Opponents of California Governor Gavin Newsom, a prominent progressive Democrat in the United States, have collected enough valid signatures to trigger recall vote – the second such election in the state’s history.
The California secretary of state’s office said more than 1.6 million signatures had been deemed valid as of Monday, about 100,000 more than required.
People who signed petitions now have 30 days to withdraw their signatures. If those withdrawals do not significantly change the count, voters will face two questions on the ballot in an election likely to take place towards the end of the year: Should Newsom be recalled and who should replace him?
The votes on the second question will only be counted if more than half say yes to the first.
“The people of California have done what the politicians thought would be impossible,” Orrin Heatlie, a retired county sheriff’s sergeant who last year launched the recall effort, told the Associated Press. “Our work is just beginning. Now the real campaign is about to commence.”
The effort, which is permitted under an idiosyncratic state law, began last June and picked up momentum in the fall as frustration grew among some residents of the state over Newsom’s coronavirus-related actions.
If the recall goes to voters, the election will be among the highest-profile political races in the US in 2021.
Newsom, a first-term Democrat, has been seen as a possible White House hopeful. His counter-campaign against the effort, which he launched in March, was endorsed from progressive powerhouses including US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
While Newsom faces a field of Republican challengers, to date no Democrats have announced they will challenge him.
“I am not going to take this fight lying down,” read a fundraising appeal sent by Newsom shortly after Monday’s announcement about the signatures. “There is too much at stake, and I intend to win.”
In a statement, Juan Rodriguez, who manages Newsom’s counter-campaign, repeated criticism that the recall is a partisan effort by pro-Trump Republicans that “seeks to undo the important progress we’ve made under Governor Newsom – fighting COVID, supporting families who are struggling, protecting our environment, common-sense gun safety laws”.
If Newsom survives the recall, he will be up for re-election in 2022.
Republicans running to replace Newsom include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and reality TV star and former Olympic decathlon champion Caitlyn Jenner, who has never run for elected office. Businessman John Cox, who lost badly to Newsom in 2018, and former Congressman Doug Ose, also are running.
“Californians from all walks of life are seizing this historic opportunity to demand change,” Faulconer said in a statement. “As the only candidate who’s won tough elections and enacted real reform, I am ready to lead this movement.”
— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) April 23, 2021
Dozens of other candidates, serious and not, are expected to enter the race.
The only other time a governor has faced a recall election was in 2003, when Democrat Gray Davis was voted out and replaced with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Democrats believe Davis was hurt politically when Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, a fellow Democrat, entered the race.
Newsom won election in 2018 with support from more than 60 percent of the voters. Recalling him will be a tough sell in the heavily Democratic state where just a quarter of the state’s registered voters are Republicans, about the same number as those who identify as “no party preference”.