A Week Later, Many Recall Winners and Losers

It has now been a week since voting in the recall and replacement elections ended. It seems like a good time to check out where things stand — but that’s a little deceiving! The election is decided, based on statistical projections, but that doesn’t mean that it is “over”; an estimated 1,247,073 ballots are as yet uncounted, and (barring another statistical projection) that doesn’t include the trickle of ballots postmarked on time but still arriving over this next week. On the other hand, it does include 43,000 provisional and 45,000 conditional provisional ballots, not all of which may stay in the game until the end. (This is the point where, in an typical election with lots of races in it, some of them close, we would be doing our best to make sure that people with conditional provisional ballots, in particular, satisfy whatever conditions required by the County Registrar of Voters — such as proving residency or addressing a questionable signature match — that may exist.)

Whatever you may have heard about turnout, according to PDI only 44% of ballots have been counted as yet — that’s 9,728,729 votes so far, with (as noted above) about an eighth of that remaining (not counting ballots still remaining, so I don’t know why I’m hearing people claiming a 70% turnout. Republican turnout, by the way, is now 48% to 47% for Democrats and 34% for others, so yes they did catch up in terms of turnout — but in terms of absolute numbers of ballots it’s 47% Democratic, 24% Republican, and 29% Others (3rd and 0th parties.)

I’m (1) ranking the three big winners, (2) naming the big winners within their categories (this will become clear below) and then (3) will reference other “winners” in a catch-all category. For losers, it’s just one big ranking, based mostly on distance fallen short of expectations.

The top seven winners are illustrated in this graphic brought to you by Fibonacci! “Fibonacci — when it’s golden to be mean!”

In spirally descending order of winningness: its Larry Elder, Gavin Newsom, Kevin Paffrath, Brandon Ross, Joel Ventresca, Dan Kapelovitz, and Angelyne!

The Top Three

#1: Larry Elder

You may think that it should be Gavin Newson, to whom we’ll get momentarily, but I don’t think that this is even close.

Larry Elder is, as he said from the start, not a politician. He will be able to retire his electoral career with over 3 million votes (he’s already at 2.96 million) and something around his current 47.7% — in a race against 45 opponents in his sole race! At this point, he has more votes than the next 12 candidates combined — all of the way down to Patrick Kilpatrick in 13th place. That is credibility that will last him the rest of his life (and probably longer.)

Now you may say that, well, that was a race in which no Democrat competed (and you’re wrong, as nine did) and so he doesn’t get credit for it. If so, you flat-out don’t get it. This is a race where most people were running to advance their careers. This was a race of messenging — perhaps the sole area in which Trump Republicans excel — and the fact that one can say “Larry Elder won 47.7% of the vote for California Governor and got more votes than his next dozen challengers and not be lying — what a refreshing experience for Republican pundits! — gives them more to work with than anything Trump has had available.

Claiming that this lacks necessary context just invites people, especially Trumpublicans, to laugh at you.

“What do you mean, ‘Democrats didn’t compete’? Newsom beat the recall by over 3,000,000 votes and over 25%! Are you really claiming that they didn’t care if someone won the replacement race by almost 40% over the guy who finished second? There was no reason for them not to compete — and nine Democrats did run! You must really think that California Democrats are morons!”

And this is where you tell them that, morons or not, Democrats not only kept every possible good Democrat from filing in the race, but they told their own voters not to vote on Question 2 because that would only give credence to the replacement election.

“But wouldn’t the winner had taken office if a photo came out of Newsom in bed with a 15-year old escort who was being sexually trafficked? Didn’t the election for Governor matter?” [Note: you might argue that no one would believe that Newsom would do such a falsity, but it you stop for a moment you’ll realize that Trumpublicans already are primed to believe it and would definitely believe it if it came out of one of their fake news sites — ideally with a really good Russian deepfake video. And no, they don’t care what Rush Limbaugh did in the Dominican Republic.]

Yes ..you tell them, it might have mattered then, but well — you search how to say this — that is implausible. For that you receive a squint-smile. But maybe they come to understand that maybe Democrats really were that craven.

“It doesn’t really matter though, does it? An Olympic athlete who wins a medal when much of the world is boycotting the event, or out with Covid, is still an Olympic medal winner, right? What Elder did is still a huge achievement!”

And so you tell them that one reason Elder did so well is that Democrats built him up because Newsom wanted to run against the most horrifying alternative so that people would volunteer and vote for him even if they disliked him. This is where you get a gape-mouthed stare in return.

