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California Recall Race Tightens

 July 30, 2021 at 9:59 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 This week on round table, does governor Gavin Newsome have a fight on his hands? The recall news this week that should grab his attention extremists in east county rally behind one of nuisance challengers and one in five San Diego and still don't have their COVID vaccine making the return of masks much more likely. I'm Christina Kim and the KPBS round tables starts. Now. Speaker 2: 00:30 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:32 Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Christina Kim, joining me on this remote edition of the KPBS round table are KQBD political reporter, Katie or Andrew Dyer reporter for the San Diego union Tribune and UT biotech reporter Jonathan Wilson. Does it feel like there's an election right around the corner and not just any election, but a recall for governor something that hasn't happened in a generation. If your spidey senses are tingling while you're right. Welcome to 2021 California politics in a recent statewide poll by UC Berkeley, nearly half of those questions have no idea who would they choose if current governor Gavin Newsome is sent packing something that could be an advantage to those that want him gone since Republicans are more likely to be motivated to turn out, joining us for a recall update is Katie or political reporter for KQBD and she might be familiar to our listeners because she's also a former KPBS reporter. Hello and welcome back, Katie. Hi, thanks for having me. We can get into so much this week, but let's start with the latest numbers. Why is this recent Berkeley poll a bad one for governor Gavin Newsome? Speaker 3: 01:36 Christina? It's interesting because if you look at the numbers overall, the poll finds that just 36% of all registered voters support removing Newsome from office. And that is a number that has not changed since January, but the pool took it a step further this time and actually considered among their respondents who were the most likely to participate in this September election. And when you consider the voters that are most likely to actually cast a ballot support for the recall jumps to 47%, pretty close to the majority needed to oust Newsome from office. So I think Newsome's camp probably a little bit worried that those numbers it's Speaker 1: 02:19 Just a 3% edge, no recall over. Yes. Recall, do you have any insight onto why it's so particularly close? Well, Speaker 3: 02:26 Again, this poll is looking at those voters who are most likely to actually vote. So this situation could have actually been in place, you know, back in January, but now we're actually taking a look at the subset of voters, but it is a concern because we know that Republicans are the ones that are more likely to turn out in these kinds of special elections. Democrats tend to turn out for big high-profile presidential elections, less so in midterms and special like this one, like the recall. So when you consider who is likely to actually come out, it's assigned to Newsome that his campaign kind of needs to step it up and make sure his voters realize that this is not a slam dunk for him, that they actually need to get out there and Speaker 1: 03:14 Vote. We're starting to see more ads, especially from governor Newson's campaign. What's his approach right now, especially as you're saying he has some work to do, Speaker 3: 03:22 Right. I think it's just that we are going to start seeing Newsome really pull out all the stops. He has more than I believe, 30 million possibly even $40 million right now to spend on this campaign. And he's going to have to do it. We're already seeing some big names. Senator Elizabeth Warren, uh, just released an ad, uh, opposing the recall. She basically calls it a Republican power grab and says, this is an abuse of the recall process. Although, I mean, it had to qualify for, you know, the ballot, just like any other recall did, but they're trying to, but Democrats are trying to tie this recall to Trump and the era of Trump and hoping that message will fire up Newsome's base and get them actually to fill out a ballot. Um, opposing the recall. Speaker 1: 04:15 So let's talk about some of the contenders in the race. Not that long ago, we were all talking about Kevin Faulkner and John Cox as the contenders, but now talk show host, Larry elder is doing well in the polls. Can you remind us who he is and why you think he's polling so well? Yeah. Speaker 3: 04:30 Um, Larry elder, as you mentioned, he's a conservative, he's a talk show host with a nationally syndicated radio show. He's also an author, a pundit he's hosted, um, TV programs. He's an LA native. He calls himself a libertarian with a small L meaning. He doesn't think it's a party. He's a Republican. He calls for things like abolishing, the IRS, passing a national sales tax, ending welfare abolishing, the minimum wage, eliminating corporate taxes. Uh, he also opposes things like affirmative action and hate crime legislation and regulation of guns. So, you know, pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum from governor Gavin Newsome, Speaker 1: 05:14 Former San Diego mayor, Kevin Faulkner, won't be described that way on the ballot. Instead, he's going to be listed as a businessman and an educator. What's the status