• This is the second gubernatorial recall election in California’s history
  • Newsom’s team says the Governor will defeat attempts to remove him
  • Several Republicans have joined the race, including John Cox and Caitlyn Jenner

After receiving flak from several quarters over California’s handling of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a recall vote. A Republican-led campaign to remove Newsom from office has collected enough valid signatures to trigger a state-wide recall vote on his leadership, state officials reported on Monday.

This is the second gubernatorial recall election in America’s most populous state’s history. According to the California Secretary of State's Office, counties have tallied about 1.62 million valid signatures, above the roughly 1.5 million needed to trigger an election.

Before the recall petition can be certified by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, voters who signed the petitions will be given time to withdraw their signatures. After this, the state would analyze the cost of an election. All this could take up to three months to complete. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis would then call an election within 60 to 80 days, likely scheduling the recall election in November.

According to a Politico report, Newsom’s team has no access to the names and information of the voters who signed the petitions — a group that is heavily Republican. Voters would be asked two questions: Whether to recall Newsom, and who should replace him.

However, Newsom’s team expressed confidence that the Governor will defeat attempts to remove him from office and slammed the recall efforts as the work of supporters of former President Trump, the Los Angeles Times reported.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state could reopen on June 15
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state could reopen on June 15 AFP / Frederic J. BROWN

The first time a California Governor was successfully recalled was in 2003. That time, Democratic Governor Gray Davis was subjected to a recall election, which he lost to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The drive to recall Newsom was launched by a conservative political group called the California Patriot Coalition in February 2020. Not happy with Newsom's policies, the group started gathering signatures for a recall vote in June 2020. The campaign soon gathered momentum over the Governor's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

Earlier, when infections started to fall in the state, Newsom came under criticism from business owners for still enforcing regulations. The criticism grew in November 2020, when he was caught dining at a fancy restaurant for his political advisor's birthday, even as he urged residents to stay at home. Also, critics have hit out at Newsom over California's COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Reacting to the latest development, Newsom defended his response to the pandemic in a tweet, saying that the recall "threatens our values and seeks to undo the important progress we've made".

Reports say that hundreds of people could join the race as California has no candidate cap during recalls. In the recall election, there is a possibility that a Republican could be elected to replace Newsom.

So far, several Republicans have lined up to replace Newsom, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former Northern California Rep. Doug Ose, and Newsom’s 2018 opponent, businessman John Cox. Transgender celebrity and Olympian Caitlyn Jenner is also in the running. Former adult film actress Mary Carey and L.A. billboard icon Angelyne are also in the fray.