California is one of the states that allows residents to attempt to remove a Governor through a recall. There is a specific process that must be followed in order to initiate a recall. In other words, it takes quite a bit of effort to force a recall, and there is no guarantee that it will succeed.

Why does California allow a recall?

Ballotpedia provides a detailed explanation of how the recall process works in California. Article 2, Sections 13-19, of the California Constitution grants the citizens of California the authority to perform a recall election. This section was added by California’s legislature to California’s Constitution in October of 1911, via California Proposition 8: Recall of Elected Officials Amendment. The purpose was to create a process by which Californians could remove elected officials through a recall. At the time, a two-thirds vote was required in each legislative chamber to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot.

In 2013, siécles posted a paper titled: “The People versus the Octopus: California Progressives and the Origins of Direct Democracy”. It was written by Glen Gendzel. From the paper:

The 1911 session of the California legislature ranks as the single most important session ever held in the history of the state. Besides passing landmark legislation to regulate the railroad, and other major reforms of state government, the progressives also acted to permanently increase the power of California voters. Governor Johnson and his fellow progressives believed that more democracy was the best way to prevent a return of political corruption and corporate rule in the future. Confident in the people’s wisdom, the progressives assumed that more power in the people’s hands would mean less power for the Southern Pacific [railroad, also called “The Octopus”] or any other wealthy interest that might try to dominate state government in the future…

…As Governor Johnson said in his 1911 inaugural address:

“How best can we arm the people to protect themselves hereafter… We can give the people the means by which they may accomplish such other reforms they desire, [and] the means by which they may prevent the misuse of the power… The first step in our design to preserve and perpetuate popular government shall be the adoption of the initiative, the referendum, and the recall.”

To put this in context, the paper explains that there was a lot of corruption happening with the railroads. The state’s agriculture, industry, and commerce depended upon the railroad, which was also the state’s biggest employer and biggest private sector landowner. The problem was the owners of the railroad “insisted on controlling California’s growth and development for its own benefit while reaping an unfair share of the profits.”

The railroad “routinely blackmailed California towns and cities into handing over taxpayer subsidies and land grants in exchange for the privilege of a rail connection”. Farmers, merchants, and manufacturers found themselves priced out of national markets due to transportation costs. There was also some blackmailing happening by a co-owner of the Central Pacific railroad who told the Los Angeles City council in 1872 that if they did not pay a ransom, “I will make the grass grow in the streets of your city.”

Ballotpedia reported that California Proposition 8 was approved on October 10, 1911. The YES vote was 178,115 (76.82%) and the NO vote was 53,755 (23.18%).

What is the process to recall a Governor in California?

Ballotpedia is an unbiased source of political information. Here is information specific to the Republican’s attempt to recall Governor Newsom (Democrat):

First, organizers must collect 1,495,709 valid signatures to put the recall measure on the ballot. Once a month, organizers must file signature status reports with the secretary of state. The secretary of state processes signatures and validates the signatures according to state law. Invalid signatures do not count towards the total required to put the recall election on the ballot.

Why is the required number 1,495,709? For the actual petition to start a recall, signatures must equal a percentage of the total number of votes most recently cast for the targeted office – 12% for executive officials and 20% for state legislators and judges. The recall petition must also include signatures from each of at least five counties equal in number to 1% of the last vote for that office in that county.

In 2018, Gavin Newsom (Democrat) ran against John Cox (Republican). Newsom received 7,721,410 votes (61.9%). Cox received 4,742,825 votes (38.1%). The total number of votes cast in that election was 12,464,235. The math works out like this: 12% of 12,464,235 = 1,495,709.4

Here is the data regarding the signature reports:

  • First: June 10-July 3 – 35,083 signatures received
  • Second: July 4-August 3 – 19,600 signatures received
  • Third: August 4-September 3 – 352 signatures received
  • Fourth: September 4-October 6 – 308 signatures received
  • Fifth: October 7-November 5- 230 signatures received
  • Sixth: November 5-December 7 – 442,148 signatures received
  • Seventh: December 8-January 6 – 226,004 signatures received
  • Eighth: January 7-February 5 – 370,716 signatures received
  • Ninth: February 6-March 11 – 740,320 signatures received
  • Total: 1,834,770 signatures received.