You’re telling that that [one of several terms for male genitalia] Newsom is such a [one of several terms for female genitalia] that he was afraid that he couldn’t win unless the alternative was someone who would scare the [one of several terms for excretions] out of voters until they voted for him when they didn’t want to?”

You explain, somewhat nervously, that you feel like the narrative has gotten away from you somewhat and that you’ve been taken to imply things that you don’t really mean — your Republican conversation partner laughs at you, lights a cigar, and inhales and expels a big puff.

“Well, that’s where we excel, my friend. If that [obscene gerund] Ukranian President had just given the information he had about Hunter Biden’s blackmail by Osama bin Laden’s prostitute niece, Trump would still be President!”

What you should understand is that right now we’re seeing the birth of “The Legend of Larry Elder.” Explaining the truth not only makes Newsom look like a cowardly imbecile who inadvertently raised Elder to Republican superstar status when he easily could have crushed him, but it really looks like you’re Making Shit Up to deny Elder his glory.

Elder, as a result, has won a title potentially even more powerful than that of President. He is now the undisputable “New Rush Limbaugh” — and the only term limit to that is resignation or death. (He can’t be impeached.) And, in true Trumpian fashion, he will use his awesome power to wreak havoc, exact revenge, remake society and sell books. The big difference is that — unlike Limbaugh — his obsessions are scraping the 5%, 10% — maybe he can even boost it to 20%! — of the Black electorate (mostly males) that has contempt for what they see as their lazy, victimhood-claiming, libertine members of their society that (they’re convinced) are the main reason that whites hold their race in contempt. They want a divorce from them. He can do the same with Latinos outside the Miami Cuban community, despite his hysterical opposition to immigration, because some Latinos do feel diminished by others among their coummunity and want to demonstrate their independence from it. Each, with the proper media leadership that can make “righteous” contempt seem fun, can make a difference in our swing states and cost Democrats the Presidency.

Elder is now the undisputed champ of conservative talk radio. Michael Savage, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewett, Dana Loesch, Laura Ingraham (if she returns to radio) and all of KABC combined can’t touch him. He, unlike them, is a giant-killer — ratified as such by the electorate of the country’s leading liberal state! He can make a difference in Presidential elections for the next 20 years — and he can do it while having nothing but fun!

Can Gavin Newsom say that?

That’s not even the worst scenario. The worst scenario comes if Larry Elder is chosen to be Vice-President on a ticket with Donald Trump (or DeSantis, Abbott, or Pompeo, etc.) because this would give him a greater ability to make a difference in swing states. And just imagine if his ticket is running against our second place finisher…

#2: Gavin Newsom

If you haven’t read the entry above on Larry Elder, please do so, because as Elder’s fortunes go up, Newsom’s go down, as more and more people come to realize that he was literally the person most responsible for Elder’s ascension. If Newsom had wanted Elder crushed and humiliated, it would have happened. But Newsom wanted him strong, out of what was essentially cowardice.

Since I’ve been involved in Democratic politics, Democratic leaders have yearned for what Gavin Newsom received in this election: a public that would volunteer, come out and vote (or not vote, in the case of the Replacement race) as instructed, and dutifully parrot the party’s line eagerly, often, and without doubt. It’s insulting to Republicans to say that they have wanted the Democratic electorate to act more like rank-and-file Republicans, and it’s insulting to Democrats that they have want to have the freedom from accountability of a Donald Trump. (I think that both are true.)

What Newsom thinks that he’s obtained in this recall election is a volunteer force — cost-free, entirely at his command — who can be summoned to volunteer their labor on his behalf at any future time because of their shared sense of achievement at what they did in The Great Recall War. Democrats tend not to fall in line as readily as Republicans do — a famous quote about politics is along the lines of “Republican fall in line for candidates, but Democrats need to fall in love” — but people can generally be jollied into actions by reminiscences of great victories.

But the problem that these volunteers will begin to see is one of conditional and corrosive love. If they keep on honoring every request and repeating every talking point, they’ll be fine. But those who refuse to keep donating the time and obedience to the party (and Newsom as its leader) — or who (gasp!) try to think for themselves about candidates — will get the sense that they are giving up the status they have achieved, as if the party were a cult.

There’s a need for deprogramming here. Volunteers zealously ceded their brains and their voices and muscles to Newsom because they were scared to death of Larry Elder. And they were scared to death of Elder because Newsom wanted them to be. I don’t believe that Newsom believed that a single bland white male Democrat with something of a middling resume — someone who would not be an demographic “first” in any way, like former Rep. Harley Rouda — would be so damned appealing to Democratic voters that they would vote “yes” on the recall to see Rouda replace him, with the threat of Elder remaining live.

