Politics What The French Laundry Has to Do With Gavin Newsom's Recall Election
California recall voters so far largely Democratic and older
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The critical question left in the California recall election that could remove Gov. Gavin Newsom isn’t whether someone likes the first-term Democrat — it’s who is going to take the time to vote. At this point, it’s all about turnout. Mail-in ballots went to all 22 million registered voters in mid-August for the unusual, late-summer election. More than 4.6 million have been returned so far and while it's not known how theyAt this point, it’s all about turnout.
As California Governorworks to defend his seat in next week's gubernatorial recall election, one dinner he attended with friends last fall amid restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic has continued to fuel those who want the Democrat removed from office.
More than a month before the first COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (), California was battling a rising wave of new COVID-19 infections with health experts predicting additional increases during the holiday weeks that were still to come.
Newsom's nightmare: How one November day fueled the recall
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — On a single day last November, two events helped set the course for just the second recall election against a governor in California history: Gov. Gavin Newsom dined with 11 friends and lobbyists at one of the country’s most expensive restaurants as he pleaded with Californians to stay home, while those looking to kick him out of office won four more months to qualify for the ballot. Photos of the maskless dinner showed the Democratic governor going against what he had been urging for months to combat the coronavirus: don’t gather in groups, keep your distance, wear a mask.
As the leader of the state, Newsom had widely discouraged Californians from gathering in close proximity with people outside their households as a way to protect their families and prevent further spread of the virus. But one night in early November, Newsom was found to be in violation of his own recommended virus precautions when he attended a friend's birthday dinner at The French Laundry, a three-star Michelin restaurant located within Napa County in Yountville.
In mid-November, the Los Angeles-based news station KTTV shared photos that showed a maskless Newsom at the restaurant celebrating the 50th birthday of Jason Kinney, a lobbyist and friend of Newsom's. Kinney's attendance fueled further speculation about the dinner, with The Los Angeles Timesan article that explored in detail Kinney's years-long history with Newsom.
California's Newsom votes as recall against him nears end
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom voted to keep himself in office Friday, days before the recall election against him comes to a close. The Democratic governor cast his ballot at an early voting center in Sacramento alongside his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and took a glimpse of her vote. “I think we're gonna be alright," he joked. The last day to vote is Tuesday, and at least a third of California's 22 million registeredThe Democratic governor cast his ballot at an early voting center in Sacramento alongside his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and took a glimpse of her vote.
On November 16, Newsom apologized during a virtual news conference and said attending the dinner was "a bad mistake."
"As soon as I sat down at a larger table, I realized it was a little larger group than I had anticipated," Newsom said of his arrival to the restaurant. "Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up and walked back, got in my car and drove back to my house. Instead, I chose to sit there with my wife and a number of other couples that were outside the household."
The governor said "we all fall short sometimes" but added he needed to better follow the advice he gave others as the virus remained a threat in the state.
"The spirit of what I'm preaching all the time was contradicted, and I've got to own that," he said.
Despite Newsom's apology, news of his dinner at The French Laundry quickly spread and outraged many people already frustrated with the pandemic restrictions Californians had faced for months. The dinner prompted many people to sign a Recall Gavin Newsom petition that was circulating at the time—the same petition that later qualified for a ballot.
Allegations fly as recall vote looms for California’s Newsom
LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a blitz of TV ads and a last-minute rally, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom urged voters Sunday to turn back a looming recall vote that could remove him from office, while leading Republican Larry Elder broadly criticized the media for what he described as double standards that insulated Newsom from criticism and scrutiny throughout the contest. The sunny, late-summer weekend was a swirl of political activity, as candidates held rallies, continued bus tours and cluttered the TV airwaves with advertising offering their closing arguments in advance of the election that concludes Tuesday.
Randy Economy, a former spokesperson for Recall Gavin Newsom,in late December the dinner was like a "tidal wave" for the recall effort. First approved for circulation in June 2020, the petition received a deadline extension due to the pandemic, giving recall organizers until mid-March 2021 to collect signatures for their petition. The petition's original deadline was November 17, 2020—just days after the dinner Newsom attended.
