With just over a month to go, the campaign to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom has nearly reached the required number of signatures needed to qualify for a statewide ballot.
As of Sunday, Recall Gavin 2020 – one of two committees organizing the effort – says petitioners have gathered more than 1.4 million signatures out of the necessary 1,495,709.
The campaign will need to gather signatures well above the number to compensate for the signatures that will inevitably be invalidated. Their deadline is March 17.
Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager and finance director for Rescue California – the other committee organizing the effort – said she is confident they will gather enough signatures in time.
In an interview with Fox News, Dunsmore said Rescue California has within the last week deployed paid signature gatherers who have already collected 52,000.
She said “it’s highly possible we could get to 1.5 or 1.6 (million signatures) by the end of this week” but their ultimate goal is 2 million signatures.
Should organizers gather and validate enough signatures, the state’s Lt. Gov. would be obligated to select a date for a special election. Dunsmore estimated that the date will be somewhere between mid-August and late September.
“Once that election (date) is selected, the ballot will have two things on it. One, a thumbs up or a thumbs down on the recall, and (two), the replacement,” Dunsmore said, adding: “If 82% of the (1.8 million) signatures that we submit are valid than we only need 1.8 million signatures. We’re aiming for 2 million. So I think we should have more than enough.”
Dunsmore said that the recall campaign crossed the line from “possibility to probability” in the couple of weeks and that Newsom’s actions during that time suggest he is starting to take the threat more seriously.
“I think prior to that and even during the French Laundry (incident), his staff reportedly was sitting there saying, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ and he was thinking, ‘I need to work about it,’” Dunsmore said. “I think his very obvious default is to go to political messaging rather than policy planning. And this is he started to have problems because it has created inconsistent decisions, and hypocritical decisions, and very transparently poor decisions.”
Fox News has made repeated attempts throughout the recall campaign to reach Gov. Newsom’s office for comment but has received no response.
Not long ago, the notion that liberal favorite Newsom could be ousted by voters in the heavily Democratic state who elected him in a landslide two years ago would have appeared farcical. But the slippery politics of the pandemic and a tangle of confounding decisions on vaccines and reopening businesses and schools have conspired to make the first-term Democrat look vulnerable.
California voters weary of restrictions that have cut them off from jobs, classrooms and friends, combined with anxiety from the continuing threat of the coronavirus, could create a volatile mix at the ballot box. Newsom also has weathered a public drubbing for dining out with friends and lobbyists at a San Francisco Bay Area restaurant last fall, while telling residents to stay home.
More recently, an ever-expanding fraud scandal at the state unemployment agency has his leadership during the pandemic under even closer scrutiny.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in California by nearly 2-to-1, hold every statewide office and dominate the Legislature and congressional delegation. But some see signs of a shifting tide in the Golden State,
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who formally launched his gubernatorial bid last week to challenge Newsom, had argued that voters are eager for a change after years of Democratic rule. Recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California has found that among likely voters, Newsom is losing ground with independents, Latinos — even his fellow Democrats.
There were cautionary signs in the November election that the state might not be as rigidly Democratic as registration numbers suggest: Voters rejected an attempt to reinstate affirmative action, as well as a proposed tax increase on commercial and industrial properties. Republicans also recaptured four congressional seats they lost in 2018.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.