RNC Asks California GOP to Not Endorse Newsom Recall Candidate Amid Close Polling

Republican National Convention members asked California Republicans to refrain from endorsing a candidate during the upcoming recall election for Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in favor of voters choosing their favorite candidate.

RNC members Harmeet Dhillon and Shawn Steel sent an email, obtained by the Associated Press, that urged party delegates not to endorse a particular candidate as recent polls have shown a close contest.

"The polls are showing that the recall is in a statistical tie and we cannot afford to discourage voters who are passionate about a particular candidate, yet may not vote because their favored candidate didn't receive the endorsement," they wrote Friday.

The email added: "Any of our GOP candidates would be superior to Gavin Newsom. We believe that the voters should decide his replacement, which will not only ensure a higher turnout of recall proponents but give Newsom's successor the best chance of reelection in 2022."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Recall Gavin Newsom petition
Two members of the Republican National Convention have asked California GOP to refrain from endorsing particular candidates during the upcoming recall election. Above, conservative activists gather signatures to recall Governor Gavin Newsom in Pasadena, California, on February 28, 2021. David McNew/AFP via Getty Images

The California Republican Party has been squabbling over whether to anoint a single candidate with its stamp of approval from among a large field of contenders that includes conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox and former Olympian and reality TV personality Caitlyn Jenner.

Dhillon and Steel's declaration represents a turnabout because they earlier supported a party bylaw change that set the stage for a possible endorsement. They wrote in the email that the bylaw shift was proposed months before anyone knew how many Republicans would qualify for the ballot.

The party was gearing up for its contentious Saturday meeting on the endorsement. Four candidates have qualified for consideration: Elder, Faulconer, state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley and former congressman Doug Ose.

There will be 46 replacement candidates on the Sept. 14 ballot, including 24 Republicans.

Earlier, the conservative Cox accused party insiders of trying to steer the endorsement to Faulconer, a centrist. Cox, in protest of what he viewed as a rigged process, said he wouldn't seek the endorsement.

Cox applauded Dhillon and Steel for the reversal, saying the endorsement threatened to divide Republicans while driving away independents and other potential recall supporters "when we need everybody."

"A Republican endorsement would just send the message that somehow we agree with Newsom that this is some kind of partisan effort. It is not," Cox said in an interview.

The recall grew out of widespread frustration during the pandemic over whipsaw stay-at-home orders, crushing job losses from business closures and long-running school closures that together disrupted life for millions.

In the recall election, voters will be asked two questions: First, should Newsom be removed, yes or no? The second question will be a list of replacement candidates from which to choose.

If a majority votes for Newsom's removal, the candidate who gets the most votes on the second question becomes governor.

California GOP
The RNC members said in an email that "of our GOP candidates would be superior to Gavin Newsom." Above, Republican candidates for California Governor, John Cox, Kevin Faulconer, Kevin Kiley and Doug Ose participate on Aug. 4, 2021, in Yorba Linda, California. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo