Proponents of the effort to remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California from office have collected enough valid signatures for a recall election, the California secretary of state’s office announced Monday.
The announcement kicks off a 30-business-day period in which those who signed the recall petition may withdraw their names. County election officials will then have 10 business days to report how many signatures have been withdrawn. If the threshold is still met, a recall election would take place after a budgetary review and scheduling process expected to last several months.
The recall drive began in June 2020, and a court extended the deadline for collecting signatures because of the coronavirus pandemic. The group running the signature drive — Recall Gavin 2020 — posted a lengthy list of grievances against the governor on its website: “Unaffordable housing. Record homelessness. Rising crime. Failing schools. Independent contractors thrown out of work. Exploding pension debt. And now, a locked down population while the prisons are emptied. Hold Gavin Newsom accountable.”
Newsom and other Democrats have said the effort is led by extremists and pro-Trump Republicans. An Emerson College poll in mid-March showed that a narrow plurality of California voters would keep Newsom in office: 42%, versus 38% who said they would vote to remove him, with 14% undecided. Six percent answered they would not vote in a recall election.
If the recall election is held, voters would face two questions on the ballot: whether to remove Newsom from office and who should replace him. Newsom is not allowed to appear on the list of replacement candidates.
The only time a California petition succeeded in forcing a gubernatorial recall election was in 2003, when Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was removed and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him. There were 135 names on the replacement ballot, and many are expected again should Newsom face a recall.
Several candidates have already declared themselves, most recently Republican Caitlyn Jenner, the 1976 Olympic decathlon gold medalist, reality television star and transgender rights activist. CapRadio reports that others include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox and former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose, all Republicans.
Though a Republican has not won a statewide election in California since 2006, the math of a recall could challenge precedent. Recall proponents have to collect only 12% of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to force a ballot. Because of the expected large number of replacement candidates — and the unlikelihood of a strong Democrat entering the race — if Newsom is removed a Republican could win office with far fewer votes than Newsom received in 2018.