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Are there enough 'mad moms' in California to recall Gov. Newsom from office?

Cynthia Rojas poses for a portrait with her kids, Nicolas and Shae, outside of their home in Culver City on Sept. 3, 2021. Rojas says she was not politically engaged until her kids' school shut down last year during the pandemic. "If Newsom stays it's going to be very emotional for me," Rojas said. "I'm going to really fear for my children's future." Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters.

Cynthia Rojas never had much interest in politics. A mother who owns an online business selling hair accessories from her home in West Los Angeles, Rojas chose Democrats when she voted. But she skipped a lot of elections — and she certainly never glanced at a city council agenda or attended school board meetings.

That all changed after her kids' elementary school closed down last year amid the pandemic.

"I became very engaged because of my children," Rojas said. "My son was suffering on Zoom school."

She started watching school board meetings, reading county public health orders and studying the state's color-coded tiers of COVID-19 restrictions. After public health authorities said it was safe for children to return to school, Rojas protested with other parents to demand that campuses reopen. And when that didn't work, she printed out a petition to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

"A lot of us were like, 'Why aren't the Democratic politicians standing up for us?' Democrats were always supposed to be for the little guy," Rojas said.

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"It seemed so clear to me that it was to protect the teacher unions, because they didn't shut down the private schools."

Rojas and her husband signed the recall petition. Then she sent copies to several friends who also signed, helping recall proponents gather some of the 1.7 million signatures that triggered California's historic Sept. 14 election — only the second time in state history that voters will decide whether to oust a governor.

Recall supporters say that women like Rojas — fed up with school closures and job losses caused by the pandemic — played a huge role in getting the signatures necessary to launch their campaign. Their activism may reflect the pandemic's uneven toll on women, who have been disproportionately burdened by unemployment, increased child care responsibilities and, among parents with kids at home, feelings of anxiety and depression. They were so instrumental in organizing the recall that one strategist came up with a special name for them: "Mad Moms."

"'Mad moms' are what we used to call soccer moms," said recall campaign manager Anne Dunsmore. "You mess around with their daily life or their quality life or what they're able to do with their children, and they become very grouchy."

"Mad moms" may have helped spark the recall, but now, with children back in school and the state's economy rebounding, their power to influence the outcome of the election is less clear. Polls show that women voters are overwhelmingly on Newsom's side — with two-thirds saying they're against the recall in a Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week. But among parents (both mothers and fathers) who have children at home, only half say they'll vote no. Likely voters overall oppose removing the governor by a 58% to 39% margin.

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Historically, California women largely vote Democratic, and Newsom's strategy of persuading other prominent Democrats to stay out of the recall race has helped him maintain their support — sometimes more because they fear a Republican alternative than because they're enthusiastic about Newsom.

Shannon Huffaker, for example, said she voted against the recall even though she's unhappy with Newsom. The nurse practitioner from Albany was livid that her children's school stayed closed as long as it did. Even now that it's reopened, Huffaker said the new COVID-19 protocols are chaotic and the school isn't getting enough support from the state.

'"Mad moms" are what we used to call soccer moms. You mess around with their daily life or their quality life or what they're able to do with their children, and they become very grouchy.'

-Anne Dunsmore, recall campaign manager

"I am so frustrated that I would have considered voting yes if I felt there was any viable alternative, a viable Democrat who had a chance of winning," she said. "I am angry, but I'm not willing to go so far as to hand the election to someone whose views I find abhorrent."

Female voters helped elect Newsom in 2018, when exit polls showed 64% voted for him, compared with 55% of men. Aware that women are key to his political future, Newsom is spending the closing days of this campaign trying to ensure that women vote in what could be a low-turnout election.

The governor is highlighting support from powerful Democratic women, campaigning with U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar over the weekend in Southern California, and Wednesday with the nation's first female vice president, Kamala Harris, in the Bay Area.

"Governor Newsom understands that California succeeds when we invest in women's economic futures," Warren said Saturday to cheers from a friendly audience of Newsom supporters. "He's worked to close the gender pay gap, to expand paid family leave. Oh yeah, and he believes that basic health care for women includes access to safe, legal abortion."

She joined Newsom in stoking fears about the rollback of abortion rights by drawing attention to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week not to block a very restrictive Texas law signed by its Republican governor. It's another way Newsom is contrasting himself with his leading Republican rival, whose retrograde comments on women have handed the governor daily opportunities to pump up his progressive base.

"Women are smarter in politics, smarter in civics, they're smarter in economics," Newsom said as he campaigned in Los Angeles over the weekend.

"Women rule."

The Elder factor

It was a clear dig at Larry Elder, the Republican frontrunner in the recall race, who wrote an article 20 years ago about an academic study that reported women know less than men in those subjects.

