of its key issues this year, from homelessness and battling wildfires to combating COVID-19. Figures on California’s spending have been sourced from the state’s 2020-2021 budget.

Funding housing for the homeless

california skid row homeless tents
A man walks past tents housing the homeless on the streets in the Skid Row community of Los Angeles, California.

Homelessness was cited as a key issue in this year’s recall election, with Newsom’s GOP rivals like Larry Elder and Caitlyn Jenner each offering controversial ideas on how they would tackle the issue. An estimated 60,000 people are currently living on the streets of Los Angeles. On the state level, the US Interagency Council on Homelessness reported that in January 2020, California recorded an estimated total of more than 161,548 homeless individuals.

Per California’s 2020-2021 budget, $550 million was allocated to the Department of Housing and Community Development for Project Homekey, a sum intended to provide housing for homeless individuals and families. The $276 million spent on the recall election could have funded more than half of this amount.

The average cost of building a single unit of housing for the homeless in Los Angeles rose to $531,000 in 2020, according to an audit from City Controller Ron Galperin. Based on this metric, with $276 million, the state could have financed more than 500 units of housing with the cost of the recall election.

Fighting climate change

California drought
California has suffered a spate of extreme weather events this year, from devastating wildfires to drought. State funds are now being funneled into programs to combat climate change.

California has seen a series of extreme weather events this year, with wildfires decimating towns and a severe drought leaving its lakes bone-dry.

The state’s 2020-2021 budget allocated $50 million to a general fund to mitigate the effects of power shutdowns, in a bid to reduce the risk of wildfires sparked by utility-owned equipment. The AP reported that the state approved a $1.5 billion budget to prevent wildfires – nearly a fifth of which could have been funded by the recall election’s cost.

Additionally, $276 million could have gone a long way to funding programs to battle smog and climate change. According to a report from local news site CalMatters, key environmental programs saw funding cuts of nearly $105 million in July 2020. These funding cuts hit programs that promoted green vehicles and tackled methane excretions from cows.

Fighting COVID-19

Los Angeles Coronavirus
A Covid-19 warning sign in Los Angeles, California.

A large part of the state’s 2020-2021 budget focused on measures that could mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s 2020-2021 budget shows $716 million was set aside for COVID‑19 contingencies. Another $3.5 billion was allocated for direct COVID-19 related expenditures. This sum is being earmarked for spending on personal protective equipment, expanding the surge capacity at hospitals and medical facilities, providing hotels for healthcare workers who need to quarantine after coming into contact with COVID-19 patients, and improving statewide contact tracing.

The $276 million from the recall election could have paid for more than a third of the state’s COVID-19 contingency fund, or funded slightly over a tenth of its state-wide COVID-19 related expenditures.

As of September 15, California has confirmed 4,616,854 COVID-19 cases and 67,647 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. In the week ending Thursday, the state reported a daily average of 10,189 COVID-19 cases, per The New York Times’ COVID-19 case tracker.

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Caitlyn Jenner says she ‘can’t believe’ voters kept Newsom in office after receiving only about 1% of the vote in the California recall election

caitlyn jenner
Gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner looks on during a Town Hall meeting in Pasadena, California, on August 28, 2021.

  • Caitlyn Jenner has so far received 1.1% of the vote in the California gubernatorial recall election.
  • Despite her near-universal name identification, Jenner struggled to gain traction with voters.
  • In a Newsmax interview, she said that she would “evaluate” any future political opportunities.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Caitlyn Jenner entered this year’s California gubernatorial recall election with near-universal name recognition and a burning desire to take down Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, branding herself as a “compassionate disrupter” who would “save” the Golden State from its liberal excesses.

However, as the returns came in on Tuesday night, it was clear early on that Newsom would not only remain in office for the rest of his first term, which expires in early 2023, but Republicans would once again be shut out of the levers of power in Sacramento – with Jenner faltering among the electorate in her first political race.

With 58% of the vote in, Jenner has so far received 56,355 votes, or roughly 1.1% of the vote, out of nearly 5.3 million votes that have so far been counted, according to Insider and Decision Desk HQ.

Jenner was well behind Republican frontrunner and conservative radio host Larry Elder, who has so far secured 45% of the vote, amounting to 2,373,551 votes, among those who chose a candidate in the event that Newsom was recalled.

Other prominent Republicans including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and 2018 gubernatorial nominee John Cox were also ahead of Jenner, securing 8.3% and 4.2% of the vote, respectively.

Jenner, reacting to the results, expressed disappointment that Newsom had survived the recall, which was fueled by conservative anger over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as it pertained to business closures during the first waves of the virus.

In a video shared by CBS News, the retired gold-medal Olympian was in disbelief that Newsom beat back the election challenge.

“He didn’t campaign on not one of his successes, because he doesn’t have any,” she said. “I can’t believe that this many people actually voted to keep him in office. It’s a shame, honestly, it’s a shame. You kind of get the government you deserve.”

She added: “When I decided to do this, I was coming in as an outsider. I’ve been around politics a long time, but never actually running for office. And I thought I really needed some great people to surround me, to help me get through this, that know the ins and outs of politics. I was able to assemble a great team. And I have to thank all of them, for giving me the guidance, the help, the work on issues.”

During an appearance on Newsmax earlier on Tuesday, Jenner expressed that she was “hoping for the best” with the election results.

“For me, it’s just so up in the air [with] what is going to happen,” she said. “Number one, we gotta get Gavin Newsom outta there. I think it’s going to be difficult doing that, but I’m hoping for the best … If he doesn’t get recalled, I pity the people of California.”

When Jenner was asked if she would consider running against Newsom again in 2022 or try her hand at a congressional race, she said that she would keep her options open.

“One thing I can say is I have thoroughly enjoyed this process,” she said. “It has been uplifting, rewarding. I’m a compassionate person. I love the people. The process has been great. Once this is over with, we’re gonna evaluate, see where we’re at.”

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