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, setting the stage for the second recall election in the state’s history, officials said Monday.
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 Newsom from office.
The announcement sets in motion a series of procedural steps that will culminate in a special election. No election date has been scheduled, but it is expected to be sometime in November. Between now and then, the state will review the cost of the election, and voters 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 Newsom, who was elected in 2018, comes up for reelection.
Several Republican candidates have already announced challenges to Newsom, including Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender activist; Kevin Faulconer, a former mayor of San Diego; and John Cox, a Republican businessman who lost to Newsom in 2018.
More are expected to follow, although Newsom, a Democrat, is widely expected to prevail in the deep-blue state. 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. Newsom’s backers have characterized the recall effort as a futile bid by extremists to make Republicans relevant in the state.
Launched early in 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.
But the 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, 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.
On the night of the dinner, only 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. The last governor to face one was Gray Davis, who was ousted by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.
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