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December 5, 2021

News West

West Coast News Network

California is much changed since the last recall vote in 2003

A lot has happened in 18 years. A war in Iraq. Two impeachments. Four presidents.Five “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

And here we are again facing a gubernatorial recall election, the second in California history and only the fourth attempted anywhere in the U.S. (While it’s not official, a fall referendum on the future of Gavin Newsom is about as likely as the water supply dwindling between now and September.)

California is a much different place than it was in 2003, the last time voters decided whether to give the state’s chief executive the heave-ho.

The population is older than it was, housing costs are higher and millions more people live here. (Exodus, schmexodus). Perhaps most significant, California has become considerably more Democratic.

Every election is different. So, too, are the roots of the two recall efforts

Democrat Gray Davis was blamed for mishandling an electricity crisis that, it turns out, was caused in good part by profiteers and corrupt Texas energy traders. (It didn’t help that Davis was not particularly well-liked to begin with and only grudgingly won a second term.)

Newsom’s circumstances are different. He was elected in a landslide and stood on politically solid ground until lockdowns and the upheaval caused by COVID-19 catalyzed efforts to force a vote on the Democrat’s performance a year ahead of the regularly scheduled 2022 election.

One constant: the French Laundry restaurant is still catering to the rich and epicurean, as it did 18 years ago, though no one cared back then if a politician showed up for a masks-off birthday party. Newsom’s ill-considered November visit is what pushed the languishing recall drive into high gear.

The French Laundry restaurant's kitchen window

Back in 2003, the French Laundry was just a restaurant and not a political catalyst.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times )

Here’s a statistical snapshot of California then and now, showing how much the state has changed since the last recall election. Some statistics are for 2019 or 2020, the last years for which complete data are available.

A shoutout to folks at the state Department of Finance for their research assistance.

Population:

2003: 35 million

White non-Latino, 45%; Latino 34%; Asian American/Pacific Islander, 12%

2021: 40 million

White non-Latino, 38%; Latino 40%; Asian American/Pacific Islander, 14%

2003: 34

2021: 38

2003: 28

2021: 31

Registered voters

2003: 15 million

44% D, 35% R, 21% Decline To State/Other

2021: 22 million

46% D, 24% R, 30% No Party Preference/Other

Governor

2003: Gray Davis, Democrat (reelected November 2002, 47%)

2021: Gavin Newsom, Democrat (elected November 2018, 62%)

Statewide elected officials (eight)

2003: D 7, R 1

2021: D 8, R 0

Congressional delegation (53 members)

2003: D 33, R 20

2021: D 42, R 11

State Senate (40 members)

2003: 25 D, 15 R

2021: 31 D, 9 R

State Assembly (80 members)

2003: 48 D, 32 R

2021: 58 D, 19 R, 1 independent, 2 vacancies

Economic ranking, worldwide

2003: 7th largest

2019: 5th largest

Unemployment

2003: 6.9%

2020: 10.2%

2003: $371,520

2020: $659,380

Hollywood Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles

The median sale price for a home in California was $659,380 in 2020, though neighborhoods like Hollywood Heights are much pricier.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Minimum wage

2003: $6.25 an hour

2021: $14 an hour ($13 for businesses with 25 or fewer employees)

2003: $60,978

2019: $73,226

Average price of gasoline

2003: $1.83 gallon

2020: $3.05

Average commute time (minutes)

2003: 27

2019: 31

Biggest corporations (Fortune 500, ranked by annual revenue)

2003: ChevronTexaco; Hewlett Packard; McKesson; Safeway; Wells Fargo

2020: Apple; Alphabet (Google); Chevron; Wells Fargo, Intel

Oscar, best picture

2003: “Chicago”

2021: “Nomadland”

Actress Francis McDormand

Frances McDormand accept Best Actress Oscar for her role in “Nomadland.”

(A.M.P.A.S.)

Biggest domestic box office Hit

2003: “Finding Nemo”: $339,714,184

2021: “Godzilla vs Kong”: $90,300,000 (through Sunday)

Grammy, song of the year

2003: “Don’t Know Why”

2021: “I Can’t Breathe”

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