Who’s Running in Newsom Recall? Politicians, Activists, Californians of All Stripes

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom - PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom


California’s second gubernatorial recall election in history is shaping up to be pretty different from the first.

Just 41 candidates filed all the paperwork necessary by the 5 p.m. Friday deadline to run to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall — a field that includes GOP politicians, a reality TV star, a YouTube personality, a retired detective, several business owners, activists and even a new-age shaman. 

What it doesn’t include: Anyone with the star power that actor and body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoyed when he disrupted the political scene in 2003 and ousted then-Gov. Gray Davis. It also doesn’t include any prominent Democrats who might be seen as a viable alternative to Newsom by California’s overwhelmingly blue electorate.

That’s good news for Newsom as he fights to keep his job, said the man who managed Davis’ unsuccessful campaign against the 2003 recall. 

“The biggest problem was Arnold getting in and galvanizing the recall vote. And the second biggest problem was (Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz) Bustamante getting in,” said Democratic consultant Garry South.

“In this current field, there is nobody who can have that kind of impact.”


But a lot will hinge on how many Californians decide to vote. Polls show that Republicans are enthusiastic about the recall, while Democrats are not very tuned in that it’s happening. Even though, overall, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 22 percentage points in California, Newsom could be damaged by strong turnout among GOP voters and weak turnout among Democrats.  

“A sleepy race can pose its own challenges for Newsom,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican consultant who worked on Schwarzenegger’s campaign. “If there is a lack of intensity among Democrats, something weird could happen.”

Newsom enjoys a massive fundraising advantage over his challengers and has already raised $31 million to fight the recall. State law allows the target of a recall to accept unlimited sums of money — and his campaign committee has already received several donations of $1 million or more. Challengers can only accept as much as $32,400 from each single donor. 

But a recent spike in COVID cases and new mask mandates in some parts of California create uncertainty that could change the political landscape. 

The recall ballot includes two questions. The first requires a yes or no answer: Do you want to recall Newsom? On the second question, voters can pick one candidate to replace him. Unless a majority votes “yes” on the first, the second doesn’t matter, except perhaps to show who has the most support heading into the 2022 regular election for governor.

“Across our state, Democrats are united against this Republican recall,” said Nathan Click, a spokesman for Newsom’s anti-recall campaign. “They understand this recall is nothing more than a partisan power grab.”

The most well-known challengers include Republicans Caitlyn Jenner, a  transgender reality TV personality and former Olympic athlete; John Cox, a businessman who lost to Newsom in 2018; and Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego.    

“We have the broad brush that this election deserves,” said Anne Dunsmore, a manager for the recall campaign.

She said she is happy with the field of candidates, “some who have a background in politics and some who don’t, but who have remarkable followings in the endeavors they are involved in.”

Dunsmore said she believes that having lots of candidates in the race — even if none are likely to consolidate a huge number of votes — will help the effort to oust Newsom by bringing in more people to vote “yes” on the question of whether to recall him. 

The 41-person field is actually much smaller than it was in 2003, when 135 candidates ran to replace Davis. 

This year, candidates had to comply with a new requirement: submitting five years of tax returns that will be posted publicly on the secretary of state’s website. Several people who flirted with running — including Trump administration official Richard Grenell, conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, California secession advocate Louis Marinelli and adult film performer Mary Carey — did not, in the end, submit the required paperwork. 

Tonight, the secretary of state’s office released a list of candidates who have “fulfilled the qualifications and requirements to appear on the ballot.” It plans to issue a certified list, with final ballot designations, on Wednesday.

Here’s a look at who will be on the ballot in California’s historic recall election:


Politicians

Republican recall gubernatorial candidates Kevin Kiley, Doug Ose and Kevin Faulconer. Photos by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; Doug Ose for Governor
From left, Republican recall gubernatorial candidates Kevin Kiley, Doug Ose and Kevin Faulconer. Photos by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; Doug Ose for Governor

Kevin Faulconer, 54, is the Republican former mayor of mostly Democratic San Diego. He supported immigration reform, believed in climate change and distanced himself from former President Donald Trump, until voting for him in 2020. 

Ted Gaines, 63, of Shingle Springs, is a Republican former state senator and Assemblymember who is now on the California State Board of Equalization, which oversees taxes and fee collection.

Jeff Hewitt has been a Riverside County supervisor since 2018. Before that, the 68-year-old hero to Libertarians nationwide was mayor of Calimesa after serving as a City Council member.

Kevin Kiley is a Republican assemblymember from Rocklin. The 36-year-old former deputy attorney general and former teacher made headlines by suing Newsom over pandemic executive orders.

Doug Ose, a 66-year old Republican, is a former Sacramento-area U.S. representative whose 2018 campaign for governor failed to gain traction


Media celebrities

Recall candidate Caitlyn Jenner speaks in Sacramento on July 9, 20201. Photo by Marissa Garcia for CalMatters

Angelyne is a “‘billboard icon” of Los Angeles, spotted around Southern California in her signature pink Corvette. Now 70, she has tried to keep an aura of mystery, and changed her legal name to AngelLyne Lynne. She is running without a party preference.  

Caitlyn Jenner, 71, a Republican, first came to prominence as an Olympic gold medalist in 1976. Formerly known as Bruce, she was once married to Kris Jenner — mother of the Kardashian sisters, the reality TV stars — before becoming one of the most prominent public figures to transition.

Kevin Paffrath is a real estate broker and investor from Ventura. The 29-year-old Democrat has 1.7 million subscribers to his YouTube channel on the housing market, real estate and the stock market. 


