By Vanessa Serna
California residents will vote Sept. 14 on whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose handling of the COVID-19 pandemic sparked fierce criticism from small businesses and the public.
Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis called the election July 1, days after legislation was signed by Newsom to bypass a 30-day financial review of the recall. Eliminating that stage of the process allowed the recall timeline to accelerate; the election otherwise might have been called for October or November.
Although the reasoning for an early election was not immediately known, recall supporters said they were skeptical about the date selected.
“We’re just starting to see the tip of the iceberg,” Rescue California Campaign Manager Anne Dunsmore told The Epoch Times. “What’s striking about the new date is the risk that he’s taking. He must know that he’s in a lot of trouble.”
Dunsmore said she suspects the early recall date is due to rising gas prices, drought conditions, and the approaching fire season.
“We already know that he can’t handle it,” she said. “We already know that he throws money at the problem. We already know that he jumps too soon without really figuring out what’s best for his citizens. He’s only concerned about the short-term fix of his political image. I don’t think he’s going to survive.”
The petition to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom cleared its final hurdle on June 23, with confirmation from the state’s top election official that enough signatures remained after voters had been given a chance to withdraw support for the petition.
California is one of 19 states where recalls are allowed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Newsom was elected governor in 2018 by the widest margin in a gubernatorial race since 1950. Soon after, critics told The Epoch Times they began to follow news coverage of the governor’s plans to suspend the death penalty, close prisons, and allow sanctuary cities.
A grassroots effort to recall the governor began in 2020. The initiative was spearheaded by Mike Netter and Orrin Heatlie—who formed the California Patriot Coalition—along with Rescue California, headed by Dunsmore.
Recall organizers told The Epoch Times that they attributed the success of the campaign to Newsom’s inconsistency regarding COVID-19 guidelines, including state-mandated shutdowns and restrictions.
California Republican Party Data Director Cole Patterson said Californians’ motivation to endorse the recall has only increased with time.
“While frustration has been growing over Newsom’s incompetence for some time, after he was caught at the French Laundry … there was an increase of over 500,000 signatures submitted to registrars during the next reporting period,” Patterson said, referring to when the governor was photographed last November at a high-end French restaurant sitting next to friends. He wasn’t wearing a mask nor social distancing, despite regularly urging the public to take such precautions.
Newsom apologized to constituents shortly after the incident.
Last Dec. 29, about a month after the French Laundry incident, Newsom mandated an additional “stay at home order.” Following that announcement, county registrars recorded an increase of 596,721 signatures submitted in February, Patterson said.
“Enthusiasm for the recall continued to increase as time went on, with county registrars receiving 327,769 signatures in the final days between March 12 and the March 17 deadline. Between Jan 1. and March 17, there was around 1.1 million more signatures collected,” Patterson said.
Set the Date
The lieutenant governor said she felt the date set will provide enough time for officials to prepare for the election and inform voters.
“Although the window of time which I could select a date was narrow, I believe we have chosen a fair and reasonable date for this election to take place,” Kounalakis said in a statement. “It has always been my intention to choose an election date that gives election officials the public ample time to ensure a smooth election with broad participation.”
Earlier in June, the office of the registrar in California was caught off guard when notified that the 30-day budget review requirement was attempting to be bypassed.
Election officials wrote a letter in response to Kounalakis, pleading with her to not call an early election date, due to rising financial and logistical concerns.
While some registrar’s offices fear they won’t have enough time to prepare, Orange County has been actively preparing.
“Since the recall was a possibility, we have been actively planning for it,” OC Registrar Neal Kelley told The Epoch Times. The estimated cost to conduct the election in Orange County is more than $7 million.
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