It is important to know that the above data is simply a count of how many signatures the organizers of the recall sent to the secretary of state. The next step is for the secretary of state to process the signatures and validate the signatures according to state law.

The Cumulative Statewide Summary as of March 22, 2021 was:

  • Number of signatures received: 1,824,770
  • Number of signatures verified: 1,454,710
  • Invalid signatures: 266,637
  • Total valid signatures: 1,188,073

As of March 22, 2021, the organizers of the recall did not have enough valid signatures to get the recall on the ballot. The county signature verification deadline is April 29, 2021.

Here’s how the math works out: 1,495,709 (valid signatures required) – 1,188,073 (total valid signatures submitted) = 307,636 (valid signatures missing). I will update this blog post if the final signature report changes the data that is already known.

But wait, there’s more! The secretary of state is required to notify all county election officials within 10 days of verifying a sufficient number of signatures, and must also release a calendar of specific dates for these steps:

Within 30 days after the secretary of state notifies the counties: Any voter that signed the petition may withdraw his or her name from the petition. Obviously, this could change the number of valid signatures that the petition received.

Within 10 days of the withdraw window: the secretary of state must determine whether sufficient signatures remain for the recall to move forward. If it lacks sufficient signatures, the recall effort dies here. If it has sufficient signatures, the department of finance must provide a cost estimate of the recall election to the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and chair of the legislative budget committee.

Within 30 days of that, the budget committee must review and comment on the estimate.

After the review period, the secretary of state certifies the recall petitions to the governor and lieutenant governor. The lieutenant governor is required to call a recall election between 60 and 80 days after the certification of signatures.

Assuming that the organizers of the recall submit enough valid signatures to hit the mark, and that all of the counties are able to somehow verify them all on the same day, the soonest the recall election could happen would be June 21, 2021. However, the secretary of state has up to 80 days after the certification of signatures to schedule the recall election.

On April 19, 2021, the Los Angeles Times posted an article titled: “Essential Politics: The Newsom recall effort’s big week ahead”. It was written by John Myers. From the article:

…Registrars in the state’s 58 counties must submit a new tally of recall petition signatures on Monday, in advance of the final signature verification deadline April 29…

…The report from California Secretary of State Shirley Weber in a few days should confirm that the Democratic governor’s critics will succeed in triggering the state’s second gubernatorial recall since 2003 and only the fourth in U.S. history. Newsom, who has already conceded that the recall election will happen, is busily raising money from donors for a campaign to fight back…

…The earliest Weber could certify a special statewide recall election would be mid-to late August, after voters who signed the petitions are given time to withdraw their signatures and state officials crunch the numbers on the cost to conduct the election. Combined, those steps could take up to three months to complete. Only then can Weber issue her official certification, triggering action by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis to call an election within 60 to 80 days.

Add it all up, and a gubernatorial recall election would be held no earlier than Nov. 2 and as late as Nov. 30, just five days after Thanksgiving…

Who is behind the effort to recall Governor Newsom?

Orrin Heatlie, a resident of Folsom, filed the recall petition against Newsom, on November 17, 2020. To put this in perspective, that was eleven days after (then) President Trump encouraged people who attended his “Stop the Steal” rally to storm the U.S. Capitol. The purpose was to prevent the U.S. House, and the U.S. Senate, from certifying the Electoral votes. (NOTE: I have not found anything that indicates that Orrin Heatlie took part in either that rally or the siege that followed.)

Who is Orrin Heatlie? Desert Sun posted an article about him titled: “Meet Orrin Heatlie, the ex-cop leading the push to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom”. It was posted on April 1, 2021. From the article:

Orrin Heatlie was recovering from a back procedure and browsing social media in 2019 when he found a video of California Gov. Gavin Newsom instructing immigrants in the country illegally not to open their doors to law enforcement unless the officers had a warrant.

