Recall Newsom Campaign May Qualify for the Ballot, But Fares Little Chance to Unseat the Governor

Courtesy of Matt Gush at

Anthony Bernasconi, Editor

Last week, Republican organizers behind the effort to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom claimed to have gathered more than 2 million signatures, well above the roughly 1.5 million signature threshold required to trigger a recall election. 

But whether the campaign can convince California voters to replace their governor remains to be seen. After all, California hasn’t elected a Republican statewide since 2006, and Democrat Joe Biden overwhelmingly defeated Donald Trump here by more than 5 million votes in November.

Elected in 2018 with about 62 percent of the vote, Newsom has seen his approval rating slip 12 points, from 64 percent to 52 percent, over the course of the yearlong Covid-19 pandemic. The virus has ravaged the state as businesses and schools remain shuttered by government mandate, millions of people have contracted the disease, and more than 56,000 have died.

But the recall effort, which predates the economic havoc caused by the virus, was propelled in recent months in part due to a November 2020 dinner that Newsom attended, in violation of the state’s own Covid-19 restrictions, at the upscale French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, Calif.

On Tuesday of this week, during an appearance on “The View,” Gov. Newsom dismissed the basis for the recall effort, saying, “It’s less about me and more about California and our values, Democratic Party values. Issues related to the browning of California, immigration, low carbon green growth, our climate policies, end the death penalty, increase the minimum wage, pay equity. At the end of the day, these principles are what we’re fighting for.”

Newsom continued: “The people that are behind this are members of the 3 percenters – the right wing militia group – the Proud Boys [who] supported the insurrection, folks that quite literally enthusiastically support QAnon conspiracies, so that’s the origin.” 

However, the governor also for the first time acknowledged that a recall election would likely take place, adding, “This one appears to have the requisite signatures,” a reference to the five previous recall petitions that failed to garner enough signatures for the ballot.

On, the campaign’s official site, the opposition states the “reasons to recall Newsom” include his moratorium on the death penalty, management of the state’s high speed rail program, efforts to enforce restrictive gun laws, failure to solve the statewide homeless crisis, support for sanctuary city policies, and inability to control high taxes on gas and water.

The general accusation of “government overreach” apparently refers to California’s Covid-19 restrictions and shutdowns following health and safety guidelines. Somewhat even shakier reasons to depose the governor include Newsom’s executive order, signed last year, aimed at phasing out gasoline powered vehicles by 2035; his supposed support for “mandatory mail in voting” (which is a false claim); and the raft of PG&E power outages that led to the governor’s threats to take over the embattled utility provider.

“Those are reasons why Republicans want him recalled, but they were reasons they didn’t want him elected in the first place,” said Scott MacDougall, a political science professor at Diablo Valley College. “[Republicans] don’t like what most Californians wanted.” 

Even if the measure qualifies for the state ballot, MacDougall believes the recall effort is destined to fail because voters will see it for what it is: a partisan exercise.

“The Republican Party in California is relatively small compared to the Democratic Party, and Democrats are probably going to vote to support the governor that gives them the policies that they want,” he said.

Some who support the recall effort may even share MacDougall’s sentiment. Asked whether he thought a recall election would ultimately unseat Newsom, Glen Gulic, who has recently attended pro-Trump, anti-Newsom protests in Lafayette, and has signed the recall petition, didn’t sound hopeful.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Gulic said. But, “at least Gavin is on notice that the people are not happy with his performance up to this point, and he better get his act together because he’s got a lot of people he represents.” 

Meanwhile, support for Newsom has streamed in from some of the most recognized lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Senate, including former presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Corey Booker. “Right-wing Republicans in CA are trying to recall @GavinNewsom for the crime of telling people to wear masks and for listening to scientists during COVID,” tweeted Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders last week.

“Extremist Republicans have done enough to undermine democracy already. We must all unite to oppose the recall in California,” he added.

In fact, the recall campaign might never have gotten close to 1.5 million signatures without a 120-day extension granted by a federal judge in November due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “This thing would never qualify if they had been forced to adhere to the 160-day timelines for getting signatures,” Garry South, a former Democratic consultant told the Sacramento Bee

Interestingly, it appears there might be a chance the campaign doesn’t actually have the 1.5 million valid signatures it needs. According to Ballotpedia, as of Feb. 5, some 16 percent of the nearly 800,000 collected and vetted signatures were deemed invalid.

Unconfirmed reports have emerged that some voters have signed the petition multiple times. Speaking with The Inquirer, an unidentified man outside Sam’s Club in Vacaville said he had heard of people who had signed the petition “five times.” 

Similarly, Ian Kearns, another individual at a recent protest in Lafayette claimed to have signed the petition “more than once” to ensure his signature was recorded.

Repeated efforts by The Inquirer to contact coordinators of the Recall Gavin campaign in Contra Costa County were either ignored or declined.

At this point many seem to acknowledge that the campaign might be more about sending a message than about actually overturning the state’s 2018 election. State residents, angered by Newsom’s governance and specifically his management of the pandemic, may not expect to defeat him but are determined to have their voices heard.

The lack of a clear Republican challenger may also hamper the chances of unseating Newsom. Currently, the only declared candidates are former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer; the 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox, and former state senator John Moorlach.

Gulic said he would like to see either John Cox – who previously lost to Newsom by 24 points – or Richard Grennell, Trump’s former acting director of National Intelligence, who has not declared his candidacy in any eventual run against Newsom. 

MacDougall, a tenured faculty professor at DVC since 1998 specializing in international relations and comparative politics, said he doesn’t see a candidate charismatic enough to drive Democratic voters away from their elected governor, despite the state’s rocky road weathering the pandemic.

Referencing the historic 2003 recall vote that succeeded in California, MacDougall said, “What killed Gray Davis was Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was a guy we wanted to try – somebody that Californians were longing to trade their governor for.”

This time around, he said, “I just don’t see who that is.”