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Governor Newsom Will (Almost Certainly) Face A Recall Election This Fall

California Governor Gavin Newsom.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Getty Images North America)
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Buckle up, California. For the second time in the state’s history, voters will likely decide whether to boot a sitting governor from office before his term is up.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced Monday afternoon that activists who want to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom have exceeded the required threshold to qualify for the ballot by more than 130,000 signatures, with county registrars still verifying and counting some remaining signatures ahead of Thursday’s deadline.

There’s still the slimmest of possibilities that Democrats will convince enough people who added their signatures to recall petitions to rescind them. Weber said a 30-day period to allow voters to submit written requests to their county registrars to remove their signatures will be open until June 8.

Recall supporters were apparently able to harness enough voters’ fatigue with the state’s COVID-19 safety measures to mount a successful signature drive against Newsom, buoyed by a judge’s November order to extend the deadline for gathering signatures by four months. Republicans from across the country have publicly supported the recall attempt against the Democratic governor, and several GOP candidates have already announced campaigns.

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Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican who says he will run if the recall qualifies, characterized the effort as bipartisan — arguing in a statement that registered Democrats and independents joined Republicans in signing petitions to oust the governor.

“Together, we will turn the page on [Newsom's] failures and begin a California Comeback to reopen our schools, cut taxes for working families, and create jobs for the people of our state," Faulconer said.

Democratic officials have decried the effort as a wasteful and partisan undertaking. They estimate the cost of the statewide special election could reach $400 million. “Republicans are forcing a recall … because they know they can’t win in 2022,” L.A. County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez said in an emailed statement. “It's a waste of our time, and taxpayer money. This recall will fail in November."

Barring a hail-Mary maneuver by Democrats, once the 30-day window closes, the legislature will conduct a cost estimate and Weber will officially certify the recall. Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis must then schedule the recall within 60-80 days. The entire process puts a likely election sometime in November.

Importantly, if Newsom is removed by voters, the winner of the recall election only needs to win a plurality of votes cast. In the 2003 recall election that ousted Gov. Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger won with nearly 49% of the vote, despite 134 other candidates being on the ballot.