OAKLAND, Calif. - When California’s Secretary of State announced organizers had gathered enough valid signatures to qualify for a recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom, Republicans aiming for his seat responded quickly.
"When I heard that, I said one day closer to freedom," said former California Congressman Doug Ose.
"This is about real people who have lost their jobs, their businesses, their kids are sitting on a screen," said 2018 gubernatorial candidate and businessman John Cox.
"I think it sends a very strong message that Californians want a change at the top and they want it now," said former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Among the quickly growing field of those who want to replace Newsom are the three prominent Republicans.
While the recall drive wasn’t started because of COVID-19, it gained steam with people frustrated with Newsom’s handling of the pandemic.
All three candidates to pointed to the pace of school reopenings, in particular.
"Kids going to school only two days a week, for several hours a day, that’s unconscionable," said Faulconer. "Time to have a governor who understands the importance of getting our schools open now."
"Would have been such a difference from what we have today, where we’re still struggling in many cases to get kids back to school," said Ose about how he would have handled schools.
"I think it really hit home to a lot of parents that it’s not the parents and the kids that are the most important in the school system, it’s the politicians," said Cox.
This is the second time Cox has run for governor. He faced Newsom in 2018 and lost by 23 percentage points. He believes this time around will be different.
"Go down the middle and make life better for people," said Cox. "Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that what everybody should want? That’s what I want. That’s why people will look at this differently."
After a short stint in the 2018 race, Ose is back. He believes the state is going in the wrong direction. "Homelessness continues to grow, the cost of healthcare continues to rise, the ability of parents to secure a solid education in K-12 remains under serious duress," said Ose.
Faulconer talks often about how he won two terms in a majority democrat city. He believes his efforts there on police reform, homelessness and other issues will appeal to voters statewide.
"I’m looking forward to talking about the track record I was able to do as mayor, the results I was able to get," said Faulconer. "Somebody who’s been elected twice in the second largest state in CA. Somebody can actually bring people together to get the job done."
A new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California may give the governor some confidence he can beat back what’s sure to be a crowded field of contenders. Of likely voters polled, 59% approve of how he’s managed school reopenings and 59% approve of his handling of jobs and the economy. "We’re going to defeat the recall," said Newsom at an event in Los Angeles last week. "We’re going to focus on getting people back to work, focus on getting students fully to in person instruction, get this economy moving again."
Newsom received unified support from his party at the California Democratic Party convention. Several speakers including Vice President Kamala Harris lauded the job he’s done during the pandemic.
Now that the signature threshold has been met, Californians have 30 business days, until June 8, to ask their country registrar to remove their name from the petition, if they desire.