CA recall election wasn’t a total waste of $300 million, says Joe Mathews

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Governor Newsom’s effort to fight the recall attempt has succeeded, despite its hefty price tag of some $300 million. But columnist Joe Matthews says it’s money well spent, and democracy shouldn’t be cheaper. Photo by Shutterstock.

Now that all the ruckus behind the gubernatorial recall election is over, the frustration that many recall opponents felt is now being turned into anger — that California has wasted so much time and money.

That fury is not entirely baseless. Secretary of State Shirley Weber said the total cost of the special election could exceed $300 million

But all that money spent to keep Governor Newsom in Sacramento was worthwhile — and actually a drop in the bucket — according to Joe Matthews, columnist for Zócalo Public Square.

“It's less money than the Dodgers are paying for their right fielder with a bad hip. $300 million is less than 1% of the state's budget surplus and about one-tenth of 1% of the state budget. It's a small price to pay for democracy.” 

Yes, the $300 million could have been spent on other critical issues like homelessness and wildfire prevention. But supporters of Newsom are as responsible in allowing the costly election to happen in September, according to Matthews.

“The Democrats had the option to consolidate with some other local elections that are happening in November. By moving it up to September, that decision they made added about $60 million. About 20% of the cost is additional because of that strategic choice.”

In all, Matthews argues the money spent on the recall election is worth the investment for Democrats who want to press on with their agenda. He says instead of waiting for next year’s gubernatorial election, the recall election verdict allows Californians to set aside the divisive political argument over what’s to be done in Sacramento, at least for now. 

“We've had the arguments. The opposition really got a chance to make its case and put its best foot forward. And they were rejected. I think that tells you who's in charge. … To have a verdict now in this year, it certainly strengthens the hand of our governor, and it may make it easier [for him] to go forward.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.




Chery Glaser


Darrell Satzman