No matter what the outcome, recall will merely set the stage for 2022, local observers say

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Tuesday’s recall election might feel like a finish line of sorts, but the truth is, in some ways it’s just the beginning — a primary-primary, Californians might call it. We get to do it all again in June 2022 under more familiar rules, and again in November 2022, less than 14 months from now.

How might the outcome of Tuesday’s vote affect what happens just a few months from now? KGET talked to three neutral observers to get some idea.

The outcome, in addition to whatever it may accomplish, won’t answer every political question in the state. In fact, this $276 million special election will create almost as many possibilities for 2022 as there are names on the ballot’s second question. And that’s a lot — 46.

If Newsom survives the recall, would the top vote getter among the Republicans become the presumptive nominee to challenge him again in 2022?

Not necessarily, says CSU Bakersfield political science professor Ivy Cargile. But it would transform the California Republican Party.

“What we might see for November of 2022 is a newly motivated Republican Party and state Republican Party,” she said.

Bakersfield College professor R. Allen Bolar says the Republican Party comes out of this stronger even if Newsom survives.

“Democrats outnumber Republicans about 2 to 1 in California and yet the case is that during this recall, the excitement, the interest, has really been on the Republican side,” he said, “and even though I don’t think a Republican will be the next governor, I think this is a bad sign right now for where Democrats are.”

If Newsom is recalled, would he just try again next year? More than likely, says Cargile.

“I think he would try to run for reelection in 2022,” she said. “If he does get recalled I don’t think this is the last of us seeing Newsom on the political stage.”

But that’s open to debate. CSUB professor Dirk Horn says Newsom would be dead in the water, as far as state politics are concerned.

“If Newsom loses, I think he’s done in terms of state politics,” Horn said. “There may be some kind of national politics for the future after memories are faded.  But i don’t think he comes back.”

Bolar agreed. The state Democratic Party would go looking for another candidate, he said, and there’s no shortage of possibilities.

“I think he’d be out,” Bolar said. “I think it would be incredibly damaging to him, to his political career. And I think Democrats would pick someone else for next year, for 2022.”

But this isn’t a win-win for Republicans. Our panel doesn’t see the Trump brand, personified by talk show host Larry Elder, having much success in California.

“That’s the conundrum that Republicans are in in California,” he said. “Someone that’s going to fire up the Republican base is not necessarily going to win over the general voting public.”

And Elder’s popularity, win or lose, could hurt the Republican with the greatest statewide appeal.

“The person this has hurt the most in my mind if Kevin Faulconer,” Bolar said. “I think people saw him as a very credible Republican nominee and he still could be.”

So there’s more at stake here than just a key to the statehouse’s executive washroom. There’ll be a new set of intrigues taking shape on both sides of the aisle.

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