It’s true that the California Democratic Party would not have time to endorse him. But, if prominent Democrats did personally endorse him, and Newsom gave a thumb’s up, Democratic County Party’s and city clubs would follow — and people desperate to find someone to vote for would flock to him because he could beat Elder — and of course they could have been instructed to do the natural thing and GO VOTE! rather than to do the unnatural thing and skip Question 2. (We can tell how hungry Democrats were to find someone to vote for on Question 2 because a million of them so far flocked to vote for child millionaire Kevin Paffrath and recovered heroin addict De. Brandon Ross — both discussed below — for God’s sake!) There was no crisis in the recall election other than that the one that Newsom deliberately created.

The counterargument to this is that if people weren’t so absolutely scared to death of Elder becoming Governor, volunteers would not have worked so hard to draw out the Democratic vote. It’s certainly plausible! But the implication is that the only way that Newsom thought that he could win a recall election — even one in which Larry Elder was likely to rise to the top of the pack of his own accord — unless the alternative was an utter Trumpian race-inflaming horror.

That is one horrific commentary about either Gavin Newsom’s bravery, his appeal, or his electability. He could have still gone after Elder, had he wanted to — but he didn’t have to arrange a situation where the majority of the voters on Question 2 were apparent Republicans so that Elder might get 50% of the vote (which he only narrowly missed.) So the choice of explanation is between (1) a scenario where Newsom was so terrified of Elder that he had to arrange things so that the public would be roused into action or (2) a scenario where Newsom want to generate a high level of fear, panic, and arousal so that — again, as in some cults — people would flock to him, bond to him, and be controllable.

What do you think: was Newsom desperate and timorous or cynically manipulative? My money would be on the latter.

I think that this cavalier abuse of people’s sensibilities comes back to bite him — probably not in 2022, where we could well see no Democrat of any note even move a muscle to run against him (and thereby win political ostracism) — but possibly in 2024 or 2028, depending on how well Biden is doing and whether he chooses to run. I don’t thinkt hat he’ll be able to get the band of activists, who allowed him to win retention by a mere 25%, together again. And, with Larry Elder being able to make great hay by calling him a political coward, I don’t think that he wins the nomination.

So: yes, Newsom retained his position as Governor — and will probably remain Governor for six more years. But he probably undercut his hopes of becoming President, partly by exposing himself as either a coward or a cynical user.

#3. Kevin Paffrath

Nominal Democrat Kevin Paffrath won in two ways. First, he finished second in the replacement race, with a current 9.8% of the vote. Second, he garnered as much publicity as an internet multi-millionaire huckster could want. He may decide to go further in politics — and if he spreads around enough money, the Democratic Party might forgive him for not following its instructions — or he may just stay in the business world. It may depend on his attention span or how long it takes for him to become bored.

One of the interesting things about Paffrath is that, while he seems to have a questionable grip on policy and a tendency to grasp at whatever the next shiny new idea is, he did what no other leading Democrat (or non-Republican) did: he went after Newsom’s jugular. His position was “Vote Yes on the Recall and put me in instead” — which was a fairly shocking position for what my great-grandfather would have called a pisher to take. He was exactly the kind of candidate that Newsom feared — and exactly the kind of candidate that Newsom’s atrategy allowed to blossom. If there were a friendly face like Harley Rouda in the race to suck up t6he many more available Democratic votes, would Paffrath really have flirted with 10% of the vote? I think that he was more likely to flirt with 1%.

Now, however, his performance has him sitting pretty. The Democratic Party may reach out to destroy him, but they’d probably prefer merely to fine him and invite him to run in a Republican-leaning Congressional district where he can be the living embodiment of the Third Way. At worst, his viewership — and those all-important seminar sales! — will receive a gigantic boost.

Category Winners

#1: Best Democratic Performance by a (Most Likely) Actual Democrat

The Award Goes to Brandon Ross

Brandon Ross had the best and most redemptive story in the whole election. He present himself as a former big-deal San Diego cosmetic surgeon with a great academic pedigree, he hurt his back, was given narcotics for the pain, and became addicted to opiates. He lost his business, his marriage, his children. While in a “recovery program” he studied law, was admitted to the bar, rebuilt his practice, remarried, regained custody of his kids, and established a charity, which he runs, to give “free cosmetic surgery to children following trauma and radiation treatments for brain tumors.”

