Among the many reasons people are unhappy with Newsom, most have to do with the pandemic. Howe, for example, is one of many parents who believe schools can and should reopen safely. Her three children attend elementary, middle, and high schools in one of the few school districts in California that have reopened part time for hybrid learning. Yet across the street, schools in the same county (but a different district) are still doing only distance learning. California recently loosened restrictions on outdoor and indoor youth sports, but it also increased restrictions for volleyball—a move Howe felt was arbitrary.
She began questioning whether officials have any sense of urgency to open things back up now that coronavirus cases have fallen to about 3,200 a day in the state, a sharp drop from a peak of more than 45,000 cases per day in December. “Some of the guidelines just don’t make sense now,” Howe said. “We’re still continuing to live like we’re in March 2020.”
Aaron Bergh, owner of a distillery and restaurant in Paso Robles, is upset because of how the pandemic restrictions have hurt his 5-year-old business. It had just begun to blossom when Newsom ordered indoor and outdoor dining to close last year. Bergh had to lay off four of his six employees. During the wildfires, when Bergh moved dining from outdoor to indoor (with masks and sanitizers), the state threatened to fine him and revoke his alcohol license.
“That rubbed me the wrong way,” Bergh told me: “I was just doing everything I could to keep my business open.” He blamed Newsom: “He’s the one man between me and me being able to run my business.” He now offers the recall petition to customers with their bill, and most of them sign it. Bergh said he tries to be apolitical in his business, but Newsom left him no choice: “Newsom has backed us into a corner and we have no exit, so we’re lashing out, and it’s come in the form of a recall.”
California is one of just 19 states in the United States that allow voters to oust their leaders before the end of their term. Only two governor recall efforts in the country’s history have succeeded: In 1921, North Dakotans removed Gov. Lynn J. Frazier from office, and in 2003, Californians recalled Gov. Gray Davis (and replaced the Democrat with Republican celebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger).
To kickstart a recall election, counties need to verify a number of signatures equal to 12 percent of the total voters in the last gubernatorial election. That means they need at least 1,495,709 valid voter signatures. So far, of the 800,000-plus signatures filed, counties have verified about 670,000. They must finish verifying signatures by April 29. (The deadline for campaigners to gather signatures is Wednesday.)
If the recall petition meets all the requirements, the state will hold another election this year, likely sometime between August and December. Voters then get to decide: Do they want to recall Newsom? If more than half vote “yes,” they also get to vote for the candidate they wish to replace Newsom. The special election will cost between $80 million and $100 million.