Tech execs invoke inner Texan in California vote

Issues stem in part from the state’s tax rate. California hives off 13% of personal income of top earners for itself

  
"I voted" stickers are seen during the California gubernatorial recall election in Long Beach, California, U.S., September 14, 2021 .

"I voted" stickers are seen during the California gubernatorial recall election in Long Beach, California, U.S., September 14, 2021 .

REUTERS/David Swanson

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

WASHINGTON - An election taking place in California on Tuesday may turn up a result that Silicon Valley executives didn’t intend. Former PayPal Chief Operating Officer David Sacks is among the bosses who wanted Governor Gavin Newsom removed from office, prompting a recall ballot, after people blamed him for high taxes and strict Covid-19 policies. They could have their way if Republican candidate Larry Elder, an inflammatory radio host, replaces Newsom. But then tech gurus have lost the right to put on social justice airs.

Sacks, Social Capital Chief Executive Chamath Palihapitiya and Sequoia Capital's Doug Leone put money behind the recall election. It could kick Newsom out of office if at least 51% of voters back his removal and replace him with the person who gets the most ballots. With 46 people running against him, it isn’t an impossibility.

Issues stem in part from the state’s tax rate. California hives off 13% of personal income of top earners for itself. But the Golden State was also the first to issue lockdown orders last year. It didn’t help that Newsom dined at the expensive French Laundry restaurant last November after cautioning the public on social gatherings.

But the person who has emerged as the leading replacement candidate is the antithesis to progressive values associated with Silicon Valley. Elder has advocated employers discriminating against pregnant workers, tweeted that the pay gap between men and women is a lie, and questioned climate change “alarmists.”

Conversely Palihapitiya, whose many blank-check firms carry the word “social” in their name, has a stated mission to advance humanity by solving the world’s hardest problems. He has come out strongly against the lack of women who work in tech firms. Sacks, like Palihapitiya, has backed climate change initiatives and was a past Newsom supporter.

A candidate like Elder might give them what they want on one hand, like lower taxes and laxer Covid policies. And that in effect might attract people back to California. After all, the state lost a congressional seat, while Texas, which already enacts policies like those Elder supports, gained two seats as a result of the 2020 U.S. Census that showed migration to the coastal state had slowed.

But that landscape seems to counter the stated values of some of the recall backers. Silicon Valley likes to attract both employees and investors based on their social justice campaigns. The recall election may strip them of that privilege.

CONTEXT NEWS

- U.S. President Joe Biden on Sept. 13 gave a speech at a campaign rally for California Governor Gavin Newsom, who faces a state ballot measure on whether he should be recalled on Sept. 14. - He will be removed from office if at least 51% of voters support it. The second part of the ballot will ask voters to choose a replacement. The candidate with the highest number of votes will become governor to serve the rest of the term, ending in 2023, if Newsom is recalled.

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

(Editing by Lauren Silva Laughlin and Marjorie Backman) ((For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on CHON/ SIGN UP FOR BREAKINGVIEWS EMAIL ALERTS http://bit.ly/BVsubscribe | gina.chon@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: gina.chon.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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