I don’t know how much of this is true, false, or missing context. (There’s a lot missing between my second and third sentences up there.) His current website appears to be devoted almost entirely to hair restoration, with no mention of the sorts of surgery he mentions in his charity. (Unless he’s only referring to hair restoration there as well, in which case umm, ok.) What I do know is that voters just ate him up. (We’ll see in time how much of that support came from San Diego itself.) He’s already passed 350,000 votes. If he’s on the up-and-up, he may be able to ride this to a nomination for state legislature or Congress in or near wherever he lives in San Diego County. I presume that he either wasn’t charged with a felony, or that it was expunged or pardoned, or that convicted felons can run for Governor.

I do suggest that if he wants to run for office again, he needs to clean up his biography and fill in the blanks. This includes having a photo of himself on his website, as all I could find was something showing the lower half of his face. He does present himself convincingly as a moderate Democrat, so that’s something to know.

#2: Best Performance by a Berniecrat

The Award Goes to Joel Ventresca

If you thought that I was going to say “Dan Kapelovitz” — well, so did I. And we can learn some interesting things from the fact that Ventresca has 170,000 votes while Kapelovitz has 58,000. Mainly, even if the Democratic Party essentially boycotted the race, Democrats will still not go outside of the Democratic fold to look for a candidate. Ventresca looked like a decent guy — and I guess that he was smart to run within the Democratic Party, despite being an activist who has spent years protesting Willie Brown. But there may be worse things one can do in a candidate statement, as we’ll see.

#3: Best Performance by a Non-Duopoly Candidate

The Award Goes to Dan Kapelovitz

This is where Dan Kapelovitz fits in: Among candidates who belonged to neither of the two major parties, Kapelovitz is safely in the top third of the field, beating not only all NPP candidates, but — more impressively — Jeff Hewitt, a sitting Riverside County Supervisor running as a Libertarian. Hewitt is 13,000 votes behind him. I know that Elder is really a Libertarian himself — but he was already sure to win; don’t Libertarians have any pride for their party? I guess not! Kapelovitz’s downfall may be that — after having already spend over $4000 for his filing fee — he truckled at paying $25 per word for the ballot statement. (Essentially, he was offering himself as an alternative to the duopoly; he didn’t expect to win unless he somehow caught fire.) As a result, he submitted a four-word ballot statement: “Can You Dig It?” This was not bad from a pure marketing standpoint, but not great from a “getting Democrats who are looking for the best candidate to support you” standpoint. He has a perfectly good website — go see it quickly, before it reverts to his law firm’s website! — but he hadn’t decided to transform its use until after the ballot statement was due — so it’s not in his statement and voters didn’t know to go look at it.

Incidentally, this was only the third shortest ballot statement in the packet. Adam Pagapan’s “Luv U” was shortest, followed by Jeremy Marciniak’s “Search YouTube.” (Marciniak is second-to-last, so the $75 statement may have kept him out of the cellar.) Kapelovitz’s statement was shorter than Holly Baade’s “Leadership for a brighter tomorrow” (making it “brighter tomorrows” could have saved her $25!”) and his fellow Green Heather Collins’s “Green Party. Immigrant. Small business owner,” which tied with Angelyne’s “Angelyne Billboard Queen. Icon. Experienced politician” (oh, I wouldn’t say that), and Chauncey “Slim” Killens’s “Vote for Me. The People’s Governor.” A terse shout-out to them all!

#4: Best Performance by a Non-Party Candidate

The Award Goes to Angelyne

Angelyne became the first person in American history to run in two gubernatorial replacement elections, first as a DTS (“Decline to State”) and second as an NPP (“No Party Preference”) candidate. By the way, she no longer looks like that.

#5: ‘Foot-in-the-Door’ Future Candidate Awards

The Award is Shared by Patrick Kilpatrick and John Drake

Movie villain and decent-seeming moderate Patrick Kilpatrick sits at a respectable 11th, and while he may otherwise have been eligible for a Product Placement Award (see below), he has showed enough chops to have a legitimate shot at running for at least local office. John Drake, “a recent community college grad with a degree in Political Science” — hey, that wouldn’t happen to be an A.A., would it? — won an award not so much for his accomplishments (he’s in 14th place as for his preternatural self-confidence.

Note that two candidates scoring higher than Drake may well run for office, but are disqualified from consideration because on grounds of sliminess. One represents himself as a Daniel Kapelovitz free speech lawyer when his real interest is in arm-twisting colleges to reject anti-hate speech codes; the other wants to make over the Democratic Party as the New Democratic Party by adopting Republican positions on issues. I shall not even name them here.