of his campaign. Speaker 3: 05:23 Yeah, he is really trying to paint himself as the adult in the room. I think in one of his latest messages, we see him playing up his serious quote unquote vanilla image. He's literally eating may vanilla, Sunday. He notes that he doesn't campaign with a bear or holler around a big ball of trash like John Cox does. Um, he doesn't have fame like Caitlyn Jenner or Larry elder. Again, he is trying to say, I am the one with the serious policies and the serious ideas that can leave California in a better direction. You know, I don't know how well it's catching on, uh, that Berkeley poll had him tied with Cox. I'm getting 10% of the vote from voters who are most likely to vote on a replacement for Gavin Newsome. And you know, this is California, we elected the Terminator governor. So it seems like it could be risky to go with a vanilla ice cream metaphor. But I do have to say, it looks like they filmed that spot in his kitchen and he had an amazing tile back splash. So I will give him some style points. Speaker 1: 06:31 So on the home HGTV, he's getting the points from Katie Speaker 3: 06:35 Or I like it. Speaker 1: 06:37 So the election is scheduled for September 14th, 2021, as we're kind of building up to that date. Are there any big mileposts on the horizon that listeners and voters should really be paying attention to maybe a debater or something else we can put on our calendar? Yeah, Speaker 3: 06:53 There actually is a debate scheduled for August 4th. Uh, but it's certainly not going to include all of the candidates. You can bet governor Gavin Newsome is not going anywhere near a debate stage. Also Larry elder says, it looks like he will not participate. I don't believe Caitlyn Jenner is participating. I think she's actually in Australia right now. Um, but Kevin Faulkner is listed as a participant. Also John Cox, uh, state assemblyman, Kevin Kiley, and former Congressman Doug OSI, all Republicans, uh, are listed to be part of that debate. And then ballots are going to be, uh, mailed out the week of August 16th. So, you know, in just a couple of weeks now, people can actually begin voting in this election. Speaker 1: 07:37 Been speaking with Katie or political reporter for KQBD in the bay area. Thank you, Katie. You're welcome very much more now on that event in east county that drew recall candidate, Larry elder and others to Elka hone, it was built as a local show support for Israel, but that's not how it will be remembered violence between an obscure right-wing group and counter protestors broke out. And now there are questions about whether there was coordination between local groups and law enforcement. So what do these clashes tell us about the region we live in? Andrew Dyer is on the story and has done a lot of work on these east county groups over the past year. Hello, Andrew, welcome to round table. Thanks for having me. So let's just start from the beginning. What exactly happened last Sunday? What did you win? Yes, Speaker 4: 08:19 Well, um, this rally in Elka home with, uh, you know, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and, uh, California governor candidate, Larry elder, just about as soon as it was announced, organizers on the left and pro Palestinian groups started planning their own kind of counter demonstration plan was to mark from, uh, the, the city parking lot in the home to the rally and disrupted in, in some kind of undefined way. Okay. Speaker 1: 08:49 And what exactly happened? I know there was bear repellent being sprayed. It did become violent in nature. Speaker 4: 08:54 So the March per several blocks with no issue until it got about a block east of where the, the, we are Israel rally was being held and a handful of, um, you know, I described them in the story as, as extremists from far right. Groups were kind of there waiting for the protestors, these protestors, I, I really want to clarify this was a, a group of several groups, right? So there was some pro-Palestinian youth organization at Jewish voice for peace. Um, but there were also, uh, I guess you would describe them as leftists or BlackRock or Antifa was also there kind of as an ad hoc security force for the main body of the protest. And once we got to this traffic barricade, it was the, the members of the black block who were kind of on the Vanguard of this March. And, um, almost immediately whenever they got their alcohol lease, there were two police officers, um, uh, videos after videos shared online show this, um, who kind of backed off and disengaged while these far-right individuals came up and immediately started kind of taunting. And, and just the, you know, you know, when people are about to fight, there was a lot of, uh, posturing and kind of, uh, chest up being it didn't take long before a punches were thrown Speaker 1: 10:24 In your reporting this week. You really tried to answer the question, whether event organizers and alcohol and police communicated with a group called exiled Patriots police and the main group called shield of David, deny it. But why did this question even pop up in the first place? Speaker 4: 10:37 Well, so Xcel Patriots is led by, uh, a guy named Mike Fasano. He used to be one of the leaders of defenders county, which is kind of like a larger and more well-known group that sprung up last year during the George Troy protest, they had a falling out with