In 2003, Gray Davis became the first governor of California to be recalled from office successfully. 

The 37th leader of the Golden State spoke with "Inside the Issues" host Alex Cohen in July about the difficulties of governing and facing a recall election at the same time.

"I do think when you're a governor, and there's a recall, the best way to conduct yourself is to run the state as best you can," he said. "And I think Gavin Newsom, all things considered, has done a very good job at that."

What You Need To Know

  • California Gov. Gray Davis was recalled from office 18 years ago

  • At the time, Davis was reckoning with a poor economy and an energy crisis

  • The 37th governor of California argues the outcome of the current recall election rests on voter turnout

  • Davis said Gov. Newsom should focus on leading California and let campaign staff work on recall messaging and outreach

He advised Gov. Newsom to continue leading the state through wildfires, heatwaves and the pandemic and let campaign staff dedicate themselves to recall messaging and outreach.

Davis also noted the circumstances for his recall were quite different from what Newsom is currently up against. In the early 2000s, Davis was reckoning with a poor economy, an energy crisis and the lieutenant governor was running against him in the recall. 

Now, Newsom faces a recall election while the economy is bouncing back from COVID-19, and most Californians are beginning to receive $600 stimulus checks in the coming days.

"He got a bad hand dealt to him with the pandemic, but he got a good hand dealt when all of a sudden he discovered he had an $80 billion surplus, lots of which is being used to help people who are adversely affected by the pandemic," Davis said.

The former California governor also argued Newsom's opponents have primarily pushed for a recall election to take place because it is their best chance to take power in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly two-to-one margin.

"The people who support the recall and have given money are doing it for a lot of reasons, one of which I think is they have a better chance of getting someone elected in a recall because it's just one election, no primary."

Davis said Newsom is doing all the right things to stay in office, but the focus of his campaign still needs to be on riling up awareness and enthusiasm to stop the recall.

"This is really a turnout election. The votes are there to keep Gov. Newsom in office. The polls show that most people who are registered, Democrats and Independents, want to keep them in office. The question is, do they know there's an election going on?"

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