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California recall election still on track after few signatures withdrawn from petitions

Gov. Gavin Newsom talks during a news conference at Universal Studios
Gov. Gavin Newsom talks during a news conference at Universal Studios in Universal City, Calif., on June 15.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

It’s official: There will be a recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom this year.

While it was widely expected, the announcement Wednesday from Secretary of State Shirley Weber affirming that petitioners collected enough signatures to trigger the election — and not enough were withdrawn to stop it — kicks off a series of procedures to set the date.

It will be only the second time in California’s history that a campaign to recall a governor has made the ballot out of 55 attempts. In 2003, Democrat Gray Davis was removed and replaced by Hollywood superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, in a circus-like campaign that featured more than 130 candidates, including a porn star and a bounty hunter.

Newsom, a Democrat, has faced scrutiny for his lockdown efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic. He was criticized for dining at a luxury restaurant, maskless, last November while telling Californians to avoid social interactions.

But with California fully reopened as of June 15 and mask mandates largely canceled for vaccinated people, Newsom supporters are counting on voter resentment fading. Democratic leaders of the Legislature are pushing for a speedier process to set the recall date. That could benefit the governor, given that the majority of likely voters say they would oppose his removal, according to a May poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

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Still, recent soaring temperatures that have put pressure on the state’s electricity grid are reviving memories of last year’s record wildfires and rolling blackouts, a risk that could weaken Newsom’s position going into a fall recall. Much of California is mired in drought.

The attempted recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom will go before voters on Sept. 14. Here are the details.

California said in April that recall proponents had collected enough verified signatures for an election, but state rules call for another 30-day period to allow voters to withdraw their names from the petition. There were 43 signatures withdrawn, Weber’s office said Wednesday.

Almost 1.72 million signatures remained, more than the roughly 1.5 million needed for an election.

The lieutenant governor, a Democrat, will schedule the recall election within 60 to 80 days after the state finance department finalizes its cost. Lawmakers have already set aside $215 million for the election.

Voters will face two questions: Should Newsom be removed? And if so, who should replace him? A simple majority of yes votes on the first question will result in his ouster. Whoever wins the most votes on the second question — even if less than 50% — would become the next governor. And Newsom can’t by law appear as a candidate for that.

More than 50 people have already said they will run, including former Olympic champion Caitlyn Jenner, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Newsom’s 2018 opponent, John Cox.


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