The 52-year old retired county sheriff’s sergeant was incensed, believing the Democrat’s message was an insult to his profession. It was an unsurprising reaction for a Republican who built a 25-year career in law enforcement…

…As a police sergeant, he was adept at managing people and supervising operations. And as a member of the Yolo County Sheriff Department’s crisis negotiating team, he had experience in convincing people to do things.

He reached out to veterans of the 2003 recall and eventually recruited 58 county coordinators, 27 regional leaders and more than 150 social media managers…

…Newsom ignored the effort until early March, and then came out swinging. He highlighted a Facebook post that Heatlie wrote in 2019 that said “Microchip all illegal immigrants. It works! Just ask Animal control!” It was posted the same day as Newsom’s social media video that sparked Heatlie’s anger, according to a screenshot of the post from Capital Public Radio.

Heatlie said it was hyperbole meant to generate discussion and that he does not support forced microchipping of anyone. Facebook disabled Heatlie’s account; he says he doesn’t know why…

…Heatlie said he does not support the Proud Boys, a far-right, anti-immigrant men’s group that has engaged in violent clashes at political rallies, or the QAnon conspiracy theory that believes former President Donald Trump was fighting a “deep state” and child sex trafficking ring affiliated with prominent Democrats. But he does not turn away participants based on their personal affiliations…

…He’s skeptical that President Joe Biden rightfully won the election, citing a debunked theory about rigged voting machines. But he’s glad Trump hasn’t spoken about the recall, saying it would be a distraction…

On April 19, 2021, San Francisco Chronicle posted an article titled: “Facebook banned Gavin Newsom recall organizer during 2020 crackdown”. It was written by Dustin Gardiner. From the article:

Orrin Heatlie, the primary leader of the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, was banned from Facebook last year after the company concluded that he had violated its community standards.

Heatlie said Facebook never told him exactly why he was removed, though he said he was part of two groups he later found “questionable.” He said one was a militia-type group of which he was briefly and administrator, and that the other promoted misinformation about vaccines and masks. His profile is still removed from the social media platform.

A spokesperson for Facebook confirmed Heatlie’s profile was removed in September and said the ban was unrelated to the Newsom recall. Facebook would not elaborate, but the spokesperson pointed to a company policy stating that it removes “pages and groups for a variety of reasons including hate speech (and) incitement to violence,” and group administrators whose pages pose “a risk to public safety.”

Heatlie suggested Facebook’s action was part of a pattern of censorship aimed at proponents of the recall and other conservative activists…

…Facebook ramped up its misinformation policing efforts last summer ahead of the November election. Facebook said it removed 6,500 pages and groups tied to “militarized social movements” in August and September, around the time it banned Heatlie.

Thousands more groups and conservative activists had their pages and profiles removed after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

Heatlie said he has no affiliation with any militia groups that took part in the riot. He added, “It should be noted that my profile was deleted months and months before what took place in Washington D.C., and I have only advocated for peaceful activism.”…

…He is the leader of the California Patriot Coalition – Recall Governor Gavin Newsom, one of two groups that submitted a total of 2.1 million signatures supporting the recall to election officials. The groups needed just short of 1.5 million valid signatures of registered voters to put the recall on the ballot this fall. Officials are still checking signatures, but both sides expect the recall to qualify…

The following groups and individuals expressed support for the recall campaign:

  • 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (Republican)
  • Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (Republican)
  • Former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio (Republican)
  • Former State Senator John Moorlach (Republican)
  • Chamath Palihapitiya – According to The Sacramento Bee, Chamath Palihapitiya is a 44-year-old billionaire who was an early executive at Facebook, who donated $100,000 to Rescue California in February of 2021. Rescue California is the committee supporting the Newsom recall.
  • California Republican Party
  • Republican National Committee

On what grounds did the supporter of the recall specify?

