Campaign to Recall Gov. Gavin Newsom Qualifies for California Ballot

A Republican-led effort to recall California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has garnered enough valid signatures to make the ballot

Per the New York Times:

Fueled by partisan fury and a backlash against pandemic shutdowns, a Republican-led campaign to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom of California has officially qualified for the ballot, officials said on Monday, setting the stage for the second recall election in the state’s history.

In a widely expected filing, the California secretary of state’s office found that recall organizers had collected 1,626,042 signatures on their petition, more than the roughly 1.5 million required to ask voters to remove Mr. Newsom from office.

The announcement sets in motion a series of procedural steps that should culminate in a special election. No date has been scheduled, but it is expected to be sometime in November. Between now and then, the state will review the cost associated with sending the proposed recall to voters, and those who signed the petition will have 30 business days to ask to have their names removed if they so choose.

State officials say, however, that those hurdles are unlikely to prevent a vote, even though only a year or so will remain before Mr. Newsom, who was elected in 2018, comes up for re-election.

Several Republican candidates have already announced challenges to Mr. Newsom, including Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender activist; Kevin Faulconer, a former mayor of San Diego; and John Cox, a businessman who lost to Mr. Newsom in 2018.

More are expected to follow, although Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, is widely expected to prevail. In recent polls, a majority of California voters have said they were disinclined to remove him from office, and his approval ratings have improved as the coronavirus crisis has waned. Mr. Newsom’s backers have characterized the recall effort as a futile bid by Republican extremists to make their shrinking party relevant in the state.

Started early in Mr. Newsom’s administration by conservative activists who took issue with his stance on immigration, the campaign gained traction late last year as the state struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Although California initially kept cases low, swiftly imposing a shelter-in-place order, infections soared as pandemic fatigue gradually provoked resistance.

But the recall drive did not gather real momentum until early November, when its organizers, arguing that the pandemic had impaired their ability to circulate petitions, persuaded a judge to extend the signature-gathering deadline. That evening, Mr. Newsom attended a birthday dinner for a lobbyist friend at an exclusive wine country restaurant after exhorting Californians to stay at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor apologized after news of the episode leaked, calling it a “bad mistake” and saying that he “should have gotten up and left” as soon as he arrived at the restaurant. But the misstep was costly.

On the night of the dinner, 55,588 people had signed the petitions. One month later, there were nearly 500,000 signatures.

Recall attempts are common in California, but few make it onto the ballot. Petitions for removal from office have been filed against every governor in the last 61 years.

The only governor to be recalled, however, was Gray Davis, who was ousted in 2003 by Arnold Schwarzenegger as the state strained to rebound from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the dot-com bust, and rolling blackouts. After he took office, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, faced his own barrage of attempted recalls.

Mr. Newsom’s supporters have stressed the crossover between recall backers and supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, QAnon conspiracy theories and the anti-vaccine movement. The recall’s chief proponent, Orrin Heatlie, a retired sheriff’s sergeant from Yolo County in the Sacramento area, had joked on Facebook about microchipping migrants. Mr. Heatlie has said that he published the comment to be provocative but that it was not meant to be taken literally.

On Monday, the governor’s campaign warned that the pro-Trump and far-right activists behind the recall would seek to roll back the state’s progress in controlling the pandemic, protecting the environment and legislating gun control.

Juan Rodriguez, the manager of Stop the Republican Recall, said in a statement that the move to remove the governor “threatens our values as Californians and seeks to undo the important progress we’ve made under Governor Newsom.”

Proponents of the recall, however, framed it as a bipartisan referendum on the governor and the policies of a state whose leadership has been dominated in recent years by Democrats. Mr. Faulconer, who governed as a moderate in San Diego, called it a “historic opportunity to demand change” for Californians of all political parties.

And Randy Economy, a spokesman for the recall effort, countered that if “California is at a crossroad,” it is because “people are frustrated at the destructive policies, divisive politics and manipulative tactics conducted by Gavin Newsom since the day he became governor.”