California close to deciding recall date, likely in September

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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OAKLAND — California will soon set a date for the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom — likely in mid-to-late September — after the governor's budget office released its cost analysis Thursday.

The Department of Finance told state leaders that administering the statewide election will cost roughly $276 million. That conclusion would typically trigger the Legislature's financial analysis. But legislators already changed state law to waive their fiscal review, speeding up the timeline to set a vote.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber will soon certify the recall election, prompting Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis to set the date 60 to 80 days later. If Weber were to certify the contest Thursday, that would mean the recall could occur anytime between Aug. 30 and Sept. 19, but the certification may not come for days from now.

Given the concerns of local election officials, who say they cannot find sufficient staff and materials to run an election before Sept. 14, the likeliest two Tuesdays for the contest would be Sept. 14 or Sept. 21.

While political observers once believed an early November election would best benefit Newsom by conforming to the typical rhythms of the election cycle, helping to boost turnout in an off-year election, that logic has shifted as California has reopened its economy and Newsom's polling numbers have stabilized.

Democrats increasingly believe that Newsom would benefit from an earlier vote that allows him to capitalize on that momentum while depriving Republican foes of time to organize and fundraise.

Republicans have objected to legislative Democrats condensing the timeline on those grounds, arguing the majority party is manipulating the process to protect Newsom. In waiving the cost analysis, Democrats reversed a mandate they put in place in 2017 as part of an effort to delay the recall of state Sen. Josh Newman so it could be consolidated with a primary election.

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