From Ballotpedia:

“…The grounds for this recall are as Follows: Governor Newsom has implemented laws which are detrimental to the citizens of this state and our way of life. Laws he endorsed favor foreign nationals, in our country illegally, over that of our own citizens. People in this state suffer the highest taxes in the nation, the highest homelessness rates, and the lowest quality of life as a result. He has imposed sanctuary state status and fails to enforce immigration laws. He unilaterally over-ruled the will of the people regarding the death penalty. He seeks to impose additional burdens on our state by the following: removing the protections of Proposition 13, rationing our water use, increasing taxes and restricting parental rights…”

That’s a lot to unpack! Here’s the short explanation:

  • “People in this state suffer the highest taxes in the nation” – False

The Sacramento Bee reported on February 20, 2020, (months before the recall petition was submitted) an article titled: “Here’s how long Californians have to work to pay off taxes – and how other states compare”.

California’s tax burden is higher than most states – but a lot of other states have it worse.

That’s the finding of a report from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. It assigns each state a “Tax Freedom Day”, the day when residents of a state have collectively earned enough money to pay their total tax bill for the year.

Californians in theory had to work until April 20 last year to pay those bills, four days longer than the national average. The state is in a 38th place tie for highest tax burden, along with Maine and Washington…

  • California has the highest homelessness rates – misleading

The New York Times posted an article titled: “How Does Homelessness in California Compare With Other States?” It was posted on October 17, 2019. From the article:

…No matter how you look at it, the answer is bleak. California has a staggering number of homeless people compared with the rest of the country.

California’s homeless population last year was almost 130,000, nearly a quarter of the national total, federal data showed. Homelessness is also a more visible part of life in California. A vast majority of its homeless people are unsheltered, living under freeways, in parks and on the street.

However, if you look at the rate of homelessness in the United States, taking into account the population of the state or region, Washington, D.C., ranks first, followed by New York, Hawaii, and California…

  • He has imposed sanctuary state status and fails to enforce immigration laws – False

TIME posted an article titled: “California Just Became a ‘Sanctuary State.’ Here’s What That Means”. It was posted on October 5, 2017. From the article:

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a so-called “sanctuary state” bill that will limit cooperation between local officials and federal immigration enforcement. The measure is one of the most high-profile ways that Democrats in the state have sought to push back against the Republican agenda, as President Donald Trump has taken a hard line on immigration and other issues that are significant to Golden State lawmakers…

  • He has unilaterally over-ruled the will of the people regarding the death penalty – misleading

Politico posted an article on March 12, 2019, titled: “Newsom to sign moratorium on executions in California”. From the article:

Gov. Gavin Newsom, arguing that the death penalty overwhelmingly discriminates against racial minorities and the poor, will sign an order Wednesday placing a moratorium on executions in California, according to his office. The move serves as an immediate reprieve for hundreds of prisoners currently housed on the nation’s largest Death Row.

Newsom’s executive order, to be signed Wednesday morning, withdraws California’s lethal injection protocol and immediately mandates the closure of the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison, in Marin County. While the governor’s order will be a reprieve for 737 prisoners sentenced to death – including 24 who have exhausted all appeals – Newsom’s office stressed that his order would not provide for the release of any inmates or alter their convictions or sentences…

…California has not executed a prisoner since 2006, when a federal judge ruled that the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol was unconstitutional and represented cruel and unusual punishment.

The state produced new lethal injection regulations in early 2018, but the process for reinstatement has been left tangled in the courts, facing challenges by the American Civil Liberties Union…

The organizers of the recall effort are misleading because they ignored that the courts were part of the reason why the death penalty had been put on hold in California. Governor Newsom is not part of the court system.

  • He seeks to impose additional burdens on our state by the following: removing the protections of Proposition 13 – misleading

The Legislative Analyst’s Office provided information about Proposition 13. It was posted on September 19, 2016. Governor Newsom was not elected until 2018. From the information:

Proposition 13 was a landmark decision by California’s voters in June 1978 to limit property taxes. Today, there are many questions about the impacts of these changes. This report examines some of these questions and which of them can be answered by the data available…

Changes made by Proposition 13:

  • Property taxes capped at 1 percent
  • Property taxes based on purchase price
  • Special taxes require two-thirds voter approval

The Los Angeles Times posted an article on September 11, 2020, titled: “Newsom backs effort to limit Prop. 13 property tax rules”. From the article:

…Newsom announced his support for Proposition 15 in an email to supporters, calling the proposal “a fair, phased-in and long-overdue reform to state tax policy.”

