Nearly 20 years have passed since California voters recalled a governor and voted a Republican into office. With more than 1.6 million valid signatures, the latest effort became official, and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom will face a yet-to-be-determined number of contenders later this year.
At least nine people have declared their intentions to run, including Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympian and transgender activist, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox.
Even though strategists warn against comparing this recall to the one that ultimately ushered action film star Arnold Schwarzenegger into the governor’s mansion, the growing list of conventional and nontraditional candidates is already capturing the public imagination.
Former adult film actor Mary Carey, who ran in 2003 when Gov. Gray Davis was recalled, announced her intention to run this month, and Los Angeles billboard queen Angelyne, who also ran in 2003, has added her name to the list. And then there’s Sam Gallucci, a tech entrepreneur-turned-pastor, who is running to “bring California back” and restore the “soul of our state.”
State officials haven’t set a date for the election. Potential candidates have until about two months before the election to file papers to run.
Still, with nearly a dozen people already pledging to run, this year’s recall election could take a similar tone to the last one, which attracted more than 100 candidates.
“We still have a long way to go on the candidates,” said Republican strategist Rob Stutzman, who worked in Schwarzenegger’s administration. “It’s way too early to handicap who the candidates will be and how all of this will transpire.”
Longtime Republican Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympian and reality TV star, announced her bid for governor last week, pitching herself as a “compassionate disruptor” who will campaign on “solutions” and “providing a roadmap back to prosperity.”
“For the past decade, we have seen the glimmer of the Golden State reduced by one-party rule that places politics over progress and special interests over people. Sacramento needs an honest leader with a clear vision,” Jenner said in a statement.
Jenner renounced President Donald Trump, but LGBTQ groups slammed her candidacy, citing her previous support for Trump, who they say worked to undo protections for the trans community.
“Make no mistake: we can’t wait to elect a #trans governor of California. But @Caitlyn_Jenner spent years telling the #LGBTQ+ community to trust Donald Trump. We saw how that turned out,” tweeted Equality California, a statewide nonprofit civil rights organization.
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer was among the first Republicans to announce his candidacy after months of having attacked Newsom. Relatively unknown statewide, Faulconer has billed himself as a compassionate conservative who leans left on social issues but right on fiscal matters. Faulconer has distanced himself from anti-immigrant rhetoric and has tried to distance himself from Trump even though he voted for him in November.
“I believe Californians want a change,” Faulconer said in February. “As we look at the reality, we all love our state, but what we’re seeing is jobs are fleeing. Our state can’t do the basics.”
Faulconer’s biggest challenge will be to overcome a lack of statewide name recognition, but he could benefit from having served alongside an all-Democratic City Council as mayor from 2014 to 2020.
“Faulconer is clearly in it for the long haul,” Stutzman said. “He’s still a bit of a Republican front-runner, but people need to raise, get endorsements and build name ID, and right now, they’re all getting crowded out by Caitlyn Jenner.”
John Cox ran for governor in 2018 and lost by double digits. And like Faulconer, he was an early entrant into a potential recall election.
“I’m a businessman, not a politician,” he said in a video announcing his candidacy in February. “It’s time for a fresh start.”
Cox, 65, a lawyer, became a multimillionaire while moving through a series of professions — accountant, part-owner of a potato chip company, investment manager and real estate magnate — before he turned to politics, NBC Los Angeles reported. He has highlighted the state’s high cost of living by blaming Sacramento’s Democratic majority for failing to keep costs at bay.
Since 2000, Cox, a Republican, has also run for the U.S. House and twice for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. He was a presidential candidate in 2008, NBC Los Angeles reported.
Doug Ose, a Republican former member of Congress who briefly ran for governor in 2018, announced his run to oust Newsom in March.
“Californians are tired of having a governor whose operating themes are hypocrisy, self-interest, half truths and mediocrity,” Ose said in a statement. “Newsom sides with unions that close our schools while sending his own kids to private school. He dines in the state’s fanciest restaurants while telling everyone else to stay at home. He lives in a gated mansion while allowing the state’s homeless crisis to spin out of control. Enough is enough.”
Ose has said voters are clamoring for new leadership after Newsom’s slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout and the long-running coronavirus rules that shuttered businesses and public schools throughout the state.
Sam Gallucci, senior pastor at Embrace! Church in Oxnard, a coastal city northwest of Los Angeles, is also founder and CEO of The Kingdom Center, which provides emergency shelter and transitional living assistance for at-risk women and children, according to his campaign.
Gallucci started in the tech space in 1981 with IBM and made his fortune as a top executive for PeopleSoft CRM, which was acquired by Oracle in 2004 for more than $10 billion.
“I will lead California in a new direction and give our great state back to its people,” he said in a campaign statement Tuesday.
Like others running against Newsom, Gallucci has pointed to California’s homelessness crisis, worsening wildfires and economic downturn during the coronavirus pandemic.
Former adult film star Mary Carey ran in 2003 when 135 people jumped into the race. In an interview with KGO-TV of San Francisco, Carey said she was “young, dumb and full of fun” when she first ran for office but that she has matured and is ready to focus on politics. She came in 10th in 2003, when she ran as an independent.
“I have big plans for California, and it is time for someone with a new attitude from outside of mainstream politics to lead,” Carey, whose real name is Mary Cook, said in a statement this month.
A familiar sight on billboards or cruising around Los Angeles in her pink Corvette, Angelyne recently told Los Angeles Magazine that she has been thinking about running again “for quite a while.”
“It went crazy last time,” she told the magazine. “Now I’m an experienced politician. When I was little, I wanted to rule the universe, but I wanted to make sure everybody was happy. Who wants to be the ruler of a bunch of sad sacks?”
Jenny Rae Le Roux
Jenny Rae Le Roux, a businesswoman from Redding, in Northern California near Shasta Trinity National Park, is running on a technocratic “platform for data-driven solutions,” according to her campaign website.
She lists empowering, listening and solving among her core values, and she said on her Facebook page that the state “is a mess, but Californians are hungry for change.”
A police officer-turned-insurance broker, Grover Coltharp says California needs “a non-career politician and a non-wealthy elite to represent the working class, small business owners and the wealthy to create an environment of unity in this state to grow our economy,” according to his campaign website.