Governor Gavin Is Gearing Up For A Recall Later This Year

CALIFORNIA (March 18, 2021)–the recall committee has turned in more than 1.5 million voter signatures to trigger a gubernatorial recall of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Gavin Newsom is gearing up for a recall challenge, if the signatures are certified. Newsom stands to face fiercest criticism from his critics about how he handled the COVID-19 pandemic and the  lockdown.

The Wednesday deadline to submit at least 1.5m valid voter signatures to trigger a gubernatorial recall has come two days before the anniversary of California’s first statewide shelter-in-place order. Counties now have until the end of April to verify petition signatures.

The recall campaign says it has collected more than 2.1m signatures, which have yet to be verified by election officials. “We’re laser-focused on playing this out day by day,” said Randy Economy, a senior adviser to the recall campaign. “Once we get this on the ballot officially, the next phase of the campaign kicks off – and that is to gather support for the recall.”

The campaign, spearheaded by the Republican former sheriff’s deputy Orrin Heatlie, has come out against the Newsom administration’s pandemic-era lockdowns, aid to undocumented immigrants and homeless residents, relatively high taxes and spending on social programs. The effort has picked up financial support from big business donors and a few Silicon Valley venture capitalists, including the former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya.

“Well, the reality is, it looks like it’s going on the ballot,” Newsom said on Tuesday during a news conference. “We will fight it. We will defeat it.”

If at least 1.5m petition signatures are validated, the state will hold a recall election this year. Voters will be asked first whether they want to recall Newsom and then who they would choose to replace him.

Recall Newsom volunteers help Richard McDougal, left, and his wife, Florence Lauzob, sign the forms during a petition signing event at SaveMart in Sacramento on Jan. 5, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Appearing on The View, Newsom said he was “worried” about the recall effort. “Of course I’m worried about it,” he said. “The nature of these things, the up-or-down question, the zero-sum nature of the question is challenging … so we’re taking it seriously.”

Democrats have signaled that they will not be running any candidates, leaving voters to choose between Newsom and three major Republicans who have entered the race so far: the San Diego mayor, Kevin Faulconer; the conservative activist Mike Cernovich; and John Cox, who lost to Newsom in 2018 by 23 points.

“California Democrats are going to be totally behind the governor, 100%,” said Drexel Heard, a Democratic political strategist based in Los Angeles. And without another Democratic or progressive candidate on the ballot, the party is betting that most voters in the blue state will stick with Newsom over conservative alternatives.

Although the governor’s approval ratings have taken a hit since an early-pandemic peak, he still seems to have the support needed to prevail. Analysts also expect his approval to tick up, with the majority of Californians on track to get vaccinated by the early summer, the state’s public schools set to reopen and economists predicting that the state’s economy will rebound faster than the rest of the US.

“Barring something really dramatic happening, or some major scandal, I think it’s unlikely that Newsom will lose the recall,” said Mindy Romero, founder and director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California.

Gubernatorial recalls in California are rarely successful. Gray Davis, the only California governor who has ever been recalled, was in a far more precarious position in 2003, on the heels of an electricity crisis and facing a $38bn budget deficit. He lost the recall to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Here’s What Happens During A Recall:

California is one of 19 states that allow voters to remove state officials before the end of their term. No reason is necessary — the only requirement to put a recall on the ballot is enough voter signatures. For recall of state officials, proponents must file a notice-of-intent-to-recall petition signed by 65 voters in order to begin the petition drive process. For the actual petition, signatures must equal a percentage of the total number of votes most recently cast for the targeted office – 12% for executive officials and 20% for state legislators and judges. In addition, the petition must include signatures from each of at lease five counties equal in number to 1% of the last vote for the office in that county. That number must be 12% of voters in the last election for the office, and must include voters in at least five counties. The magic number for Newsom’s would-be recallers: 1,495,709 valid signatures.  

The relevant governing body must call for an election within 14 days after the meeting at which the certificate of sufficiency for the recall petition was presented.

The election must be held between 88 and 125 days from the meeting in which the election was called for. If a regular or special election is already scheduled during this time period, the recall question must appear in the scheduled election. If no such election is already scheduled, a special election must be called for the recall vote.  If it does:

  • An election would be held later this year. A date depends on when state officials complete various preliminary steps, but would likely be in the fall.
  • Voters would be asked two questions: Do they want to recall Newsom, yes or no? And, if more than 50% of voters say “yes,” who should replace him? 

There’s no limit on the number of candidates who can run to replace an official on a recall ballot. And whoever gets the most votes wins — a majority is not required. So it’s entirely possible that someone could be elected in a recall while winning less than half the votes. That’s what happened in 2003, when then-Gov. Gray Davis was recalled by 55% of voters. More than 100 people ran to replace him, carving up the votes and allowing action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger to win with 48.6% support.

Source: Bee News Daily and the Guardian contributed to this article.

Photo: Recall Newsom volunteers collecting signatures at the  SaveMart in Sacramento on Jan. 5, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

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