Long shot Newsom recall drive gets serious in California

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After banging at the recall door unsuccessfully five times, conservative drives to oust Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom may suddenly be getting traction. And that’s because there’s a perfect storm of political developments that could make this latest long shot attempt the one to take very seriously, according to conversations with a host of political insiders on both sides of the aisle.FIRST THINGS FIRST: A recall by Republicans, who still have the albatross of Donald Trump, an unpopular president in solidly blue California, around their necks, remains a long shot. And Democrat Newsom still enjoys the strong approval of the majority of Caifornians, the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll showed.But here are FIVE KEY TAKEAWAYS on why the Newsom recall attempt shouldn’t be dismissed:1. THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT IS BACKING IT: The California Republican Party and its chair, Jessica Milan Patterson have endorsed it. So has the entire CA GOP House caucus, according to Rep. Devin Nunes, who said as much last week — and said the party is helping to fire up the recall push. “We’re encouraging people to sign the petitions,’’ Nunes told KMJ host Ray Appleton. “The California delegation as we sit today is … in favor of it.’’Newly reelected Rep. David Valadao confirmed the move. “We all support it,” he said. “Our campaign offices all had the petitions there. A lot of our events had folks there gathering signatures.’’ And conservative darlings like Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee are also on board, with Gingrich agreeing to do Zoom calls and fundraising. Which leads us to…2. THEY’VE GOT FUNDRAISING MUSCLE: Anne Dunsmore, a veteran GOP fundraiser based in Irvine whose fundraising work helped elect Rep. Mike Garcia in CA-25, told POLITICO she’s now a recall campaign manager and lead fundraiser, and is working her proverbial Rolodex hard. So far, Gingrich’s efforts and online fundraising have only produced small donations. But what concerns Democrats is the notion that all the GOP needs is a couple of wealthy political types, party insiders or business moguls — even from another state — to sign on; after all, dropping $1 million into this effort could be a bargain price for an avalanche of national publicity on Fox, OAN and Newsmax, which are already covering Newsom heavily…3. THE BAR IS INCREDIBLY LOW: “California’s governor faces one of the easiest recall requirements in the country,’’ said Joshua Spivak, a senior fellow at Wagner College’s Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform. “Voters only need to gather the signatures of 12 percent of voter turnout in the 2018 election – in this case, 1,495,709 signatures. California also grants 160 days to gather them. In other states, the signature percentage requirement is more than double and the time to gather is less than half.” And, he said, “thanks to the use of initiatives, California has a well-developed signature-gathering industry that can get a recall on the ballot.”Plus, the California GOP has one more advantage, as compared to backers of the failed recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “Wisconsin law requires the elected official to face off in a new election — where he was facing a clear opponent. In California, Newsom would not face an opponent. The vote is simply a yes or no as to whether he should stay in office, with the replacement race further down the ballot.” Which means…4. THE EAGER HORDES AWAIT ON SOCIAL MEDIA: There will be publicity-seekers, true, but some legitimate office-holders who see a gubernatorial recall as an easy opportunity to get on the ballot will do their best to push for it. And don’t think Democrats won’t consider undermining Newsom if it comes to that. “We’ve gotten calls from Democrats who are already kicking the tires,’’ said one Sacramento insider aligned with a major special interest group.Secretary of State Alex Padila’s office confirmed this week the requirements to get on the ballot for the recall would be 65 to 100 nomination signatures and a filing fee of $4,194.94, or 7,000 signatures in lieu of the filing fee. Those minimal requirements have essentially not changed since the recall of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003; back then, 135 candidates made the ballot — and that was before the age of Facebook and Twitter. Social media could multiply that number by 100 or more. Our heads hurt.5. THE PANDEMIC ISN’T GOING AWAY: At least not before March 2021, when the proponents need to turn in 1.5 million valid signatures. That deadline will come after months of business shutdowns, bad news and economic turmoil, over which Newsom may not have control. But he’ll be in charge — and anger at him could get people signing, including the nearly 30 percent of California voters who don’t belong to a major political party.This report first appeared in California Playbook on Dec. 16, 2020.

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