The continuing campaign to trigger a recall election for Governor Gavin Newsom is looking likelier to succeed each day, and the group behind it has reportedly amassed 1.3 million certified signatures from voters, with only 200,000 left to go by mid-March. Still, it's not looking popular enough to actually result in a recall if it does come to a vote.
The campaign gained steam in December, and it's being funded by a variety of individuals and groups with different interests and stakes in the matter. We reported in January that a half-million-dollar contribution to the recall effort had come from a wealthy religious businessman in Orange County named John Krueger, whose primary bone to pick with Newsom has been the ongoing pandemic closure of churches for in-person, large-group worship.
But also recently we learned that billionaire venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya had tossed $100,000 at the campaign — and the 34-year-old former Facebook executive, Warriors minority stakeholder, and Virgin Galactic chairman soon announced on Twitter that he's considering a run for governor himself. (But, like Elon Musk, Palihapitiya is a talkative billionaire who spends his days partly stirring shit and saying lots of bullshit on Twitter, so who knows how serious this is — and he also threw $100,000 at GameStop stock the other week, which is like twenty bucks to him.)
As KRON4 reports, organizers of the recall effort — the official name for which is currently Rescue California... Recall Gavin Newsom — say they're confident they will reach the required 1.5 million signatures in the next six weeks, which will mean that California will face its first recall election since 2003.
"I absolutely think it’s going to happen," says Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager for Rescue California.
Historically speaking, recalls are rare and difficult to pull off. In 2003, Democrat Gray Davis was especially unpopular, and faced an upswell of support from a highly recognizable and formidable opponent, Arnold Schwarzenegger. But even he was only recalled by a margin of 5 percentage points, and that was the only successful recall effort in state history, and only the second in the nation.
Still it's something Californians have sought to do many times — with seven out of nine of Davis's predecessors having faced recall attempts, some of which failed various legal and logistical challenges.
Is Gavin Newsom actually that unpopular where it counts — namely the population centers of Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area, and Sacramento? That's still an open question, and could change significantly by the time the actual question goes to voters, assuming pandemic lockdowns are further lifted and the economy begins roaring back to life in six or eight months.
A new poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that more than a third of respondents in the state say they would vote to recall Newsom, as the Los Angeles Times reports today. But 45 percent of registered voters say they would oppose a recall. Still, Newsom's approval rating appears to be hitting a new low, at just 46 percent — having won the office with a historic margin just three years ago.
Republican John Cox, who lost to Newsom in 2018, has publicly backed the recall effort (he lost to Newsom with just 38% of the vote). And now former mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer, seen as a moderate Republican, has announced his own run for the governor's office as of Tuesday.
As Faulconer's new campaign website says, "What happened to the promise of California? On Gavin Newsom's watch our schools are failing, homelessness is skyrocketing, small businesses are closing, and jobs are disappearing. His broken promises have become our problems."
According to Newsweek, conservative commentator Mike Cernovich has also announced that he would run for governor as well if the recall effort proves successful.
But, in the 2003 scenario, it was all taken care of in a single election — voters had two questions: "Recall Davis, yes or no?" And then, "If he's recalled, who should replace him?", with a slate of 135 candidates who qualified for the ballot, including former child star Gary Coleman and porn performer Mary Carey.
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