LOS ANGELES — Less than two years into office, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is being forced to defend his job.
Battered by several crises, including the coronavirus pandemic, crippling unemployment, devastating wildfires and one very poorly timed fancy dinner, Newsom faces a recall effort that shows no signs of slowing.
A petition to oust Newsom has more than half the signatures needed to trigger a special election, said Orrin Heatlie, who is leading the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign. Volunteers had collected 844,000 signatures by Tuesday, he said.
The recall campaign must gather 1.5 million signatures by mid-March to force an election, and it will need a surplus of signatures because some are likely to be disqualified during the certification process.
“He has done this to himself,” Heatlie said. “We wouldn’t have been as successful as we’ve been if it weren’t for Gavin Newsom.”
Dan Newman, a spokesman for the governor, said Californians will have to decide whether they want a “distraction and circus” to pull attention away from the state’s problems. He said a special election could cost taxpayers upward of $100 million as the state works to distribute Covid-19 vaccinations, reopen schools and kick-start the economy.
“This is a ragtag crew of pro-Trump, anti-vaccine extremists, along with some ambitious Republican politicians who would like to be governor,” Newman said. “I don’t think it’s something anyone wants. I’d be surprised if Californians wanted to spend the extra money and have another election the following year.”
The current recall effort is one of six such attempts since Newsom took office, Newman said. It started in February, even before the coronavirus upended life around the world. At the time, Newsom opponents were frustrated that he had endorsed a bill to compel companies to classify independent contractors as employees with legal protections and benefits. A November ballot initiative overturned the law, but the political damage was done.
Then came announcements that thousands of inmates would be granted early parole under the state’s Covid-19 containment plan and that immigrants without legal standing would receive coronavirus relief funds through the state.
The final straw for recall proponents was photos that surfaced showing Newsom dining at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant in California’s wine country, where the per-person tasting menu starts at $350. The story quickly went viral, rankling business owners and residents who accused Newsom of being arrogant and a hypocrite for asking Californians not to gather and to stay 6 feet apart while he did the opposite at a luxurious private dinner for a lobbyist friend.
“In the last three or four weeks” since the French Laundry incident, “we have seen the number of signatures explode,” said Randy Economy, a member…
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