“It’s consistent with California’s progressive fiscal values, it will exempt small businesses and residential property owners, it will fund essential services such as public schools and public safety, and, most importantly, it will be decided by a vote of the people,” the governor said in a written statement released by his political advisors.

If approved by voters in November, Proposition 15 would result in separate tax rules for commercial and residential property. Since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the value of all property has been based on what it sold for when last purchased. That initiative capped property tax rates at 1% of the assessed value with annual increases of no more than 2%. Californians who hold on to their property for large periods of time end up paying significantly less in taxes than those who have bought similar property more recently.

Proposition 15 would require commercial and industrial properties, excluding those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on current market value. It would not change the low-tax provisions of Proposition 13 for homeowners. The new ballot measure exempts some commercial property owners whose holdings are valued at $3 million or less…

…The effort to put Proposition 15 on the Nov. 3 statewide ballot was well underway when Newsom became governor in 2019. Just days after taking office, he said he would try to broker a deal between labor and business – one that would examine a number of issues regarding the state’s tax structure…

On November 11, 2020, ABC News reported: “Proposition 15, a ballot measure that seeks to increase commercial property taxes to fund education in California, failed Tuesday night, the Associated Press reports.”

The organizers of the recall effort are misleading when they said that Governor Newsom was seeking “to impose additional burdens on our state by the following: removing the protections of Proposition 13.” He endorsed Proposition 15, which, if passed, would have overturned Proposition 13 for commercial property (but NOT on people’s homes). The voters did not choose to support Proposition 15. Governor Newsom may have influenced some voters regarding Proposition 15, but even so, he had no control over the outcome of the ballot initiatives.

I could not find any explanation about the following claims made by the organizers of the recall effort:

  • He has implemented laws which are detrimental to the citizens of this state and our way of life.
  • Laws he endorses favor foreign nationals, in our country illegally, over that of our own citizens.
  • He seeks to impose burdens on our state by rationing our water use (he recently declared a drought emergency in two counties, but not the entire state)… and restricting parental rights.

In April of 2021, CAL MATTERS updated their article titled: “Recalling a California governor, explained”. It was written by Laurel Rosenhall. From the article:

…Its hard to fathom in this deep blue state where Newsom clobbered his 2018 GOP opponent, although his job approval among voters plunged from its high in the early months of the pandemic. But the coronavirus pandemic shifted California’s political landscape in two significant ways: It prompted a judge to give recall supporters more time to collect signatures – keeping their campaign alive long enough to gain momentum – and it led Newsom to enact a slew of new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus that have frustrated some Californians and energized the recall backers.

The recall petition doesn’t say a word about the pandemic – it was written before the virus upended normal life. But it gained a surge of new signatures after news broke in November that a maskless Newsom joined lobbyists for a dinner party at the posh French Laundry restaurant, even though he was telling Californians to mask up and avoid socializing. The count grew as the state’s unemployment system paid out billions of dollars to fraudsters, and its chaotic COVID vaccine distribution left people scrambling for shots. With many schools, churches, and businesses closed by Newsom’s stay-at-home orders, the recall that began as a conservative rebuke of his progressive policies has morphed into a referendum on his pandemic response…

…Republican activists have been trying to recall Newsom since shortly after he was inaugurated in January 2019. Five attempts have failed to get enough signatures. But a sixth try, led by a retired sheriff’s deputy named Orrin Heatlie, gained momentum after a judge granted supporters extra time to collect signatures due to the stay-at-home order at the start of the pandemic…

What does The French Laundry have to do with the recall?

According to Wikipedia, The French Laundry is a French and American restaurant located in Yountville, California, in the Napa Valley. The chef and owner of the French Laundry is Thomas Keller. The restaurant building dates from 1900 and was added to the list of National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

On November 13, 2020, San Francisco Chronicle posted an article titled: “Newsom attended French Laundry party with more households than California advises during pandemic.” It was written by Alexi Koseff. From the article:

Gov. Gavin Newsom attended a birthday party for a political adviser last week that included people from several households, the type of gathering his administration has discouraged during the coronavirus pandemic.

