Organizers of Newsom recall effort say they're seeing renewed support

Amid California’s ongoing struggle to slow the spread of the coronavirus and mitigate the economic consequences, Governor Gavin Newsom is facing a renewed recall effort. “He’s destroyed people’s lives,” said Randy Economy, a senior advisor to the recall campaign.  “And it’s not because of the pandemic, it’s because of his mismanagement as governor of the state of California.”

Economy says organizers are seeing increased support from people frustrated with the governor’s handling of COVID19 shutdowns and restrictions.  So far, Economy says the effort’s collected nearly 850,000 of the roughly 1.5 million signatures needed to get the recall on the ballot.  He says they saw a spike after Newsom was seen at the French Laundry in Napa for a birthday party, contrary to his own message, urging people to stay home and avoid mixing. “Probably ten-fold, 15-fold, 20-fold, people were inundating the website, taking it upon themselves,” said Economy.

The governor apologized for the blunder. When asked about the recall effort this week, he pivoted. “The most important thing we can do from an economic perspective is focus on public health, focus on mitigating the spread of this virus, eliminating this virus,” said Newsom.

This is the sixth attempt to recall the first-term Democrat.  Only one California governor has ever been successfully recalled, Gray Davis in 2003. “The big difference is this is being fueled by republicans at the grassroots level,” said Steven Maviglio, Davis’ former press secretary and a democratic consultant. “The Davis recall grew because there was a lot of dissatisfactions with democrats as well.”

Maviglio says there are many differences from 2003, but one similarity is voters’ expectation that the governor should lead and with a crisis. “This governor has been criticized for trying to do too many things at once,” said Maviglio.  “He needs to pick handful of issues that are most important to Californians now, that he has control over and focus on solving them.”

Several political experts have called the latest effort ta longshot; in part, due to a lack of financial backing and Newsom’s popularity.  A recent poll from the Public Policy Institute shows 58% of people surveyed approve of his handling of the economy during the pandemic. Still, Sonoma State political science professor David McCuan says there’s a bigger picture here. “It’s about sending a message to incumbents, particularly democratic incumbents, in the post-Trump era, that republicans aren’t going away, they’re going to continue to push,” said McCuan.

As the governor battles ongoing crises, he shook his senior staff, including adding lobbyist and veteran advisor Jim DeBoo. A sign, McCuan believes, that they’re taking this seriously. “It’s a strategic signal that they have the capability to ramp up that they won’t wait until it’s too late like Gray Davis and Gray Davis’ team.”

Organizers have until March 17 to collect the required number of signatures to trigger a recall election.