One of the original proponents of recalling Gavin Newsom as governor, Orrin Heatlie, has been sidelined in the final weeks of the recall campaign because he is sick with COVID-19.

Heatlie, 52, was a critic of Newsom's policies on immigration and the death penalty back when the campaign for a recall election began in 2019. Heatlie was a key organizer of the early campaign, along with some other Tea Party activists, before the pandemic began and spurred new criticisms of Newsom — and dozens of other governors around the country — over lockdown orders, mask mandates, and, more recently, vaccine mandates.

As the New York Times reports, Heatlie, who is unvaccinated, and his wife, who is vaccinated, are both infected with COVID-19 — and Heatlie confirmed this via text message. And this is the second time he's been infected during the pandemic.

"Thought I was immune as I’ve had it before," Heatlie said. "Then spent 13 hours in a warm truck traveling back from Wyoming with a friend who came down with it on the trip."

A Republican former sheriff's sergeant from Yolo County, Heatlie and his group helped to gather the 1.5 million signatures necessary to force a special election to decide whether Newsom should be recalled. While Heatlie himself is not running for governor, the field includes a number of Republicans critical of the measures Newsom and the state's Department of Public Health took to reduce virus transmission last year and earlier this year.

Heatlie wrote the official Proponent's Recall Argument for the voter information guide that Californians received three weeks ago, in which he primarily focuses on Newsom's failure to fix homelessness and policies around criminal justice. But Heatlie also brings up pandemic health orders and Newsom's infamous French Laundry dinner.

"In November, Newsom told Californians stay home, wear masks, avoid gathering with family and friends. Days later in violation of his orders, he attended a fancy dinner with lobbyists at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant — without masks or social distancing."

The statement also repeats an accusation that's been much crowed over on Fox News, that Newsom gave some sort of sweetheart contract to a Chinese company to produce masks for the state back in April 2020, a contract worth nearly $1 billion, without going through proper approval channels.

Facebook suspended Heatlie's account earlier this year after Newsom pointed to a 2019 post he wrote saying, "Microchip all illegal immigrants. It works! Just ask Animal control!" As the Desert Sun reported, Heatlie still didn't understand why his account was suspended, and he said this was merely hyperbole to promote discussion.

Larry Elder, the Republican radio host who has led the recall replacement race in polling — though who knows with these polls — has vowed to repeal all vaccine and mask mandates if he wins, in line with other Republican governors around the country.

Dangerously, Elder also went on CNN last week to say he doesn't think that "young people" need to be vaccinated.

"I don't believe the science suggests that young people should be vaccinated," Elder said. "I don't believe the science suggests that young people should have to wear masks at school."

Thankfully, more recent polling suggests that it is no longer a dead heat between the "Yes" and "No" camps in the recall, and Democrats so far have been returning mail-in ballots at a much higher rate than Republicans.

Photo: YouTube