Organizers of recall petition to oust Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom from office say they have surpassed 1.2 million signatures as state residents express their anger over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recall will go to a statewide vote if 1.5 million Californians sign on, which means just 300,000 more signatures are needed by March 17 to take the issue to voters.
The “Recall Gavin Newsom” campaign, which sells merchandise like coronavirus face shields emblazoned with the slogan, in December won a court case to extend the signature deadline from Nov. 17. A Superior Court judge ruled that the pandemic hurt efforts to circulate petitions.
Rescue CA, one of the recall organizers, wants to get to 2 million signatures, as the state’s secretary of state has confirmed that only 84% of the signatures are valid.
A series of missteps by Newsom has helped the recall effort, putting Newsom in danger of being the state’s second Democratic governor in 17 years to be recalled. In 2003, former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was ousted in a recall effort largely fueled by residents upset with skyrocketing energy bills.
“You just can’t underestimate the depth of people’s anger,” former top Davis aide Susan Kennedy recently told The Associated Press. She thinks Newsom, whose approval rating has dropped to 59% from as high as 70%, could rebound, depending on how well he handles the vaccine distribution and the economic recovery from the now nine-month-long pandemic.
But Clint Griess, one of the recall petition leaders, told KPIX-TV last month, “I believe that by the beginning of next year you’re going to see those numbers decrease even more so.”
Newsom’s troubles started in November when, amid rising COVID-19 infections, he declared he was putting an “emergency brake” on reopening the economy.
“California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet – faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer,” he said. “The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes.”
Newsom’s regulations in November put 41 of the state’s 58 counties in the most restrictive of the four-tier system, which affects 37 million residents.
The move stopped reopening plans, banned indoor worship, shut down many businesses and closed schools.
Days later, Newsom and his wife attended a birthday party with a dozen friends at the expensive French Laundry restaurant in Napa, north of San Francisco. The governor said the dinner, for a lobbyist friend, was outdoors, but pictures told a different story.
Newsom eventually apologized.
“I made a bad mistake,” he said. “I should have stood up and … drove back to my house. The spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted. I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”
Newsom has made other mistakes. In July, Newsom ordered certain businesses across 19 counties to scale back their operations, including restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums, card rooms and bars.
However, Newsom’s own winery and tasting room in Napa Valley was allowed to stay open. Madera County wineries were exempt from the order because it was not one of those on the list.
Newsom also owns stock in PlumpJack Group, which includes a winery in Napa Valley’s Oakville, FOX26-TV reported.
“According to Gov. Newsom’s 2018 tax filings, he and his wife own shares in the group that produced a combined salary of nearly $600,000 in 2018, the station also reported.