Republicans to launch another long-shot effort to recall Newsom

EAST LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 14, 2021 - -California Gov. Gavin Newsom meets with Latino leaders to vote no on the recall at Hecho en Mexico restaurant in East Los Angeles on August 14, 2021. Governor Newsom met with volunteers who were working the phone banks calling voters to vote against the recall at the restaurant. Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de Leon, California, California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo and other dignitaries were on hand to support the governor. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom meets with Latino leaders in East Los Angeles working on the successful effort to defeat the 2021 effort to recall him from office. A new long-shot effort to recall Newsom is in the works. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A group of Republicans involved in the failed 2021 recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that they plan another attempt to remove him from office, a long-shot bid that would require more than 1.3 million valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Rescue California, which ran a campaign in support of the 2021 attempt to recall Newsom, is the main proponent of the new effort, said Anne Dunsmore, campaign director of Rescue California. Dunsmore said the group planned to deliver recall papers to Newsom's office on Monday, which was first reported by Politico.

She pointed to California's massive budget deficit and what she described as Newsom's focus on campaigning for Democrats in other states as reasons why voters should back the recall.

"It's not a good time for him to check out," Dunsmore said. "But if he's going to check out, we'll kick him out."

Newsom has pegged the state budget deficit at $37.9 billion. The Legislative Analyst's Office, which provides fiscal and policy advice to the state Legislature, released an updated estimate this month that suggests the shortfall is more than double that amount.

Newsom dismissed the latest recall attempt as an effort by Republicans to divert attention from their unpopular push to restrict abortion and support former President Trump's bid to return to the White House.

"Trump Republicans are launching another wasteful recall campaign to distract us from the existential fight for democracy and reproductive freedom," Newsom said on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. "We will defeat them."

The governor has been raising money for Democrats in other states ahead of the November election and actively campaigning for President Biden's releection bid. On Sunday, he returned from Washington where he attended a meeting with other governors and the president and participated in national television interviews as a surrogate for the Biden campaign.

Read more: California overwhelmingly rejects recall, keeps Newsom as governor

The new recall effort would be among more than a half dozen attempts to oust Newsom since he took office in January 2019. All but the 2021 recall campaign, which was spearheaded by retired Yolo County sheriff's sergeant Orrin Heatlie, failed to qualify for the statewide ballot.

California election law requires recall petitioners to gather valid signatures from at least 12% of the total number of registered voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election in order to force a statewide election. They have 160 days to gather the signatures.

Backers of the prior recall effort took advantage of Newsom's decision to attend a dinner at the French Laundry in Napa Valley on Nov. 6, 2020, as an example of hypocrisy from a governor who at that time of the COVID-19 pandemic had advised Californians to avoid indoor gatherings with other households.

That same day, the coronavirus offered another key blow to Newsom's campaign when a judge granted recall petitioners another four months to gather voter signatures. The pandemic had hampered efforts to gather signatures outside grocery stores, and proponents successfully petitioned the court for more time in a decision that went uncontested by the California Secretary of State's Office.

Read more: Newsom stakes his future on one simple argument: Fear a GOP governor

The emergence of right-wing conservative Larry Elder as a replacement candidate helped boost Newsom's campaign to remain in office. Final results showed 61.9% of voters rejected the recall, while 38.1% backed the effort to remove Newsom from office in September 2021.

Dunsmore said this time around the recall campaign needs fewer signatures to qualify for the ballot. She said she also plans to mail petitions to the same volunteers who circulated petitions last time.

"We don't have to restart it at all," she said. "We actually get to use the resources that we built up over a period of time last time. We don't have to spend as much money."

A spokesman for Newsom said the governor and his team are taking the new effort seriously. Newsom reported $11.8 million in cash in his state office holder account at the conclusion of the last reporting period that ended Dec. 31.

State elected officials targeted in recall campaigns can raise money to defeat the effort without being subjected to normal contribution limits in California.

Newsom immediately seized on the recall campaign as an opportunity to raise money. Shortly after noon on Monday, the governor’s fundraising team sent out an email calling on his supporters to donate to help him beat the recall and to keep “some anti-science, anti-woman far right conspiracy theorist from becoming governor of California.”

"These Trump Republicans are targeting Gov. Newsom because he is out there defending democracy and fighting for the reelection of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris," said Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Newsom, in a statement. "He’s not going to be distracted from that fight. Democracy’s on the ballot, and he's going to keep fighting."

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.