On September 14, Californians won. Leaders, advocates, and voters united to reject the recall and chose the path to progress. But as directors of two statewide organizations that helped lead anti-recall efforts — despite how “safe” Governor Gavin Newsom appeared — defeating the election was no easy feat.
Courage California and the California Environmental Justice Alliance sounded the alarm in April, long before the recall was deemed a threat by voters or the Newsom campaign. We started coalition building and hosting meetings early – knowing we’d be up against misinformation, right-wing extremists and dark money interests that seek to divide us, an “enthusiasm gap” and a democratic party that has struggled to embrace progressive values. It was up to us advocates to bring progressives together in support of Gov. Newsom, in order to protect our communities, state, and the progress we’ve made and fought hard for.
The recall election was an attempt to recall our values, the progress our state has made towards safe and healthy communities, and the will of California voters. That’s why over forty environmental, racial, economic, gender justice, and voting rights groups around the state spent over 6 months preparing for election day — our members made phone calls, texted, canvassed, conducted statewide polling, hosted events, wrote articles, ran ad campaigns and sent postcards to motivate millions of voters to turn out to beat the recall. We showed the power of California’s the progressive movement.
As a result, Governor Newsom remains the executive of the state and now we invite him to fight with us on the bold policies we need for a future and California that works for all. Last month, Californians set a clear mandate for progress for civil rights and environment – a mandate overwhelmingly endorsed by young voters of color. In August, Courage California polling found that environment and climate were top factors motivating youth to vote in the recall election, and future elections.
Californians need clean air and water, an equitable COVID recovery, single-payer healthcare, housing, quality jobs, and clean powered and safe communities. The votes and the polls results are in, Californians demand courageous leadership.
All of this is within our power to achieve with a Governor, state legislature, and other elected officials who must move quickly, and with courage, on these shared goals — but we must act together and with great urgency. It’s time for us to focus our collective efforts on creating strong regulatory actions, passing policies, holding our representatives accountable, and fighting back against forces that try to block our progress; especially corporations, special interests, and people who put fear over compassion.
Now that the recall is officially behind us, we can enjoy a collective exhale, and turn our attention back to the tasks at hand: working for the safety of lower-income, Black, brown and undocumented communities, many of whom live on a double frontline of poverty and pollution.
We’re closing out the 2021-22 state legislative and regulatory year by asking Gov. Newsom to extend a statewide eviction moratorium, water and energy shut-off moratoriums, protect frontline residents with strong 2,500 foot buffer zones between oil and gas, and sign critical policies already passed by the state legislature by October 10:
- AB937 to further prevent local law enforcement from turning undocumented immigrants over to ICE
- AB92 to make child care more affordable for low-income families
- SB221 to ensure timely access to mental health and substance abuse care
- SB65 to expand maternal health programs and services.
Leadership must step up and take bolder actions on the policies we demand and deserve. In 2022, we have the opportunity to affirm and choose our leaders with the midterm elections, and our votes will depend on what the Governor and our elected leaders can deliver.
Californians united to protect Gov. Newsom, so that he can do the courageous work of protecting Californians, partner with us on shared values of equity of justice, and continue to set an example for the nation.
With courage, we can fight for a healthy, safe, and just California for all of us. The time is now for leaders and a party that listens to the people and passes the policies we elected them to achieve.
By: Irene Kao, Executive Director at Courge California and Mabel Tsang, Civic Engagement Program Manager at CEJA Action