As news of the dinner spread, support for the recall effort began rising and it appeared increasingly likely in the early weeks of 2021 that the petition would qualify for a ballot. Recall organizers were ultimately successful in gathering at least 1,495,709 verified signatures by their final March 17 deadline. That minimum signature number is equivalent to 12 percent of the total votes cast in the gubernatorial election Newsom won in 2018, per the state's recall election rules.
Though the initial recall petition launched months before Newsom's French Laundry dinner, the recall website includes the dinner at the top of its list of reasons to recall Newsom with a description that says, "Rules for Thee, but Not for He = French Laundry Indoor Dining, No Mask, 22 guests." While recall organizers have also credited pandemic-related restrictions and business closures for fueling their efforts, the Recall Gavin Newsom website additionally identifies Newsom's policy positions on gun rights, homelessness, immigration and more as reasons for recall supporters to back the petition.
What Makes Newsom's Recall Election Different From Davis' 2003 Ouster
A Democratic strategist who advised former California Governor Gray Davis said there are "several" differences between the two gubernatorial recall elections.Newsom and Davis, both Democrats, are the only California governors who have had to defend their seats through a recall election since the state adopted its recall process in 1911. While voters elected to remove Davis from office nearly 18 years ago, South said he believes the September 14 recall election "is going to be a blowout win for Newsom.
Those behind Recall Gavin Newsom have kept the French Laundry dinner in the conversation about the recall in part through a "Friday Night at the French Laundry" radio program launched in January and through continued references to the dinner during interviews and on social media. Many of the top-polling recall candidates running to replace Newsom if he is recalled next week have also continued to remind their social media followers about the French Laundry dinner.
Conservative radio host Larry Elder, who is widely considered to be the frontrunner among the 46 candidates who appear on the recall ballot, contrasted the restrictions Newsom put in place during the pandemic with Newsom's November 2020 outing in an August 31 tweet.
"Gavin Newsom infringed on Californians' basic freedoms, demanding that we close our schools, shutter small businesses, and avoid houses of worship — causing enormous harm to millions of students, business owners, workers, and families. Meanwhile, he dined at the French Laundry," Elder tweeted.
Citing an investigative report by the Sacramento-based news station KXTV, Republican and former San Diego Mayortweeted on August 14 that Newsom "brokered a bankruptcy plan that prioritized PG&E and 'French Laundry' friend's clients over California fire victims."
How Larry Elder has helped Gavin Newsom in California's recall election
Earlier this year, when California Gov. Gavin Newsom was searching for the right message to convince disengaged Democrats to vote against the effort to oust him in Tuesday's recall election, it would have been impossible to imagine a more perfect foil than conservative talk radio host Larry Elder. © Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP California Gov. Gavin Newsom is photographed during a TV interview before a rally against the California gubernatorial recall election on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Sun Valley, California.
John Cox, a businessman who lost the gubernatorial race to Newsom in 2018, said in May he would "make the beastly changes that will put hard working California farmers ahead of Newsom's French Laundry lobbyist buddies." Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner called the dinner, as well as Newsom's decision to send his children to private schools for in-person instruction while many other schools operated remotely an "example of the hypocrisy."State lawmaker Kevin Kiley, another candidate, alleged earlier this month most of the money Newsom raised to battle the recall effort was "from lobbyists like his French laundry tablemates."
Less than one week remains until California voters decide if Newsom will remain in office for the rest of his term or be removed early. If more than 50 percent of voters cast their ballots in favor of removing Newsom, he will be replaced by the recall candidate who receives the greatest number of votes. That replacement governor would then complete Newsom's current term, which is set to end on January 2, 2023. Voters will during the 2022 midterm elections select someone to fill the office's next full term regardless of the outcome of the September 14 special election.
Gavin Newsom projected to win California recall race .
CNN and NBC both projected that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom would win Tuesday's recall race in California.Newsom held an early and substantial lead in results from California's Tuesday recall election shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m. local time.