Total Recall
Mother Jones|May/June 2021
California Republicans’ hopes are riding on the “superhero pirate” leading a mutiny against the governor.
By Lil Kalish

Randy Economy feels “blessed.” The conservative radio broadcaster and ex-Trump campaign volunteer says he’s spending up to 17 hours per day on what he calls his life’s greatest work: the drive to kick California Gov. Gavin Newsom out of office.

From his home in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, Economy’s one-man media machine—he’s the spokesperson and senior adviser for the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign—has turned what was once a fringe cause pushed mainly by conspiracy theorists and right-wing radicals into a rallying cry for GOP heavyweights and a handful of Silicon Valley multimillionaires. Everyone in California is mad. Economy just has to sell them on the solution: Blame Newsom. The year-old recall campaign claims it’s collected more than 2 million signatures, well over the million-and-a-half needed to trigger a special election. If California’s counties verify enough of them, the election will likely follow by fall; a loss would make Newsom the state’s second recalled governor in two decades.

A white man in his early 60s, often in suit and tie, Economy (yes, his real name) could pass for any conservative talking head if it weren’t for his signature eye patch, first donned after a stroke cost him his right eye. Replaced by glasses in his daily life, it’s still essential to his image: “He wears an eye patch but can spot fake news a mile away, like a superhero pirate,” an announcer booms in the bombastic intro to his Saturday morning show on KABC, the Los Angeles–based conservative station that also hosts The Ben Shapiro Show. (Economy’s LinkedIn profile says he’s fluent in “Pirate.”)

Economy’s start in politics began in the 1980s, after a stint as a newspaper reporter when he landed a gig as a flack for the Los Angeles suburb of Norwalk. That led to a job managing the city council campaign of now-Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), and by 1988, Economy was mounting his own run for city council. He lost that race, along with a later one for the local school board. (He did, though, win a few rounds of the never-aired NBC game show Oddball.)

Although Economy’s bids for office went nowhere, he learned something about how to court influence and power from the sidelines. In 2003, he served as a member of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party representing his hometown of Cerritos. It’s in that caPACity that Economy says he was in the Los Angeles hotel ballroom where Gray Davis, California’s governor from 1999 to 2003, found out he’d lost the first gubernatorial recall election to Republican political novice Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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