leadership. And so, you know, for, as almost started his own group and they've been front and center at several protests that have had clashes between, you know, either black lives matter demonstrators and, and, and the right, but on a, on a, on his Instagram account, um, the day after the rally also on video, he, he said that the organizers from children, David reached out to him and his organization to talk about what the security structure of this, uh, this event was going to be like, no, this is kind of a shocking allegation because, you know, you know, for example, w w would deny this, I think, but some of the people he's with were members of American guard, which is described as a hardcore white supremacist group and for a Jewish organization, you know, just for there to be an allegation that this order would coordinate with with people like that. Speaker 4: 11:48 It's kind of like, you know, strange bedfellows. So yeah, I asked, I asked the point blank, like, did you talk with [inaudible]? And they, you know, it ain't phonically denied it, you know, pointing out they had private security, they had state department security because of Pompeo's presence. Um, and they had the local police force and they had no need for this group now, whether or not they, there was any formal arrangement here. What happened on the ground was that this far-right group certainly saw themselves as there to protect the pro-Israel rally. And if that was their goal, then I guess they succeeded because after the fights and the spraying of the bear spray and this pro Palestinian protest, you know, they turned around and went back and that was the end of it. But there was allegations online, additionally, that, um, alcohol police department, but some of these folks park in their parking lot at the police station. Now the police say that, you know, they never talked with this group and that, that parking lot is open anyway. And they don't let people park there, but they'd also don't stop people from parking there. So, yeah, they, they also denied any, any coordination with Speaker 1: 12:58 No Russ remade this past Sunday, but you do know that Chris Weirich was there, he's currently facing charges for alleged violence elsewhere. Is that right? Why was it important to note that he was also at these events? You know, Speaker 4: 13:09 It's important because this is something that we see happening over and over again. Um, in Southern California, it happened in ocean beach on January 9th. It happened, um, in Lamesa on August 1st. Um, it happened in Yorba Linda in September, where a, a woman drove her car over a man and the spacing charges for that. Um, just at the same place where Weirich allegedly fired, bear spray, Nope, this is happening and it keeps happening. And if you pay attention that it's the same people who keep showing up at either protests or political rallies as kind of an opportunity to, to engage in violence with their perceived political enemies. Speaker 1: 13:53 Thank you for mentioning that, because sometimes I think listeners hear about these incidents and they see kind of like one-offs, and they don't really know how to make sense of them. I think you've started to do this, but how do we put what happened this past weekend in a greater political and racial context here in the San Diego region? What does it really tell us about what we're living in? How are all of these kinds of skirmishes or standoffs connected? Speaker 4: 14:15 You know, that's, that's the same question I had and it didn't make it into my story, but I did talk with a researcher and then P semi, he, he researches, you know, extremist groups. And what he told me was that, you know, one of the things that are happening right now that create kind of like a perfect storm for this, for one, the pandemic people being in lockdown, being online more where, you know, this political rhetoric is, you know, it's a cauldron of, of misinformation, of disinformation of, uh, of this sort of thing. You have the George Ford protests last year, we have mass mandates and people were opposing mass mandate. So we have, you know, just, there's a lot of things that are motivating people to take their activism off of the internet and into the street, you know, so it's kind of like just this perfect storm and thinking in the context of what we saw after the election, you know, the, the January 6th, uh, insurrection at the Capitol, that was not the first instance of, of street violence in DC after the election, you know, there was also kind of a proud boys, rally and riot in, in December. Speaker 4: 15:23 So from that perspective, when we're talking about looking at patterns and what's happening on the streets, is that it certainly appears that like street fighting is somehow or somewhat a part of, of our politics right now, Speaker 1: 15:37 Quote for Zano boasting that it's going to take more than bear repellent to stop them saying, quote, they underestimate the kind of beast we have on our team. And quote, what does this tell you about the psychology and the values of exiled Patriots? Speaker 4: 15:50 You know, I really don't, and I don't want to put words into, into for examples now, but I have watched a lot of his videos and listened to him. And if you listened to him talk, you know, his slogan for his group is hate, is for rookies. They don't want to be associated with white nationalism or racism. And