During his long career as a conservative commentator, Elder has also written that sexual harassment doesn't hold women back at work and that women should "overlook some boorish behavior by men," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Elder said on past radio programs that he has been accused of sexual harassment, but when CNN asked him about the comments last week, Elder said he didn't remember making them. And Elder wrote in a 2002 book that employers should be able to ask women if they plan to become pregnant, which is prohibited by workplace discrimination laws. He stood by that opinion when the AP asked about it last month.

'Women are smarter in politics, smarter in civics, they're smarter in economics. Women rule.'

-Gov. Gavin Newsom, campaigning in Los Angeles on Sept. 4

All of it has helped Newsom define himself for voters, something he struggled with in earlier phases of the campaign, said Democratic political consultant Katie Merrill.

"Larry Elder's out-of-step positions should help the governor's effort to get women to vote," she said. "Gavin has the perfect foil."

Elder's comments about women have also drawn criticism from some of his Republican opponents.

"His attack on working women is unconscionable," Kevin Faulconer, the GOP former mayor of San Diego, said at a recent debate.

"To all the working moms out there, know that when Kevin Faulconer is governor, I'm going to support your right to raise a family, to have a career."

The next day, Faulconer announced plans to back a new paid family leave law that would give parents full pay while caring for a new baby. California's existing law pays parents as much as 70% of their normal salary while on family leave, while a pending bill would gradually increase that to 90%.

It was a sign that Faulconer, who is positioning himself as the most moderate of the major Republican candidates, is trying to compete with Newsom for support from women voters. Newsom made lengthening paid family leave from six weeks to eight a top priority in his first year as governor, part of what he calls a "parents' agenda." This year, he signed a budget that will phase in preschool for all 4-year-olds and permanently repeal taxes on diapers and menstrual products.

But these were not things campaign volunteer Jennifer Shanoski highlighted as she knocked on doors in Oakland last month asking union members to vote against the recall. Instead, she said that if Newsom loses, a Republican governor will try to take away union jobs and benefits.

"I'll vote to keep him," Leta Smith said from the doorway of her blue bungalow. "I'm not totally happy with everything, but it's better than the options."

Smith said last month she was concerned about whether it's safe for her kids to go back to school now that the Delta variant is causing a spike in COVID-19 cases. In her opinion, Newsom reopened the state too fast in mid-June.

"I think he felt pressured to get things back to normal," Smith said. "But we are not at that point yet."

Rojas, the West Los Angeles mother, said she's already sent her ballot in, checking "yes" to recall Newsom and selecting GOP Assemblymember Kevin Kiley to replace him. Kiley, who unsuccessfully sued Newsom over his pandemic executive orders, has developed a fervent following among voters upset about school closures, though polling shows his overall support has remained between 3% and 5%. Like other major GOP candidates, he opposes Newsom's requirements for students to wear masks at school and teachers to be vaccinated.

As for her children? After watching her son break down from the isolation of Zoom lessons, Rojas did the same thing as Newsom and enrolled her kids in private school, where children have been attending in-person through most of the pandemic.

"He was beaming that first week," Rojas said. "That's why I think this recall is so important. So many of us feel like if Newsom stays, he is going to close our schools again."

Newsom has said many times that he wants children to attend school full-time and in-person this year. But the fear of so many mad moms still lingers, shaping the recall election that will determine his fate.

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Are there enough 'mad moms' in California to recall Gov. Newsom from office?

by / CalMatters

Uploaded: Wed, Sep 8, 2021, 8:59 am

Cynthia Rojas never had much interest in politics. A mother who owns an online business selling hair accessories from her home in West Los Angeles, Rojas chose Democrats when she voted. But she skipped a lot of elections — and she certainly never glanced at a city council agenda or attended school board meetings.

That all changed after her kids' elementary school closed down last year amid the pandemic.

"I became very engaged because of my children," Rojas said. "My son was suffering on Zoom school."

She started watching school board meetings, reading county public health orders and studying the state's color-coded tiers of COVID-19 restrictions. After public health authorities said it was safe for children to return to school, Rojas protested with other parents to demand that campuses reopen. And when that didn't work, she printed out a petition to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

"A lot of us were like, 'Why aren't the Democratic politicians standing up for us?' Democrats were always supposed to be for the little guy," Rojas said.

"It seemed so clear to me that it was to protect the teacher unions, because they didn't shut down the private schools."

Rojas and her husband signed the recall petition. Then she sent copies to several friends who also signed, helping recall proponents gather some of the 1.7 million signatures that triggered California's historic Sept. 14 election — only the second time in state history that voters will decide whether to oust a governor.

Recall supporters say that women like Rojas — fed up with school closures and job losses caused by the pandemic — played a huge role in getting the signatures necessary to launch their campaign. Their activism may reflect the pandemic's uneven toll on women, who have been disproportionately burdened by unemployment, increased child care responsibilities and, among parents with kids at home, feelings of anxiety and depression. They were so instrumental in organizing the recall that one strategist came up with a special name for them: "Mad Moms."