Product Placement Awards

The final category of winners are those who used the replacement race as a $4000+ exercise in marketing a placement or service. Some of them, as Democrats frantically searched for someone to vote for, did quite well.

Jacqueline McGowan is in 7th place, closing in on 200,000 votes — just below sitting Assembly Member Kevin Kiley! — and she would like to talk to you about cannabis policy. She presents herself as a consultant and she wants to eliminate all taxes on the wacky weed.

Holly Baade is in 10th place, closing in on 85,000 votes, and she would like you to know about her healing treatments in what seems to be some sort of health spa — or possibly a cult, I can’t tell — where I presume patrons are sprayed with the gentle floral scent of Marianne Williamson’s subtle perspiration. You don’t have to check it out; others will.

Michael Loebs — the only candidate listed as “no qualified party preference,” would like to sell you on a membership in the California National Party, which he chairs. I believe that this involves California becoming its own nation — and then being invaded and conquered by the U.S., which takes its Pacific continental deep warm-water ports seriously.

Finally: the Recall’s Big Losers!

[Note: I updated these because I forgot about Jeff Hewitt! I knew that there was someone forgettable I was forgetting!]

#1: Kevin Faulconer

He’s in third place — so how can he be the biggest loser? Easy — he’s been the mainstream Republican Party’s dream candidate in a low-turnout recall election (which, of course, this turned out not to be) for years — and he has fewer than a fifth of the votes as Larry Elder (and that could turn into one-sixth.) The former San Diego Mayor was likely the favorite to make the runoff for Governor next year; now, if he runs at all, it will be on a record of huge electoral failure. Rating the losers involves a “the higher they are, the harder they fall” principle — and that’s a long way to fall!

#2: John Cox

He was the in the runoff for Governor in 2018 — and now he’s in fifth place (below Brandon Ross!) with about 1/11 the vote total as Larry Elder. Sadly, he may be the nominee yet again, because who else, unless Moorlach runs? Could we see two Democrats in the runoff? Or a Libertarian or Green? (OK, don’t bet on the latter.)

#3: Caitlin Jenner

Caitlin, we hardly knew Ye! (Well, except for that whole Kardashians show, which I couldn’t keep up with.) Her current standing, 12th place with under 70,000 votes, really is a surprise; if you’re a time-traveler, a prop bet on her to finish out of the top 10 would probably make you a lot of money. Trans activists are probably relieved, though. (By the way, why was there not even one other out and proud LGBTQIO candidate in this race? As a courtesy to Jenner?)

#4: Jeff Hewitt

The sole person on the ballot from the Libertarian Party, the third-largest party in the state, is one of the five elected members of the Board of Supervisors of Riverside County, which has 2,000,000 people. He is currently 13,000 votes behind Dan Kapelovitz, endorsee of the Green Party, the fourth-largest party in the state. Do the Libertarians have no pride? Or was Hewitt just that uninspiring? Whatever the reason, he’s fallen far and hard. Nice work!

#5: Ted Gaines

He’s a one of only four elected members of the State Board of Equalization — and he’s in 17th place, with only 3/4 as many votes as Dan Kapelovitz? Dude. This probably seemed like a much better idea than it turned out to be, huh? Seriously, he was a prominent enough figure that I chose him to round out the “Gavin, pull the rug out by resigning” trio along with Elder and Faulconer. Pretty humiliating.

#6: Steven Chavez Lodge

Honestly, I had figured Lodge for higher than 26th place out of 46 candidates — but he is fewer than 300 votes behind Sam Gallucci for 25th, which is … better? For the hunky and crinkly-eyed reality show supporting actor and sucker puncher, this may be the final push he needs to move into his true calling — which clearly isn’t politics. (He should talk to Angelyne while she’ll still take his calls.)

#7: Rhonda Furin

Orange County’s Furin is holding on to her grip on 42nd place by only 10 votes — the sort of nail-biter I usually like to cover as the returns roll in but this time I think I’ll pass — with a 3,617 votes. (Maybe she coulda won if Elder hadn’t entered the race!) I don’t think that her career in politics is over, though, because she’s from OC and dreams die hard.

#8: Nickolas Wildstar

How the sort of mighty have fallen! See, Mr. Wildstar — you abandon OC and this is what happens to you! 44th place! You have the same number as Barack Obama! Now that you’re a Republican, rather than a Libertarian, how does that make you feel? (Seriously, man, what happened? You OK? Write in and let us know.)

#9: Gavin Newsom

Because he’ll never be allowed back into the French Laundry again.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)