The Republican Party is creating a big-money vehicle for the expected California recall election, the clearest indication yet that the national GOP is preparing to spend massive sums to oust Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The Republican Governors Association has launched Recall Newsom! RGA Action, an entity that is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash. Party officials say they envision it as a central hub into which major donors across the country will funnel their checks.
The new organization underscores how national party leaders are increasingly zeroing in on the recall, a cause around which they say the GOP can rally after a devastating 2020 election. While the Republican National Committee has spent $250,000 encouraging Californians to sign petitions to put the recall on the ballot, the American Conservative Union turned Newsom into a piñata at its recent annual conference. Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), staunch allies of former President Donald Trump, have made a public show of trying to lure Trump’s former director of national intelligence, Ric Grenell, into the recall election.
Top Republicans have already begun reaching out to big givers. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, the RGA chair, and Dave Rexrode, the organization's executive director, held a call Wednesday evening with major donors to discuss the recall. Nearly a dozen of the party's top California-based bundlers were present on the call.
Recall leaders faced a Wednesday deadline for submitting the 1.5 million valid signatures needed to qualify the recall for the ballot. Organizers say they gathered far more signatures — nearly 2.1 million — than needed in order to give themselves a cushion given that the secretary of state's office is all but certain to deem some to be invalid. Election officials are expected to make a determination about whether a recall will go forward by the end of April.
Should it qualify, it would be the first time a sitting governor faced a recall since 2003, when then-Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was kicked out of office and replaced with actor and professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. The ballot would ask two questions — whether Newsom should be removed from office and, in the event a majority agrees, who should replace him.
The new Republican entity is expected to focus its efforts on encouraging California’s to vote yes on the first question, which will determine Newsom’s fate.
But Newsom isn't likely to have any shortage of funds himself. The former San Francisco mayor and ex-lieutenant governor has established a massive donor network and has more than $20 million in the bank. Democrats earlier in the week launched Stop the Republican Recall, a group that, like the RGA's newly established vehicle, is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts.
Newsom in recent days has received public support from the likes of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who are likely to further energize the liberal donor base.
"There’s been tremendous low-dollar grassroots interest, particularly in California and also across the country,” said Dan Newman, a Newsom adviser.
David Turner, a spokesperson for the Democratic Governors Association, said in a statement that his organization would "help fight against this Republican recall with every tool at our disposal.”
Huge sums are all but certain to be spent in the race, given California's size and its expensive media markets. The race is also expected to draw a number of wealthy candidates who will have the ability to pour in millions of dollars. Two already-announced Republican candidates, former Rep. Doug Ose and businessman John Cox, have a history of self-funding.
Republicans have already show they’re willing to invest large amounts to unseat Newsom. The two leading pro-recall groups say they raised more than $4 million combined, organizers say, with big contributions received from the likes of Silicon Valley venture capitalist David Sacks and Beverly Hills real estate developer Geoff Palmer.