in speaking with Simi, he, you know, he describes it as, as civic nationalism, which is this kind of a pseudo white nationalism, where you take all of the elements of, you know, the extreme nationalism, traditional values and package it in a way that is racially inclusive. And it makes it a little more palatable for the mainstream. The group that Weirich is affiliated with American guard, the, you know, the ADL calls him her port white supremacists, but semi told me that they've also paved into this more civic nationalists mindset and a rally. Speaker 4: 16:43 Like we are Israel kind of presents this perfect opportunity because it's a, it's a Jewish group one, uh, Larry elder is a black man too. So it gives them kind of some cover to come out and say, how can you call us racist? This is a Jewish group and a black man speaking. And we're here saying that you can't disrupt that. So certainly that, that element is there. It's also a lot of, kind of that machismo alpha male at a mindset when people might call it toxic masculinity. But I think it's a lot of cost and I liken it to like a, a pro wrestler, you know, taunting his next opponent, um, um, on WWE. It that's, I mean, that's the best comparison I can make. That's what this kind of rhetoric reminds me of Speaker 1: 17:30 To unpack. And I really appreciate you taking the time to talk us through it. I've been speaking with Andrew Dyer reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Thank you so much, Andrew. Thank you for having me. Hopefully you still have some of your COVID mass laying around because it's looking like you're going to need them vaccinated or not. The pandemic is far from over with cases, the Delta variant surging everywhere. If we still had a tier system, much of San Diego county would land in the most restrictive purple tier, but things are different this time around. There's no talk of big shutdowns, mostly because of vaccine is widely available. The challenge is convincing the holdouts to get their shot. Jonathan Rosen is back to talk about where we're at with masks and vaccines and all things. COVID. He covers biotech for the San Diego union Tribune. Hello, Jonathan, good talking with you, Christina. So this week was all about masks. What is the CDC urging people to do when it comes to indoor spaces? Speaker 5: 18:23 So on Tuesday, the CDC asked him all Americans vaccinated or not to wear masks when they're in indoor public spaces. If they're in a part of the country where the virus is spreading rapidly, the bottom line is that most of the country, a good chunk of the country is in that category. San Diego easily meets that bar with the way the case has been going up. So essentially they're asking folks in places like San Diego and a lot of other places to wear masks, uh, indoors. And that's pretty different from the CDC guidance back in may, which had said that fully vaccinated people could basically go mask free with a couple minor exceptions, like going to the doctor's office or traveling on a plane. Speaker 1: 19:05 Right. Why do doctors believe now that vaccinated people should take the step of wearing masks once again? Speaker 5: 19:11 Yeah. So there, there are a few different arguments I've heard from different, uh, physicians and infectious disease people, uh, in San Diego. One of those is just a reminder that the vaccines do work better for some people than for others. So if you have you're immunosuppressed, then you may expect the vaccine not to protect you as well. Uh, there's also the issue that we still don't fully have a good grasp of long COVID. So people who get infected, get sick and then never really recover. They're still tired. They're still having difficulty thinking. Uh, and it's not clear how long that can last. It's not even really clear how common that is. The studies vary a lot. Uh, but the bottom line is that what we're seeing right now is that there's a new variant of the virus is Delta variant. That seems to be about twice as transmissible as the version of the virus that was first identified in blue Han China. And so what that means, uh, and what we're hearing from the CDC and from people in the public health world is that we all need to be a little more careful in terms of protecting ourselves because this version of the virus is much better at sort of finding pockets of vulnerability in our community. The Speaker 1: 20:20 County's vaccine dashboard this week shows 70% of eligible San Diegans are fully vaccinated and 80% have at least one dose. What are you hearing about the struggle to reach that remaining 20 to 30% that just hasn't gotten vaccinated yet? Speaker 5: 20:35 So we're hearing a couple of things. Uh, you know, one thing that was interesting was that the county released results a few weeks ago from a survey that it did. Uh, the number one thing that came out of that is that there's a lot of concern about vaccine side effects in terms of the side effects. You know, I was talking with a public health expert at San Diego state Kerryn McDaniels Davidson. She mentioned that she's been doing involved in surveys with people in south San Diego. And in some cases the issue hasn't been, the people don't want to get vaccinated, although there's definitely that faction, but you also have folks who have jobs where they don't have paid time off, or they don't feel that they can ask for it. And maybe they're, you know, the