The dinner the night of Nov. 6 at the famed French Laundry in Yountville in Napa County brought together at least 12 people to celebrate the 50th birthday of Jason Kinney, a longtime friend and adviser to Newsom who is also a partner at the lobbying firm Axiom Advisors. In addition, to the governor, his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, was in attendance.

State guidelines limit gatherings, defined as “social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place,” to no more than three households. Representatives for Kinney and Newsom declined to specify how many households the diners represented, but did not dispute that it was more than three.

Nathan Click, communications director for Newsom, initially defended the birthday celebration because it took place outdoors at a restaurant, which must follow separate coronavirus safety regulations developed by the state for the dining industry. That guidance is silent on whether people from more than three households can dine together.

After The Chronicle published a story online about the dinner, Newsom issued an additional statement acknowledging the party was an error in judgement.

“While our family followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner,” the governor said…

On November 18, 2020, Politico posted an article titled: “Newsom’s cozy ties with top lobbyist showcased by French Laundry Dinner party”. It was written by Jeremy B. White and Debra Kahn. From the article:

…California Gov. Gavin Newsom is weathering a ferocious backlash for his decision to attend a celebration for Kinney on Nov. 6 at the French Laundry, a bucket list-level dining icon in Napa County. After the private dinner was exposed by the San Francisco Chronicle, Newsom said that while the outdoor meal did not violate coronavirus restrictions, he showed poor judgement in attending. He reiterated that point in a public apology on Monday, saying it went against the spirit of state rules as coronavirus cases surge across California.

While the meal amplified criticism of Newsom’s coronavirus management, with the governor parrying accusations of hypocrisy, it also cast a bigger spotlight on Kinney and the dual clout he wields in the insular world of California politics…

…The governor and Kinney have a relationship extending back decades. In apologizing for attending, Newsom referred to Kinney on Monday as “a friend that I have known for almost 20 years.”

But the fact that Kinney, a registered lobbyist, got an intimate audience with Newsom immediately raised questions about conflict of interest. Newsom said he paid for his meal, so it did not qualify as a lobbying payment…

On November 23, 2020, Politico posted an article titled: “French Laundry snafu reignites longshot Newsom recall drive”. It was written by Carla Marinucci. From the article:

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pandemic group outing to the French Laundry and his decision to send his kids to in-person private school are reigniting talk of a recall that was once relegated to the fringes of conservative groups in deep blue California.

In a collision of unfortunate events for Newsom, conservative activists last week won a 120-day court extension to continue gathering recall signatures, and they’re hoping to capitalize on events so damaging for the governor that he has avoided reporters for a week despite an escalating pandemic crisis…

…Before Newsom’s foibles, the governor had strong approval ratings in October, approaching 60 percent overall, while Democrats enjoy nearly a 2-to-1 registration advantage over Republicans in the state. But party activists are betting that a new round of business closures and a curfew during a fast-moving coronavirus spread – and the flurry of damaging French Laundry stories – will help them with another longshot bid that worked spectacularly in 2003…

…The order by Sacramento Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles last week gives recall proponents – which include GOP donors, activists, and electeds – a 120-day extension until March 17 to gather signatures because he agreed they were unfairly limited by the Covid-19 pandemic…

…The bar is extremely high. Organizers would need to collect nearly 1.5 million valid signatures – which means they’d actually need closer to 2 million to feel confident because of the generally high share of invalid signers for any petition. And they would have to find all of these supporters during a pandemic, when voters are less accessible in person and uncomfortable interacting with signature gathers. Qualifying for a recall could take several million dollars, far more than 17 years ago…

Has a California Governor ever been removed as the result of a recall?

