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The Reverberations Of The Recall

 September 13, 2021 at 5:54 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, September 13th. >>>> What the recall election means for national politics. More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. ###### San Diego County reported more than 700 new coronavirus cases on Sunday and no new deaths. Health officials say the covid-positive case rate is 37.1 per 100-thousand people, but the numbers are different for the vaccinated and unvaccinated: the Covid-positive case rate is 61.9 for the unvaccinated, and 17.7 for those who are vaccinated. San Diego has seen at least 43 cases of the new COVID variant called Mu and California has recorded the highest number of Mu cases nationwide. But this variant does not appear as contagious as delta. Dr. Eric Topol is the director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla. He theorizes the Mu strand will not stay around much longer. “It is the most immune evasive strain today, but again I am not concerned about it because it is fading away in all the areas that delta has dominated.” In order to stop more strains from forming, Topol says we must contain these cases now and increase vaccination rates around the world. ######## The difficulty finding workers nationwide is not just affecting the private sector, it’s also affecting public transportation. In North County, a bus driver shortage is causing people to be late for work. The North County Transit District is not alone with the staffing shortage but the problem is more acute there. Because of this, drivers were forced to work overtime and that is leading to burnout, making the staffing shortage worse. ######### From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. Tomorrow is the deadline to vote in the gubernatorial recall election. Of the 2-million-something mail-in ballots that were sent out in San Diego County, more than 8-hundred-thousand have already been returned. A spokesman for the county communications office says voter turnout is expected to be around 70%. …. And it’s voter turnout in particular that’ll likely decide if Governor Gavin Newsom is removed from office, and if so, who replaces him. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says whether Newsom wins or loses, the election will reverberate in state, and even national, politics. "We're Mira! (Let's go!) Mesa! (Spell it!) M! I! R! A!" AB: In San Diego, and across California, students and teachers have been returning to in-person schooling with spirit — and a requirement to wear masks indoors. Teachers and school staff are also required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. Those public health policies will likely change in California if Gov. Gavin Newsom is recalled. SD: One need only look at states like Arizona, Georgia and Florida for the role of a governor who's anti-science in dealing with the pandemic. AB: Sonja Diaz is a UCLA political science professor and founder of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. Most of the leading candidates to replace Newsom are Republicans who oppose statewide vaccine and mask mandates. And Diaz says while Newsom has been willing to increase state spending to deal with the pandemic, a Republican governor is likely to cut spending. SD: This means that we are not going to have the full arsenal of our government resources. (7:45) Now ultimately this is really hard because we know who suffers when bad policy exists and continues to be manufactured. And that's Black and brown communities who have borne the brunt of the health and wealth impacts of this pandemic. MA: We know that California is a bellwether for other states. AB: UCSD political science professor Marisa Abrajano says if Republicans succeed in recalling Newsom and replacing him with one of their own, the effects could be felt across the country. MA: It could embolden Republican governors in other states and potentially their Republican statewide elected or national officials to continue with their policies, especially given the kind of polarized political environment that we currently live in. AB: It could also give a boost to Republican enthusiasm and fundraising efforts ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Perhaps even more consequential: Dianne Feinstein is 88, and the oldest sitting Senator. A Republican governor would almost certainly appoint a Republican to fill her seat if she couldn’t finish her term. That would give Republicans their Senate majority back. And Diaz says even conservative appointments to state positions could change how California tackles housing, climate change and education. SD: These appointments include cabinet positions. They also include positions around important boards and commissions — whether that's the Air Resources Board, the University of California's Board of Regents, but our state judiciary. So those are powers that you can see, you know, from one day to the next shift. AB: What's unlikely to change with a Republican governor is legislation. Democrats still hold supermajorities in the state Assembly and Senate, meaning they could pass laws and override a veto from the governor — if they stay united. And Abrajano thinks they would. MA: I mean, they're even highly united right now as we've seen coalescing around Newsom, agreeing that other potential high-profile Democratic candidates not compete in the recall election. So you can imagine that if we are in that scenario that they would be just as united or even more highly united. AB: Polling looks much better for Newsom now than it did just one month ago. So what if the recall fails and Newsom stays in office? He'll likely go into his 2022 re-election campaign even stronger — though Diaz says his margin of victory would matter a lot. SD: Is this within a 5-point margin? Is he going to hit it out of the park, which is more unlikely? To what extent is it going to be called that evening? We don't know. AB: And predicting the outcome is even harder now given shifts in voting trends. Republicans used to prefer early voting, but now are more likely to vote on election day. Abrajano says a victory from Newsom could also force Republicans in California to do some soul searching. MA: Do they want to appeal to a larger base and revert back to a more moderate version of what Republicans are? Or are they going to continue their strategy of extreme right-wing and the party of Trump, essentially. AB: Abrajano and Diaz agree a Republican governor would face an all-but-impossible re-election campaign in 2022. That's because Republicans are such a minority in California, low-turnout special elections are the only path they have to statewide victory. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. ########## Coming up.... Some local businesses are implementing new vaccine requirements. That story and more, next, just after the break. Last week, President Biden announced a plan to mandate vaccines or regular COVID-19 testing for businesses with 100 or more employees. KPBS Health reporter Matt Hoffman spoke with one company owner in san diego who is implementing the new requirements. We’re balancing the needs of our employees with the needs the government now has At Woodstock’s Pizza, co-owner Laura Ambrose is working with her team to determine how the requirements will impact them-- Laura Ambrose, Woodstock's Pizza co-owner For us the challenge is that we are desperately trying to hire enough team members for all our restaurants and it’s been an ongoing challenge for the last several months so this will add a new dynamic to it Woodstock’s has eight locations with more than 400 employees, Ambrose says they are encouraging vaccinations and more than 75 percent of staff have already gotten them.. But that means if the order went into effect right now about 100 employees would need to do weekly COVID testing. Ambrose We’ll have to decide how we’re going to handle the requirement that we have to test those employees and I’m sure that will be required because we’re not intending to let go of people that are part of my team now MH KPBS News. ######## San Francisco and irrigation districts in the Central Valley are suing the state over drought restrictions that prevent them from drawing water out of creeks and rivers. KQED climate reporter Ezra David Romero explains. ###### In a recent ranking by Forbes magazine, The University of California at Berkeley has been ranked as the country’s best university. From KALW in San Francisco, Sunni Khalid has more. UC San Diego was ranked 15th on the Forbes list. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Whether Gov. Gavin Newsom wins or loses on Tuesday, the recall election's outcome is likely to have big impacts on public health policies and the balance of power in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, some business owners in San Diego are implementing vaccine requirements after President Biden mandated COVID-19 vaccines for federal employees last week. Plus, San Francisco and irrigation districts in the Central Valley are suing the state over drought restrictions.