“As Maine goes, so goes the nation!”
Politics provided that boast for the Pine Tree State over more than a century.
From 1820 until 1932, the party that won Maine’s gubernatorial election would see its nominee capture the presidency in November — at least that’s the way it went in 22 of 29 election cycles.
In more recent years, California has enjoyed a similar reputation — not as a political bellwether but as a lifestyle trendsetter, especially for the last half of the 20th century.
Postwar prosperity, pleasing weather, plus the production of motion pictures and television programs put the rest of the nation on notice that California truly was the Golden State.
Actually, the rest of the nation did more than take notice. Many Americans took to the road and moved to California; it became our most populous state in 1962.
But the growth had a downside. The traffic, the smog and the crowds led many to leave in the 1970s. In fact, a neighboring state popularized this earthy request: “Don’t ‘Californicate’ Oregon!”
Sloganeering aside, statistics reveal that California’s growth has slowed significantly, most notably in the second decade of the 21st century. The Public Policy Institute of California reports that “in the past year, growth has essentially ground to a halt.”
California’s government has killed the Golden Bear.
Leftist policies that excuse illegal immigration, empower criminals and emasculate police have endangered the law abiding and ended any notion of an idyllic middle-class lifestyle.
Add to that wasteful spending, excessive taxation, plus a housing crisis, and it has put real economic pressure on middle income families.
So, before California’s middle class completely went the way of the Dodo, a grassroots campaign took root. The goal? To drive Gov. Gavin Newsom to political extinction through a recall election.
Initially, the recall effort appeared promising.
Not only were 2 million recall petition signatures delivered to the secretary of state’s office by March; 46 candidates qualified for the recall ballot.
However, two major legal provisions helped protect the incumbent. The first was financial. Newsom was free to raise as much money as possible, but his recall challengers were forced to adhere to campaign finance laws that put limits on their spending. Gavin had the greenbacks — a total $58 million by the end of August.
The second advantage for Team Newsom? Like the old saying, they could “mail it in.”
Legislation mandated the mailing of ballots to all registered voters, whether or not they were requested. Vote by mail has been called “fraud by mail,” and irregularities occurred in this recall.
KTLA Channel 5 reported that when voter Estelle Bender arrived at her polling place, she was told she had already cast a ballot. “They said, ‘You voted.’ I said, ‘No, I have not…’ So as I left, I did the provisional ballot. I was very angry. … If I voted, how did I vote?”
In San Diego, three recall ballots were sent to the address of Ashli Babbitt, the Air Force veteran shot and killed at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. She was in Washington to protest irregularities in the 2020 presidential election.
Sept. 14 in California bears a certain resemblance to Nov. 3, 2020, across America.
While Gavin Newsom’s victory was overwhelming, and in stark contrast to the razor-thin margins in several swing states last November, some observers are left with this overwhelming feeling: Either we institute common-sense election reforms and somehow restore civic virtue or every American election may end up “Californicated.”
J.D. Hayworth worked as a sportscaster at Channel 10, Phoenix, from 1987 until 1994 and represented Arizona in Congress from 1995-2007.