Newsom Fights Back Against GOP-Led Recall Effort

Californians could be asked to weather two elections in 2022 if an effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom is successful.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a face mask as he urges people to wear them to fight the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

(CN) — California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has broken his silence about the effort to recall him from office and mounted his own campaign to defend his record, playing up the fact that his critics are attacking the state much in the way former President Donald Trump did while in office.

“I am not going to take this recall attempt lying down,” Newsom told the Los Angeles Times in a statement from his political campaign. “I’m going to fight because there’s too much at stake in this moment.”

Newsom announced his “Stop The Republican Recall” campaign Monday after recall sponsors said last week that they have collected the 2 million signatures required to kick off a special election. The recall effort has until Wednesday to submit their voter-signed petitions to the California Secretary of State’s office.

Critics of the recall effort say a special election would cost California millions of dollars and would force voters to head to the polls twice in the same year. Newsom’s first term ends in November 2022 and he says he plans to seek re-election.

The cacophony to recall Newsom grew in 2020 while California weathered the pandemic, with critics slamming the Golden State’s efforts to stop the spread of the virus as too strict. Despite some of the earliest and strongest health orders in the nation, California became the U.S. epicenter of the virus in late 2020 and early 2021.

The recall effort gained momentum in the last several weeks and Newsom has remained quiet — until now.

Newsom’s defenders include U.S. Senators Alex Padilla, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, U.S. Representative Katie Porter and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams according to his campaign.

“Gavin Newsom has shown the nation what courageous leadership looks like during the pandemic,” Booker said in a statement. “He’s made tough calls that kept Californians safe and helped them recover financially. Defeating this cynical, Republican recall effort will be one of the most important priorities for Democrats this year.”

The anti-recall campaign says the recall effort is supported by “a coalition of national Republicans, anti-vaxxers, anti-immigrant and Trump-supporting Republicans.” A new campaign ad shows images of the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, with images of Trump and other Republican lawmakers who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The ad cites a report from the Los Angeles Times that links the recall effort to “groups promoting distrust of government, science and medicine; peddlers of QAnon doomsday conspiracies; ‘patriots’ readying for battle and one organization allied with the far-right extremist group, the Proud Boys.”

But Carl DeMaio with the pro-recall group Reform California said the effort is “a diverse coalition” that includes Republicans, Democrats and independents. In a phone interview, DeMaio called Newsom’s new campaign full of “smears and lies” and balked at the idea that the special election is partisan and would waste taxpayer money.

“Gavin Newsom just wasted $30 billion on fraudulent unemployment claims,” DeMaio said, referring to the fact that the California Employment Development Department paid $11.4 billion in fraudulent claims in the wake of the pandemic. Julie Su, secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, said the state is also reviewing another $20 billion in potential fraud.

The California Democratic Party is bankrolling the anti-recall effort, and claims the Republican National Committee has injected $250,000 into the effort to recall Newsom. Email questions to Stop the Republican Recall, the California GOP, the recall campaign and the National Republican Party were not answered by press time.

The Democratic Governors Association executive director Noam Lee said any attempt to recall Newsom “will end up being an expensive and failed waste of Republican time, energy and resources.”

“Rather than allowing Californians to focus on fighting and recovering from the pandemic, Republicans want to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom in the middle of a national crisis — a costly distraction at an important time — all in a craven attempt to put California’s government in the hands of Trump Republicans,” Lee said in a statement.

But California voters are split on what to do with Newsom. A new poll says over 42% of registered voters would not recall Newsom from office, but 58% said they would not re-elect him in 2022.

The California Emerson College/Nexstar Media Group poll released Monday spoke to 1,000 registered voters in early March. While 38% said they support recalling Newsom and 13% are undecided, 51% of voters agree that California’s mask mandate was the right measure to follow. But just 45% approve of Newsom’s response to the pandemic.

“Governor @GavinNewsom is about to find out the hard way how Californians feel about him,” said California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Patterson in a tweet on Monday, linking to a story on the poll results.

More voters said they would not support another Democrat (48%) other than Newsom in a recall election versus 45% who said they would. Nearly equal numbers of voters feel the recall effort is good (43%) and bad (44%) for the state, though most (71%) think that California’s recall election mechanism is a “good example of the democratic process” while just 28% who think it is a “threat to democracy.”

Several problems facing the Golden State were also presented to the voters and Covid-19 topped the list at 21%, followed by homelessness (19%), corrupt politicians (17%), housing (14%) and other issues.

Emerson College polling director Spencer Kimball said “part of the issue for Governor Newsom is his management of the Covid-19 pandemic,” which showed when voters were asked to rate the rollout of vaccines in California.

Just 8% ranked the rollout as “excellent,” 34% as “good,” 36% as “fair” and 20% as “poor,” according to the poll results.

Most of the voters polled identified as Democrats (46%), with just 24% as Republicans and 29% as independents. The majority (60%) voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election and the gender representation was nearly split with 49% voters who identified as male and 51% who identified as female. 

Most of the respondents (48%) were white, followed by 28% who identified as Latino or Hispanic, 13% who identified as Asian American or Pacific Islander, 6% who identified as Black and 2% who identified as other or multiple races.

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