Watch Live: Vice President Harris campaigns for Newsom in tight recall race

Vice President Kamala Harris is returning to her home state of California on Wednesday to campaign for Governor Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election on September 14. Although Democrats hold a massive advantage in party registration and no Republican has won a statewide race since 2006, California’s current crises and an energized GOP have caused Newsom and Democrats to worry.

Ballots were mailed to voters in mid-August. Voters can either mail their ballot or drop it off in-person to a secure ballot drop box, to a voting location, or to their county elections office by 8 p.m. on September 14. One or more early voting locations will be available in all counties for at least four days beginning the Saturday before September 14, and polls will be open throughout the state from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on September 14, according to the California Secretary of State.

There will be two questions on the ballot, the first asking if Newsom should be recalled and the second question will require voters to choose a candidate from a list of 46 people challenging him. His name does not appear on that list. If over 50% of voters choose to recall him, the candidate with the most votes on the second question will become governor. Given the large amount of candidates running, one could win by only getting 25% or less of the vote. 

CBS News poll released on August 15 found that Newsom is facing a serious turnout challenge. A high number of Republicans, 78%, say they will definitely vote, while 73% of Democrats say they definitely will. Republican voters are also more motivated to cast ballots than Democrats. The poll found that among registered voters, 54% think Newsom should not be recalled, compared to 46% who think he should be. But among likely voters, the gap narrowed to 52% against the recall compared to 48% who support it.   

Vice President Kamala Harris Visits Oakland, California
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) tour the Upper San Leandro Water Treatment Plant on April 5, 2021 in Oakland, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Newsom’s handling of COVID-19 is both what he is running on and what has fueled the energy behind the recall. California had some of the strictest COVID-19 measures in the country, but also had the highest number of cases. Nearly 80% of eligible Californians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but the Delta variant is still causing a nationwide spike that hasn’t left California immune.

And then there was Newsom’s dinner at an upscale French restaurant in San Francisco, the French Laundry, in November, as he was urging state residents to stay home and not gather with more than three households. A Los Angles television station acquired photos of him dining without a mask and dozens of people. 

Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager for the pro-recall group Rescue California, told the Associated Press the French Laundry incident was an “incredible boost” to the recall effort. 

As school districts reopen amid the Delta surge, conservative radio host Larry Elder, once seen as a longshot candidate but who is now the frontrunner against Newsom, is campaigning that science shows it’s not necessary to vaccinate young people or force them to wear masks in school.

The state has also been inundated with heat waves and wildfires. More than 7,000 fires have erupted in the state, including the long-burning Dixie Fire, which started more than 50 days ago and has burned more than 900,000 acres. The Caldor Fire in Northern California, which has burned for more than 20 days, has threatened Lake Tahoe and burned more than 2,000 acres. 

Democrats nationwide are watching the race closely as a possible bellwether to the 2022 midterm elections, since they hold a slim majority in the House and the Senate is split evenly at 50-50. 

Harris is just one of the Democratic heavy hitters who are coming out to campaign with Newsom. Senator Elizabeth Warren is heading to Los Angeles on Saturday to campaign, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden will campaign with Newsom early next week.