"'Mad moms' are what we used to call soccer moms," said recall campaign manager Anne Dunsmore. "You mess around with their daily life or their quality life or what they're able to do with their children, and they become very grouchy."

"Mad moms" may have helped spark the recall, but now, with children back in school and the state's economy rebounding, their power to influence the outcome of the election is less clear. Polls show that women voters are overwhelmingly on Newsom's side — with two-thirds saying they're against the recall in a Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week. But among parents (both mothers and fathers) who have children at home, only half say they'll vote no. Likely voters overall oppose removing the governor by a 58% to 39% margin.

Historically, California women largely vote Democratic, and Newsom's strategy of persuading other prominent Democrats to stay out of the recall race has helped him maintain their support — sometimes more because they fear a Republican alternative than because they're enthusiastic about Newsom.

Shannon Huffaker, for example, said she voted against the recall even though she's unhappy with Newsom. The nurse practitioner from Albany was livid that her children's school stayed closed as long as it did. Even now that it's reopened, Huffaker said the new COVID-19 protocols are chaotic and the school isn't getting enough support from the state.

"I am so frustrated that I would have considered voting yes if I felt there was any viable alternative, a viable Democrat who had a chance of winning," she said. "I am angry, but I'm not willing to go so far as to hand the election to someone whose views I find abhorrent."

Female voters helped elect Newsom in 2018, when exit polls showed 64% voted for him, compared with 55% of men. Aware that women are key to his political future, Newsom is spending the closing days of this campaign trying to ensure that women vote in what could be a low-turnout election.

The governor is highlighting support from powerful Democratic women, campaigning with U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar over the weekend in Southern California, and Wednesday with the nation's first female vice president, Kamala Harris, in the Bay Area.

"Governor Newsom understands that California succeeds when we invest in women's economic futures," Warren said Saturday to cheers from a friendly audience of Newsom supporters. "He's worked to close the gender pay gap, to expand paid family leave. Oh yeah, and he believes that basic health care for women includes access to safe, legal abortion."

She joined Newsom in stoking fears about the rollback of abortion rights by drawing attention to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week not to block a very restrictive Texas law signed by its Republican governor. It's another way Newsom is contrasting himself with his leading Republican rival, whose retrograde comments on women have handed the governor daily opportunities to pump up his progressive base.

"Women are smarter in politics, smarter in civics, they're smarter in economics," Newsom said as he campaigned in Los Angeles over the weekend.

"Women rule."

It was a clear dig at Larry Elder, the Republican frontrunner in the recall race, who wrote an article 20 years ago about an academic study that reported women know less than men in those subjects.

During his long career as a conservative commentator, Elder has also written that sexual harassment doesn't hold women back at work and that women should "overlook some boorish behavior by men," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Elder said on past radio programs that he has been accused of sexual harassment, but when CNN asked him about the comments last week, Elder said he didn't remember making them. And Elder wrote in a 2002 book that employers should be able to ask women if they plan to become pregnant, which is prohibited by workplace discrimination laws. He stood by that opinion when the AP asked about it last month.

All of it has helped Newsom define himself for voters, something he struggled with in earlier phases of the campaign, said Democratic political consultant Katie Merrill.

"Larry Elder's out-of-step positions should help the governor's effort to get women to vote," she said. "Gavin has the perfect foil."

Elder's comments about women have also drawn criticism from some of his Republican opponents.

"His attack on working women is unconscionable," Kevin Faulconer, the GOP former mayor of San Diego, said at a recent debate.

"To all the working moms out there, know that when Kevin Faulconer is governor, I'm going to support your right to raise a family, to have a career."

The next day, Faulconer announced plans to back a new paid family leave law that would give parents full pay while caring for a new baby. California's existing law pays parents as much as 70% of their normal salary while on family leave, while a pending bill would gradually increase that to 90%.

It was a sign that Faulconer, who is positioning himself as the most moderate of the major Republican candidates, is trying to compete with Newsom for support from women voters. Newsom made lengthening paid family leave from six weeks to eight a top priority in his first year as governor, part of what he calls a "parents' agenda." This year, he signed a budget that will phase in preschool for all 4-year-olds and permanently repeal taxes on diapers and menstrual products.

But these were not things campaign volunteer Jennifer Shanoski highlighted as she knocked on doors in Oakland last month asking union members to vote against the recall. Instead, she said that if Newsom loses, a Republican governor will try to take away union jobs and benefits.

"I'll vote to keep him," Leta Smith said from the doorway of her blue bungalow. "I'm not totally happy with everything, but it's better than the options."