The short answer is: yes. Ballotpedia reported: Between 1921 and 2020, four gubernatorial recall efforts have qualified for the ballot: 1921 (North Dakota), 1988 (Arizona), 2003 (California) and 2012 (Wisconsin). Of those, two resulted in the sitting governor’s removal from office (Lynn Frazier in North Dakota and Gray Davis in California). In the 1988 Arizona recall, the recall election was canceled after the governor’s impeachment.

Ballotpedia went on to say: Governors of 11 other states have faced recall campaigns in 2020. None of those campaigns made it to the ballot.

What are the chances that the recall will succeed?

It appears to be possible that the recall election could end up on a ballot. Voters will be asked two questions: Do you want Governor Gavin Newsom to be recalled? If he is recalled, who do you want to replace him? The questions are simple, but determining the outcome is hard because of a variety of factors. It appears that the recall proponents have a slim chance (at best) of getting what they want.

The Guardian reported on March 14, 2021, the following:

…In 2020 alone, 11 recalls of various officials went to a vote, and eight officials were removed from office as a result… Recall petitions have been launched against every California governor in the last 61 years – though they are almost never successful. Gray Davis, the only California governor who has ever been recalled, was in a far more precarious position in 2003, at the heels of an electricity crisis, facing a $38bn budget deficit. He lost the recall to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who entered the race with a higher profile than any of the Republicans set to face off against Newsom this year.

Republicans had already tried and failed five times to get Newsom recalled, when their sixth try, led by the retired sheriff’s deputy Orrin Heatlie, began to gain momentum last year. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a judge gave Heatlie and his supporters more time to collect signatures. As Newsom enacted restrictions last winter in an attempt to quell the deadliest wave of the pandemic, recallers were able to rally an anti-lockdown base and win over other Californians struggling to cope with the pandemic’s protracted, devastating economic toll. It didn’t help Newsom’s case that around the same time, the governor met up with a dozen of his closest friends and lobbyists for a lavish dinner at Napa’s French Laundry restaurant…

…More than a serious effort to unseat Newsom, the recall effort is probably more of a strategy to rally Republican voters, boost Republican candidates, and raise funds….

…But in a deep blue state where less than a quarter of registered voters are Republicans, recall proponents’ far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-housing for homeless people, anti-sex education and anti-gun control platforms is likely to alienate most voters, political experts said…

On March 19, 2021, The Hill posted an article titled: “What’s next in the California recall”. It was written by Reid Wilson. From the article:

Supporters of an effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) have turned in the last of the more than 2.1 million signatures they collected over the past year, almost certainly setting up what will be the most expensive and most competitive election of 2021…

…The ball is now in the hands of electoral administrators in each of California’s 58 counties. They have until April 29 to verify the signatures the recall committee turned in.

Recall organizers need just under 1.5 million of those signatures to be valid to force an election. They collect many more than that figure in anticipation that some will be deemed invalid…

…But this won’t be a traditional election in which voters head to the polls. The state legislature earlier this year approved a measure that will send mail-in ballots to every registered voter in any jurisdiction that holds an election in 2021, a holdover from the coronavirus pandemic – and something of a boon to Newsom’s team, who can use Democrats’ voter registration advantage to hunt down potential supporters who might not otherwise be motivated to vote…

…Newsom has already previewed his message, lauding the economic boom likely to emerge as the pandemic subsides and lambasting what he calls a Republican-driven power grab funded by allies of former President Trump.

He needs voters to vote against the recall itself, the first question they will encounter on their ballot. To succeed, he needs to convince those voters that he has handled his job well enough – there are some signs that is approval rating may be slipping…

On April 23, 2021, Caitlyn Jenner announced her run for California governor in the recall election.

I’m going to end this blog post with some information posted by Politico on April 23, 2021, titled: “Why California’s 2021 recall isn’t the same as the 2003 version”. It was written by Carla Marinucci and Jeremy B. White. From the article:

California is much more Democratic: The state has trended evermore blue since 2003. Every statewide elected official is now a Democrat, along with more than two-thirds of the Legislature and the vast majority of the congressional delegation…. Democrats also account for 46 percent of the registered electorate versus just 24 percent for Republicans – a difference of nearly five million voters. That gap has widened significantly since Schwarzenegger was on the last recall ballot: back then, Democrats had a much smaller advantage of about 8 points, or about 1.3 million voters.

