Recall Newsom 2020 campaign leaders say they now have enough signatures to trigger a recall election in California as they strive to throw Democratic Governor Newsom out of the office this year.
Petitions to recall politicians are nothing new in the Golden State, but their success is limited, although not unheard of. For example, in 2003, then-Governor Gray Davis was successfully recalled by 55 percent of voters to make way for legendary Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So what is the procedure and how likely is that Newsom will be knocked off his post before his term expires?
Background to Recall Campaign
There have been a number of attempts to recall Newsom, the charismatic former lieutenant governor of California, since he took office in January 2019.
The latest effort was introduced in February 2020 by Orrin Heatlie, a retired sheriff’s deputy from Yolo County.
According to Heatlie’s petition, Newsom “has implemented laws which are detrimental to the citizens of this state and our way of life.”
Among Newsom’s alleged failures, Heatlie mentions his pro-immigration policies, the highest taxes in the country, rampant homelessness, “the lowest quality of life,” and halting death sentences despite widespread support for them.
But during the pandemic the campaign started gaining support even among Newsom’s once devoted voters. He was targeted for strict stay-at-home policies, failing to reopen businesses and schools on time, and a slow vaccine rollout. Newsom made the headlines in November 2020 when he was spotted without a mask at a bash in a fancy French restaurant – something he has long pressured Californians to avoid.
Signatures calling for a recall starting mounting up as a result, as Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles granted the campaign more time to gather support amid coronavirus restrictions.
How Many Signatures Are Necessary for a Recall?
In California, the law does not require a specific reason for a governor to be recalled, so those campaigning to oust Newsom comprise a mishmash of voters who are dissatisfied with his policies.
To trigger a recall election in California, signatures from 12 percent of voters in the last state election from at least five counties are required by 17 March 2021.
This would be 1,495,709 valid signatures from Californians.
The Recall Newsom 2020 campaign says they already have 1.5 million and are aiming for 500,000 more in the next four weeks just to be safe.
These signatures have to be verified by the Registrar of Voters by 19 April 2021. If they are good to go, then a recall election will be held later in the year.
What’s the Recall Vote DATE?
No exact date for the statewide poll has been discussed yet as the vote still remains up in the air. Experts from the California Target Book almanac believe that this could take place in November or December, but campaign leaders expect a closer date – August or September.
Two Questions Asked
If triggered, a recall referendum would leave Californians with two questions. The first will be something like “do you want to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, yes or no?”
And if “yes," who should replace him?
A simple majority would be considered enough to recall Newsom.
There's no limit on the number of candidates who can run on a recall ballot. Whoever gets the highest number of votes – even in the absence of a majority (something that actually happened to Schwarzenegger who got only 48.6% support in 2003 during a recall election against Davis) – wins the seat.
Back in 2003, the requirements to become a recall vote candidate were quite low – a California citizen could have either gathered 65 signatures from their party and pay a $3,500 fee, or collect 10,000 valid signatures from any party and be registered for free – with the possibility of prorating the fee with a fraction of valid signatures. Most of the 135 candidates ended up paying almost the whole sum.
So far, people who have indicated their desire to run in a recall ballot include Republicans John Cox, who lost to Newsom in the 2018 election, and ex-San Diego mayor Kevin Falcouner. Both have been raising money for the campaign and donating themselves, analysts from the CalMatters non-profit organisation say.
Ex-Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, who previously donated big bucks to Democratic campaigns, flirted with the idea of running but then said he wasn't ready. He still gave $100,000 to the cause.
But the list of people who may be willing to appear on the ballot if the election goes ahead may be rather long, bearing in mind the 2003 recall campaign.
Will any Democrats be on the ballot? Possibly, but some experts say that this would only harm Newsom’s chances to keep his post.
How Likely is Newsom to Lose Office?
The approval rating of California’s chief was actually ramping up in the first days of the pandemic and even now he's more popular than Davis was during Recall Campaign 2003 – by the end of January he was seen in a positive light by 52 percent of Californian respondents.
But Newsom is losing support among female voters – especially those with kids at home – over his reluctance to open public schools, while many private ones remain open, including those that the governor’s kids attend. According to a PPIC poll, Newsom’s approval rating among women dropped to 57 percent in January and to 49 percent among those living with kids.
Democrats believe that the campaign to recall Newsom is nothing more than a “vanity project initiated by Trump Republicans,” as put by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. The lawmaker insists that the election, if it happens, “would be a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.”
"In the middle of this pandemic, our collective efforts should be used to ensure we keep people safe, get them vaccinated and back to normal as soon as possible,” Gonzalez told NBC 7.
But campaign’s leader Heatlie insists that the effort is bipartisan and “not a party movement.”
Recall Newsom 2020 says they have already raised more than $3.5 million for the campaign with the help of the Rescue California organisation. Around $125,000 reportedly came from California's Republican Party through the nationwide Republican National Committee. But a large chunk of funding was also individually given by local entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley developers, and even Beverley Hills estate moguls who have grown increasingly irritated by Newsom’s policies.