OAKLAND — California Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged Tuesday morning that an effort to recall him is likely to qualify for the ballot, setting the stage for an expensive, bruising battle that will draw national interest in the coming months.
“This one appears to have the requisite signatures,” the Democratic governor said during an appearance on The View.
While the recall effort was initially viewed as a longshot, organizers have capitalized on pandemic discontent to collect what they say are more than enough signatures to trigger an election. They must turn in around 1.5 million valid signatures by Wednesday, after which elections officials will spend weeks gauging whether proponents have hit the official threshold.
But Newsom is no longer waiting for elections officials before weighing in. After months of deflecting questions as the recall effort gathered strength, Newsom embraced a defensive campaign on Monday. He publicly addressed the recall for the first time and rolled out endorsements from a bevy of national elected officials like Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker.
The governor has quickly signaled that his campaign will paint the recall effort as an outgrowth of pro-Trump extremists, a tactic that could resonate in a deeply Democratic state where the former president was deeply unpopular. He has pointed to a recall proponent having mused about microchipping immigrants and cast the campaign as a stand to safeguard California’s progressive values.
“Immigration, issues related to low-carbon green growth, our climate policies … [policies] related to our our advancement to end the death penalty or increase the minimum wage or advance pay equity,” Newsom said on The View. “I say that quite literally, that’s what’s at stake in this election, in this recall.”
Fellow Democrats have echoed that rhetoric, encouraging their followers to combat what Warren called a “naked partisan power grab” fueled by “extreme right-wing Republicans.”
Republicans haven’t won a statewide office in California since 2006. Democrats have overwhelming control of the state Capitol, and 63 percent of voters backed President Joe Biden in November. But a gubernatorial recall would provide Republicans a rare opportunity to take the state’s top office with a plurality of support in the right circumstances. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor in 2003 in the state’s only gubernatorial recall thus far.
Recall proponents counter that Newsom’s mismanagement is to blame for the recall. They point to oscillating restrictions that have burdened businesses and contributed to many California children being locked out of classrooms for months.
“This recall is all about one thing: Gavin Newsom’s inability to meet the challenges of this pandemic and its consequences. Like a guy caught cheating on his … homework, he’s out to make it about something — anything — else,” Ron Nehring, a former California Republican Party chair who works for the campaign of Republican former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, tweeted on Monday.
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