Self funders

Recall candidate John Cox speaks during a campaign event at Miller Regional Park in Sacramento on May 4, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Recall candidate John Cox speaks during a campaign event at Miller Regional Park in Sacramento on May 4, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

John Cox, 66, is a self-proclaimed anti-politician from the San Diego area who has run for U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate and the presidency as a Republican and who lost to Newsom in 2018. This time, he’s campaigning with a live bear and a ball of trash. He has already put in $5 million from his own wallet.

Jenny Rae Le Roux, 40, is a business owner from Redding and former Bain consultant who describes herself as a ‘Republican, pro-business fiscal conservative.” Le Roux has contributed $100,000 to her campaign.

Anthony D. Trimino, from Ladera Ranch, is the owner of a marketing and advertising agency. The 45-year old Republican has put $50,000 into his campaign. 

Leo S. Zacky, 29, of Los Angeles, was the vice president of Zacky Farms, a family-owned poultry business that closed in 2018. The Republican loaned his campaign $25,000.  


Conservative activists

Demonstrators hold up signs during a protest to reopen California at the State Capitol in Sacramento on May 1, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Demonstrators hold up signs during a protest to reopen California at the state Capitol in Sacramento on May 1, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Chauncey S. “Slim” Killens, a 63-year-old associate pastor from Hemet, is running as a Republican. Killens, a Trump supporter, attended the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, but spoke against the violence. 

Sarah L. Stephens, 39, is a pastor from Riverside County running as a Republican. She has helped organize events such as the “Redeeming America” tour, seeking to unite businesses to reopen during the pandemic. 

Nickolas WIldstar, 39, of Fresno, is a Libertarian activist running as a Republican. A digital marketer and a rapper, Wildstar ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018 and city council and mayor in Orange County, where he recently lived.


Liberal activists

Protesters march down College Avenue to UC Berkeley during a protest against police violence and systemic racism organized by the SEIU Local 1021 in Oakland on June 1, 2020. Photo by Ray Chavez, Bay Area News Group
Protesters march down College Avenue to UC Berkeley during a protest against police violence and systemic racism organized by the SEIU Local 1021 in Oakland on June 1, 2020. Photo by Ray Chavez, Bay Area News Group

Michael A. Loebs, a 39-year-old lecturer in political science at San Francisco State University, is running with no party preference. He is an organizer with the California National Party, which advocates for secession from the U.S. and policies including universal basic income and single-payer health care.

Joel A. Ventresca, 69, of San Francisco, served as city treasurer and lost a bid for mayor in 2019. Ventresca, a Democrat, is on the executive committee of the Services Employees International Union. 


Regular Joes and Jills

Image via iStock

Holly L. Baade, 48, is a spiritual teacher and coach. A Democrat who lives in Fairfax, Baade is also a former journalist.

David A. Bramante is a realtor and housing developer from Calabasas. The 39-year-old Republican hosts a podcast on artificial intelligence.  

Heather WJ Collins, 61, is a Playa Del Rey resident and hairstylist running with the Green Party. 

John R. Drake from Ventura, is running as a “progressive Democrat.” At 20, he is the youngest candidate to file a statement of intention to run.

Sam L. Gallucci, 62, of Oxnard, is a software developer and pastor. The Republican candidate founded ministries to help at-risk women and children, as well as migrant field workers. 

James G. Hanink, 75, of Inglewood, was a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University and is a member of the American Solidarity Party, which ​​seeks to promote Christian values

David Hillberg, 61, is an aircraft mechanic and actor from Fountain Valley. He is running as a Republican.

Daniel I. Kapelovitz is a 50-year-old criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles and a Green Party candidate.  

Patrick Kilpatrick is an actor, screenwriter and producer from Los Angeles. He is running as a Democrat.

Steve Chavez Lodge, 63, is a former police detective and police commissioner who owns a safety consulting firm. A Republican who lives in Trabuco Canyon, he is engaged to “Real Housewives of Orange County” star Vicki Gunvalson. 

David Lozano, Republican

Denis P. Lucey, is a 61-year-old teacher from Santa Rosa running with no party preference. 

Jeremiah E. Marciniak of Lincoln, owns a rental and car sales business and is running without a party preference. 

Diego J. Martinez, a 45-year-old Republican from San Andreas, was general manager of an auto dealership and now runs a bail bond business.

Jacqueline McGowan, 47, of Napa, is a Democrat and a cannabis advocate who says Newsom has imposed too many regulations on legal marijuana. She says she’s running to “facilitate a fair cannabis market.”

Daniel R. Mercuri is co-CEO of an independent production company, co-partner of a private investment company and a Navy veteran. The 43-year-old Simi Valley Republican ran in a 2020 congressional special election.

David Moore, no party preference 

Robert C. Newman, 77, is a Redlands psychologist. A Republican, he ran for governor in 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2018. 

Adam Papagan, 33, is based in Los Angeles, where he leads tours of celebrity homes. He is running without a party preference because he is curious about how the government works

Dennis Richter, of Los Angeles, works at Walmart and is the Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor. He also ran for Los Angeles mayor in 2017.  

Brandon M. Ross, Democrat

Major Singh, no party preference

Denver Stoner, Republican

Daniel Thomas Watts, 39, is a Democrat from Vista. A lawyer who specializes in first amendment cases, he ran for governor in the 2003 recall when he was a college student. 

Information on other candidates wasn’t available but will be updated.

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