provider of the family taking care of an older parent. So they may think that the vaccines worth getting, but they're a little concerned about being tired or achy and not able to go to work, not able to take care of family, uh, you know, for a short period of time. So it's, it's a combination of things. It's a combination of sort of conspiracy theory, but also some very real concerns about safety, uh, of the vaccines that are out there, right? So Speaker 1: 21:43 I'm hearing it's about access it's about people who have already had COVID who aren't sure if they really need the vaccine. And to your point, misinformation might be the biggest obstacle in reaching any kind of vaccination goals. And they're definitely top of mind for governor Gavin Newsome. Let's take a listen to what he said on Monday. We're exhausted by Speaker 6: 22:00 The right wing echo chamber that has been perpetuating misinformation around the vaccine and its efficacy and safety. We're exhausted by the politicalization of this pandemic. And that includes mask wearing it has been equated to the Holocaust it's disgraceful, it's unconstitutional, it's unconscionable, Speaker 1: 22:20 And it needs to be called out. Governor Newsome has been the face of California's COVID 19 response. He even emceed those COVID lottery cash giveaways earlier this summer, but this misinformation problem has a political component, especially with the recall coming up. How does he lead on an issue like this while not alienating, those who need to be reached? Speaker 5: 22:39 Yeah, that's a good question. I don't think there's a perfect answer there. And if there is, I don't think that the state has found it yet. I think that they're trying to straddle this line between taking steps to slow the spread of the virus, which is proliferating and transmitting pretty rapidly across different parts of California. Right now you mentioned many counties in the state would currently be in the purple tier in the most restrictive tier. So they're trying to deal with that situation, but at the same time, there's this political element where the governor is trying to keep his job. And he's very well aware that masks are unpopular. Uh, you know, even among folks who are concerned about COVID-19, but at this point are pretty tired of following these different public health guidelines. So there seems to be a sort of a tension there between, you know, trying to reach a public that in some ways is, is not as, maybe not as receptive to guidance as they were, you know, more than a year ago. At this point, it's not really clear, uh, how much, you know, to what percentage of the public is gonna, you know, go along with these. I think that'll be the big question as we go into the fall. And as we go into the winter, when typically respiratory viruses are, are more problems, Speaker 1: 23:54 Well, we're not hearing about mass mandates. We are starting to hear more about vaccine mandates. The CSU and UC systems are requiring all students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated by the fall and all California state workers and health workers must be vaccinated or routinely tested. Why do a growing number of public and private institutions believe it's time to require a vaccine? And do you think this is going to be something we see more and more of in the future? Speaker 5: 24:17 Well, I do think we'll be seeing more and more of it. You know, we saw a statement from the white house that came out, uh, you know, on Thursday talking about president Biden, uh, planning to have federal employees be vaccinated. Uh, and I think the department of defense is going to be looking into adding the COVID-19 vaccines to the list of vaccines that members of the military have to take. So we're already beginning to see that shift as far as why we're seeing it. The short answer is the Delta variant. The short answer is we have a version of the virus. That's a lot more transmissible and therefore is a problem. It's mostly a problem, frankly, for people who are unvaccinated. And we can see that in terms of the number of COVID hospitalizations and COVID-19 related deaths that you're seeing in vaccinated versus unvaccinated people, you know, back in April, the CSU and UC systems said that they were going to require vaccination, but they wouldn't do it until the FDA had fully approved the vaccines. Uh, they've clearly changed their tone over the past month, probably based on the Delta variant, and probably also based on increasing real-world data, showing that the vaccines are highly safe and protected. Speaker 1: 25:28 Thank you for getting us all caught up and helping us navigate this new normal that we're all living with. I've been speaking with Jonathan Wilson, biotech reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Thank you so much. Of course, anytime that wraps up this week's edition of the KPBS round table, I'd like to thank my guests, Katie, or from KQBD and Jonathan Wilson and Andrew Dyer, both from the San Diego union Tribune. If you missed any part of our show, you can listen any time on the KPBS round table podcast. I'm MTC Anna Kim, thanks for listening and join us next week on the round table.

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New polling shows a tightening recall race for governor, exploring political extremism in east county, and an update on the COVID-19 situation in San Diego.