Volunteers canvass against CA recall as polls show close race

Volunteers canvass against CA recall as polls show close race

Lupe Smith and Sherry Williams walked up to the 21st house on the street in Sacramento’s North Natomas neighborhood, prepared with a spiel about how Gov. Gavin Newsom has been good to home care workers like themselves.

The woman who answered didn’t need convincing.

“I want people like Newsom in control because he will listen to the caregivers,” said Trisha Nadal, who works as a caregiver herself.

But she added she’s been so busy looking after her elderly parents with dementia that she hasn’t had time to research how she’s supposed to mark her ballot in the Sept. 14 recall election. She wasn’t even sure she had a ballot yet. She nevertheless said she would vote to keep Newsom in office.

Smith and Williams were happy to hear that.

Going door to door against the Sept. 14 recall election, Newsom’s campaign and its allies in organized labor are doubling down on their get-out-the-vote strategy in the final few weeks.

Neck-and-neck polling shows Democrats are less engaged with the recall election and therefore less likely to vote, which means Newsom risks losing his job if he can’t convince enough voters from his party to turn in their ballots.

Newsom has also been out on the campaign trail, appearing at a series of events in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego in the last two weeks. He met with phone banking volunteers and rallied supporters.

At a phone-banking event in San Francisco, Newsom rattled off statistics about his campaign’s efforts: 17 million text messages sent, 5,200 volunteers engaged, $6.5 million committed to get-out-the-vote efforts.

Anti-recall campaign spokesman Nathan Click said polling shows nearly half of California voters have gotten texts from the campaign and a similar percentage have seen the campaign’s ads, which he characterized as a sign the effort is reaching people.

After stopping at the Sacramento Central Labor Council headquarters in midtown to get assignments, Smith and Williams drove to North Natomas and started going door to door in a housing development across from a park near the Sacramento airport. Smith approached a woman standing outside the first house on the block and began speaking with her in Spanish.

“She’s gonna vote no,” Smith said when they had finished talking.

Smith said she often talks with other Spanish speakers in her own neighborhood in Stockton about the recall. She said many of them like Newsom, but don’t know much about the recall. Sometimes she said she pulls up a picture of the governor on her phone, which she said always prompts recognition even from people who don’t follow the news closely.

“A lot of them are not really into the CNN,” she said.

Smith and Williams say the recall is personal to them because Newsom in 2019 restored a 7% cut in service hours for home care workers like themselves, who are paid by the state to care for elderly and disabled people. On Saturday, they both wore purple shirts emblazoned with the name of their union, Service Employees International Union Local 2015.

Periodically, Williams would consult the app on her phone they were supposed to use to know which houses to approach. It provided a list of registered Democrats on the street, along with their names. The app reflects the anti-recall campaign’s strategy: focus on turning out Newsom’s base, as opposed to trying to convince independents or Republicans to vote against the recall.

But Smith insisted that they hit every house on the block, not just the ones on the app, saying she thought that was a better plan.

At most houses, no one answered. Several people who did come to the door wouldn’t say how they were voting, or said they didn’t know. Two men politely explained they planned to vote for the recall, one elaborating that he and his family weren’t fans of the governor.

Another man didn’t say how he would vote, but accepted the flier they offered him.

“I’ll take a look at it,” he said. “Be safe.”

As they walked away, Smith jokingly chided Williams for letting her do most of the talking.

“I didn’t want to interrupt. You were on a roll,” Williams said, prompting Smith to laugh.

As they headed back to their car, they encountered a woman pushing a baby in a stroller and offered her a flier, trying to convince one more voter before breaking for lunch.

The woman paused to listen, but said she didn’t need it. She had already voted no.

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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