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Indian Americans in California Overwhelmingly Support Gov. Newsom; Vote Against the Recall

Indian Americans in California Overwhelmingly Support Gov. Newsom; Vote Against the Recall

  • While some called the recall “a sham” and a ‘total waste of time and money,” others feared “a fascist Republican governor.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a special election on Sept. 14, which could potentially make him the third state governor in U.S. history to be removed from office through a recall. Though the polls have been fluctuating in the past few weeks, CNBC reports that “recent results and shift in betting markets show Newsom is increasingly likely to keep his seat.” 

According to a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, released on Sept. 10, 60.1 percent of likely voters surveyed oppose recalling Newsom compared with 38.5 percent in favor of ousting the governor. Fewer than 2 percent of likely voters remained undecided or declined to answer.

All registered California voters are eligible to participate in the special election. The Associated Press reported earlier this month that so far “over 5 million mail-in ballots have been returned out of 22 million sent to registered voters.”

The ballot has two parts. The first simply asks whether Newsom should be removed as governor. The second part of the ballot asks which candidate should succeed Newsom. Voters can fill out just one part of the ballot if they want. They can also select a replacement candidate even if they vote against recalling Newsom. If the governor is recalled, the replacement candidate who receives the most votes will be elected to the remainder of Newsom’s term, which ends Jan. 2, 2023.

In an earlier interview with American Kahani, Shekar Narasimhan, chair of the AAPI Victory Fund, discussed the challenges of understanding the ballot and getting the South Asian American community to vote in the recall election. The AAPI Victory Fund is the first Super PAC of its kind which focuses on mobilizing Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) eligible voters and moving them to the ballot box. 

Priya Ghandikota mailing her recall ballot. She posted on Facebook saying, “Today I voted for reproductive rights, vaccines, gun safety, and more. There’s much on the line. #NoOnRecall.”

Narasimhan said the PAC has “invested a small amount of money” focusing on “two issues of concern.” He said their “singular focus is to make sure that people understand the ballot and they simply vote no, that’s it. Learn the ballot – get to know question one, and then we don’t even have to talk about question two.” Our community is known to not vote in an off-year election, which Narasimhan says is a challenge, because “they don’t know what the significance is, and why and how it affects their life. The advantage in this election is the ease in which people can vote; the disadvantage is that nobody knows the importance or understands the ballot.”

There are 46 challengers running to unseat Newsom, among which talk radio host Larry Elder has emerged as the clear front-runner. Three Indian Americans are also in the crowded field of candidates vying to replace the current first-term Democrat governor. Major Singh is a software engineer from the Bay Area, while Kevin Kishore Kaul of Long Beach is an entrepreneur and founder of the U.S. Global Business Forum and investor and small business owner Vivek Mohan is a write-in candidate. All three are running without any party preference.

Journalist Jaya Padmanabhan, a columnist for The San Francisco Examiner, notes that there’s “a lot of confusion about whether to answer the second question, especially if you vote no on the first.” The same article was republished in American Kahani.

“Hope we don’t get a Republican governor as we saw what happened in states like Florida with masks,” she says. “We also need to retain the Senate majority which is in danger if the Republican governor appoints a replacement for Sen. Dianne Feinstein.”

She says that the “numerous tweets recommending abstaining from the second question (including one from Newsom, himself), are hugely problematic. Noting that California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber explained during an ethnic media briefing in August that “even if you vote no, you should pick a person because you would still want to have input into who becomes the governor.” Per Padmanabhan, “there is no way to know the results of the first question at the time that we vote, so the most prudent approach is to answer the second question.”

Newsom has been getting support from several high-profile Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who stomped for the governor in Oakland on Sept. 8. “California, voting is underway,” she tweeted a day earlier. “Let’s keep Gavin Newsom fighting for Californians in Sacramento and keep the state and nation moving forward. Vote NO on the recall. Sign your envelope and return your mail-in ballot or vote in person by September 14.”

Similar events were held throughout the state with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and May Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Avinder Chawla, the transportation commissioner for the City of Irvine in California, attended the Sept. 8 event in Valley High School in Santa Ana. “Wonderful event for ‘No to Recall’ today with elected officials from Senate & Congress to school boards,” he wrote on his Facebook page. In an interview with American Kahani post the event, Chawla urged his fellow Californians to “defeat the Republican recall and continue to build a California that works for all of us – no matter where you were born, what language you first spoke or the color of your skin.”

With just a few days left for Election Day, American Kahani spoke with Indian Americans in the Golden State on their thoughts about the campaign to recall the governor. Most of the people who responded to this reporter supported Newsom, and many had already cast their vote through the mail-in ballot. While some called the recall “a sham” and a ‘total waste of time and money,” others feared “a fascist Republican governor.”

Entrepreneur and organizer Ajay Bhutoria of Fremont opposes the recall and “strongly” supports Newsom. “Governor Newsom is leading California through many crises,” he tells American Kahani, “like the pandemic, forest fires and has been instrumental in delivering much needed economic relief to working families and supporting small businesses.” Noting that the “California economy is in surplus and better than ever,” Bhutoria said Newsom has been “a leader on issues related to free community colleges, taking on the climate crisis, standing for immigrants, women rights, and is a strong voice against AAPI hate crimes.”

IT professional Aditi Pal Karandikar of San Jose has already cast her vote. She fears a Republican governor riling her state, because of the “crazy rules” of Newsom “needing 50 percent to win or we could have a Republican governor with very low votes,” she explains. “Hope we don’t get a Republican governor as we saw what happened in states like Florida with masks,” she says. “We also need to retain the Senate majority which is in danger if the Republican governor appoints a replacement for Sen. Dianne Feinstein.”

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Chawla believes that the recall “is a partisan attempt by Republicans to seize power and move California backwards on the progress that has been made — from vaccines to economic opportunity to climate change.” Calling it “a power grab by the opposition,” Chawla states that “the 250 plus million that is being spent on this election could easily have been spent on the pandemic helping the needy.”

For Chalwa, this election is about “immigration, immigrants and everyone in the state of California.” He warns that Larry Elder, in his address, mentioned that “he wants to microchip all the immigrants and remove the mass mandate as soon as he comes to power.”

Entrepreneur Piyali Ganguly of Los Altos Hill, who has voted not to recall, believes that Newsom “will continue as our governor because California will not allow right-wing fascists to come to power.”

Similarly, Shay Banerjee of San Diego is cautiously optimistic. “This whole recall is nothing more than a coup attempt by the GOP to capitalize off Covid in the bold and a desperate hope to somehow retake California,” he tells American Kahani. “I strongly oppose this costly effort and have voted (no) already,” However, he is aware that “anything may be possible on 9/14.” But, if he were betting, he’d say that the recall “would fail, possibly spectacularly.”

Like Banerjee, Kiran Sanjeeva, also of San Diego, calls the recall “a sham and a waste of taxpayer money.” He believes that the reason for the recall “is itself silly given California has done relatively well in getting a hold on COVID, which is important for the most populous state and eighth-largest economy in the world to do — lest the economy tank further.” Given the latest poll results, Sanjeeva feels that “Newsom may just survive.” And “that some states with dismal handling of COVID are now seeing dire hospital situations may help his cause.”

While most Indian Americans are in favor of Newsom, there is a group of GOP supporters to oppose the current governor and want him out. Leading that group is attorney Harmeet K. Dhillon, former vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party. In a series of tweets, she has been appealing to the Republican base to vote yes on the recall and oust Newsom.

“Gavin Newsom is in charge of California, has been for three years,” she writes. “Don’t like what’s happening here? You have a chance to change it now — Vote YES on RECALL!”

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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