Smith said last month she was concerned about whether it's safe for her kids to go back to school now that the Delta variant is causing a spike in COVID-19 cases. In her opinion, Newsom reopened the state too fast in mid-June.

"I think he felt pressured to get things back to normal," Smith said. "But we are not at that point yet."

Rojas, the West Los Angeles mother, said she's already sent her ballot in, checking "yes" to recall Newsom and selecting GOP Assemblymember Kevin Kiley to replace him. Kiley, who unsuccessfully sued Newsom over his pandemic executive orders, has developed a fervent following among voters upset about school closures, though polling shows his overall support has remained between 3% and 5%. Like other major GOP candidates, he opposes Newsom's requirements for students to wear masks at school and teachers to be vaccinated.

As for her children? After watching her son break down from the isolation of Zoom lessons, Rojas did the same thing as Newsom and enrolled her kids in private school, where children have been attending in-person through most of the pandemic.

"He was beaming that first week," Rojas said. "That's why I think this recall is so important. So many of us feel like if Newsom stays, he is going to close our schools again."

Newsom has said many times that he wants children to attend school full-time and in-person this year. But the fear of so many mad moms still lingers, shaping the recall election that will determine his fate.

Email Laurel Rosenhall at [email protected]

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics.

Comments

What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2021 at 10:45 am
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 10:45 am
Forever Name
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2021 at 10:53 am
Forever Name, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 10:53 am

@ What Will They Do Next, agree 100 percent.

It's always the parents who make it happen for the kids in this state, working in the childrens' best interests, not the politicians or schools or teachers unions. Mad Moms, LetThemPlay, etc. god bless you all.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 8, 2021 at 11:20 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 11:20 am

Sure, listen to all the anti-vax moms and hope you don't have daughters if Elder's elected. On the other hand, maybe CA can revitalize the economy by paying bounties likes Texas does. (Obvious sarcasm for the irony-impaired)


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2021 at 11:24 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 11:24 am

My theory is that things will change big time next week, whatever the result.

Newsom, while making plenty of noise, has kept the status quo for the past couple of months. He has not made any changes in Covid restrictions particularly in school and business closures. It is quite obvious he doesn't want to turn small business owners or parents against him. However, he will have few fears after the recall and will start closing things at a whim.

87% of SCC residents over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated. Yet he will still want to close us down because of Delta! It is coming, I feel sure of that.


Pat Markevitch
Registered user
Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2021 at 1:33 pm
Pat Markevitch, Downtown North
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 1:33 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't he have SB 9 and 10 sitting on his desk? Those are the bills that allow R-1 zoning to be changed and to have local control over housing decisions taken away from the cities. If so, he will wait until after the recall election because if he signs them before, he will definitely lose.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2021 at 1:37 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 1:37 pm

BTW -- State of Calif "Tin" Stim excludes every single parent, mom who left low wage jobs in 2020 and had to stay home to supervise Zoom school. And alarmingly, this Golden Stim is afforded to anyone who can prove current pregnancy or adopts a child. It's not given to any low income resident who was forced to leave state in any part of 2020 because of oppressive housing market, lack of food or basic living expenses to survive. Yeah I am mad. Yet what's the alternative? Just keep on pushing RV's down the road? And call it good.


S. Underwood
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 8, 2021 at 6:33 pm
S. Underwood, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 6:33 pm

Important for folks to know that there are plenty of "mad moms" who aren't anti-vaxxers or Trump-loving, coal-blowing, raised 4x4 driving gun nuts.

We are a very diverse country, within and without of both parties. If we folks on the left keep stereotyping and scapegoating folks who fail our purity tests, our ability to heal this place and fight the clear-and-present dangers we face will continue to suffer.

I can't bring myself to vote for the recall, but the ruling dems need to get the message that they need to do better loud and clear.


Me
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Sep 8, 2021 at 8:44 pm
Me, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 8:44 pm

@ S. Underwood: EXACTLY. I am so tired of the Dems painting us more conservative voters with the same brush, as you suggested. I am anti-socialism, anti-pro-life, anti-guns, anti-religion, pro-capitalism. My far left mom was surprised that I volunteer my time to help those in need because she assumes that wealthy conservatives cannot be generous or kind people. And my neighbors said that they will no longer talk to a certain neighbor who is a Trump voter and wondered how a minority could vote for Trump. I'm so disgusted with the liberals thinking they wear halos on their heads when they spout judgmental and racist opinions quite often. [Portion removed.]

As mentioned above, Newsom is on good behavior now, prior to the recall. If he is not recalled, he is going to wreck more havoc on us.

[Portion removed.]


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2021 at 8:52 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 8:52 pm

[Portion removed.]


Sophie
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2021 at 9:47 pm
Sophie, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 9:47 pm

[Post removed; please provide link to a reliable source.]


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