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After months brushing aside concerns that he could be ousted from office, California Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged Tuesday that a statewide recall effort is likely to qualify for the ballot.
Noting that it is the sixth attempt to recall him since he took office in 2019, Newsom said on "The View" that the effort "appears to have the requisite signatures" to force an election.
"Am I worried about it? Of course I'm worried about it," he said. "The nature of these things, the up-or-down question, the zero-sum nature of the question, is challenging, and it's vexing."
He said his office is "taking it seriously."
"I have to do my job every single day, but I'm going to fight this thing, because I'm going to fight for California values and the things I hold dear," he said.
Recall organizers have until Wednesday to submit at least 1.5 million signatures to force an election. The signatures are first submitted to county election officials, who have until April 29 to verify them and report the final tally to state officials.
Randy Economy, a senior adviser to the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign, said the campaign had already gathered more than 2 million signatures as of last week.
"This campaign is not about political power brokers," Economy said. "It is about the people, the people and all of the people of California."
The recall proposal must overcome multiple bureaucratic obstacles before an election date is set. That includes giving voters a 30-day window to withdraw their names if they change their minds.
Next, California's Finance Department will take about 30 days to produce a cost estimate for the election. Democrats say it could surpass $80 million, The Associated Press reported. Then, a legislative panel gets another month to review the findings before an election date is determined. The task falls to Democratic Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who must schedule an election 60 to 80 days after state officials verify a final count of signatures.
The secretary of state's office, which oversees elections, is headed by Shirley Weber, a former Democratic legislator whom Newsom appointed in December to replace newly appointed U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla.
If the recall qualifies for the ballot, voters will be asked two questions. The first would be whether they want to recall Newsom. The second would be who should replace him. There is no limit to how many people could run, and whoever gets the most votes wins, even without a large majority. That was the case the last time California recalled its governor, Democrat Gray Davis, in 2003. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, won with less than 49 percent of the vote.
California is one of 19 states with recall options, and it has one of the lowest thresholds to make the ballot, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In California, the threshold is just 12 percent of the last vote for that particular statewide office. Montana has the lowest threshold, at 10 percent of the previous vote. Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin set 25 percent thresholds. Meanwhile, Kansas and Louisiana have the highest thresholds, at 40 percent of votes cast in the last election.
"It's important to point out this is pure partisan politics," said Dan Newman, Newsom's political strategist. "It will be a circus."
Until recently, Newsom has largely downplayed the recall effort, deflecting questions from reporters and insisting that he is focused on repairing the numerous problems in California, including a messy vaccination rollout, prolonged school closures and a weakened economy.
But on Monday, Newsom established a political action committee to begin raising money to defend his office. Under state rules, he is allowed to raise money in unlimited amounts, while other candidates must adhere to contribution limits, The AP reported.
According to its website, the new committee, called Stop the Republican Recall, appears to be focused on linking supporters of former President Donald Trump to the recall effort. The website shows photos of people wearing MAGA hats and carrying Trump 2024 signs. The website also suggests that believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory and those opposed to vaccines are behind the campaign.
"Republicans haven't won a statewide election in 15 years," Newman said. "They can't win in places like L.A. and San Francisco, and so this, to some extent, is logical. It's not a good avenue, but it's their best avenue."
Speaking Monday on MSNBC, Newsom argued that white supremacists and right-wing militia groups, including the Proud Boys, are among recall backers.
"We're just concerned about violence moving into the future as we move farther and farther away from the January insurrection and we put down our guard," he said. "All you need is about a quarter of the people who supported Trump to just sign a petition, and it appears they've done that."
Prominent Democrats have also jumped into the fray in defense of Newsom. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who caucuses with the Democrats; Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams; and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey are all publicly supporting him.
Meanwhile, at least two California Republicans have announced their intentions to run against Newsom: former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox, who lost to Newsom in 2018.