Poll Position: Recent polling shows clear majorities of voters to approve of Newsom’s performance and don’t want to oust him – a position he owes to solid support among independents and the overwhelming backing of his own party. Newsom was elected in 2018 in a resounding victory over Republican businessperson John Cox – the largest landslide for a non-incumbent since 1930…

Gov. Gray Davis, in the wake of a nasty 2002 reelection campaign against Republican Bill Simon, entered office with shaky approval ratings, and was flailing in the polls and losing the confidence of Democrats on the eve of getting recalled…

Arnold Appeal: Jenner may be known to fans of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and as a 1976 Olympic gold medalist decathlete, but her role in California politics is a blank slate. She has had little involvement in the Republican Party or ballot measures, and she has reported no major political contributions based on state and federal campaign records…

…That’s a far cry from Schwarzenegger, who entered the 2003 recall with not only one of the most universally recognizable names in show business but with a long-running resume of political activity. Adding to his credibility, he was married to Maria Shriver, a nationally known journalist, as well as a member of American political royalty, the Kennedys…

What’s my take on this?

There is no doubt in my mind that the recall effort is definitely Republican-led. I think that the recall organizers made a mistake when they abruptly stopped talking about the issues that they felt were important enough to recall Governor Newsom when they started the recall in favor of pushing the French Laundry incident. To me, that kind of switching indicates that their original arguments were not effective at convincing people to recall Newsom.

Based on the data and the numbers, (as of the time I am writing this blog post) I don’t think the recall proponents have a good chance of getting the outcome they want. They do not have enough verified signatures to trigger a recall. It seems more likely that the counties will identify more invalid signatures than that they would find additional valid ones.

I think that governor Gavin Newsom shouldn’t have gone to The French Laundry when he did. He did apologize after the news reported it, but he should have known better than to do that in the first place. To me, this is a minor incident that has been blown out of proportion. That one mistake pales in comparison of his huge effort to get shots in arms and to prevent people from catching the coronavirus in the first place.


On April 26, 2021, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced that the threshold of verified signatures reported by counties has been met for the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom. The valid signatures in the tenth, and final, report are 1,626,042, which exceeds the total of 1,495,709 valid signatures required.

This does not mean that Governor Gavin Newsom is no longer governor. According to the Secretary of State, counties still have until April 29, 2021, to verify the validity of any remaining signatures. On April 26, 2021, @CASOSvote (the official statewide election news from the office of the California Secretary of State) tweeted a thread.

@CAOSvote tweeted: “On 4/26 the CA Secretary of State’s Office notified counties that the required signatures for a potential recall were reached – what does that mean? [2/8]”

@CAOSvote tweeted: “That notification triggers a ‘signature withdrawal period’ where those who signed the recall petition have *30 business days* to request the removal of their signatures (then Counties have 10 business days after that to notify the SOS if any signatures have been removed)! [3/8]”

@CAOSOSvote tweeted: “If after the [30-business-day signature withdrawal period] and the [10 business days for counties to verify] there’s still enough signatures to qualify, the Secretary of State’s Office will notify the Department of Finance (DOF). [4/8].

It is not unusual for people to sign a petition and later have regrets about doing so. The California Secretary of State website provides the following information for those who want to remove their signatures:

Pursuant to Elections Code section 11108(b), any voter who has signed the recall petition may provide a written request to their county elections official to have their signature removed from the petition between today, April 26, 2021, and June 8, 2021.

There is no specific format required; however, the withdrawal must include the following:

  • Voter’s name
  • Residence address (at the time of signing the recall petition)
  • Voter’s signature

The California Secretary of State’s website has a list of county elections offices and their contact information. It includes the address of each county’s registrar of voters/county clerk office. Those who want to remove their name from the recall petition can easily find where to send their withdrawal letter.

Facts About the California Recall is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites. If you enjoyed this blog post please consider supporting me on Ko-fi. Thank you!

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