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As Newsom recall nears final stage, suspense builds over who will run against him

'I wouldn't be surprised if we saw 100 people get in like we did last time,' said the campaign manager for the recall effort.

Updated: March 21, 2021 - 11:05pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The campaign to recall California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom accumulated nearly 2.1 million signatures, and those have now been submitted to various county registrars to be verified and counted before being sent the secretary of state’s office. The campaign – Rescue California – needs just under 1.5 million valid signatures to trigger the recall.

In February, the secretary of state’s office said that signatures it has received thus far are tracking at a validity rate of 83.7%. With a cushion of around 29%, it appears Newsom will face a recall election in short order.

Anne Hyde-Dunsmore, the campaign manager of Rescue California, says she is not surprised at the immense amount of voter support for the recall. She says the effort is not inherently political, rather, it is a group of Californians focused on combatting the “state of crisis” they’ve found themselves in at the hands of the governor.

As the recall becomes more of a tangible reality by the day, the question now becomes: Who will challenge the governor? 

"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw 100 people get in like we did last time. There were 135 people on the ballot," Hyde-Dunsmore said.

In 2003, there were 135 total candidates who qualified for the ballot in the recall election of Gov. Gray Davis.

Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego and moderate Republican, says he is in to run against Newsom this year, or in 2022, if the recall does not happen. "It is time to be a voice for Californians who are suffering because Sacramento can’t do the basics. This campaign is going to be about restoring balance and common sense to California, to get people back to work, to get our kids back to school and to get people proud of our state again," Faulconer recently told the Los Angeles Times.

Republican John Cox, a businessman who ran against Newsom during the 2018 gubernatorial race and is currently funding a good portion of the recall effort, also is throwing his hat back in the ring. As is Mike Cernovich, a registered independent, who is best known as a media personality and provocateur.  

Most recently, former California Congressman Doug Ose announced he will run against Newsom. "I’ve come to the point where I’ve decided I’m going to run for governor here in the state of California, whether it be in the recall or in the regular cycle in 2022. I’ve lived here my entire life, I’ve never seen it so screwed up," Ose told a radio interview interviewer last week.

In a campaign ad, Ose accuses Newsom of having a hypocritical governing style. "Do as I say, not as I do. That’s how Gavin Newsom operates. Newsom sided with the unions to close your kids’ public schools while his children were in their classrooms," Ose charged in the video.

Newsom, for his part in all this, is now attempting to keep California Democrats united and ensure that no big-ticket name appears on the ballot against him. The state's Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat, said running against Newsom would be "shameful."

"Governor Newsom does not deserve to be recalled. And I think it would be shameful for any Democrat to put their name on the ballot to replace them, myself included," said Kounalakis in February. She will also be responsible for scheduling the recall election sometime between late summer and late fall.

The governor recently started his own campaign to defend against the recall effort called “Stop the Republican Recall.” The campaign accuses the recall effort of being led and funded by Q-Anon conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccine activists, and those who are anti-immigrant.

During an appearance on popular ABC talkshow, “The View,” Newsom accused petitioners of racism, telling the show’s cohosts, “Look at the petition, look at the actual reasons they themselves listed. It had to do with immigrants. The browning of California.” The governor did not specify whether he was talking about illegal immigration, and while the official recall petition does identify California's high rates of illegal immigration as a problem the governor has failed to combat, nowhere on the Rescue California’s homepage, nor on its “10 Reasons to Recall Gavin Newsom” page, is immigration, of any kind, mentioned.

Newsom and the claims of his campaign miss the reason for the recall entirely, according to Hyde-Dunsmore. “There’s no partisanship about this at all. It’s a community, it’s a citizen movement, it’s a California movement. And he (Newsom) should be very, very worried about that, especially when he wants to start picking on everybody and calling them racists and pulling out all those crazy political cards that just aren't gonna work,” she told Just the News last week.

“We’re at the top of all the wrong lists. And he put us there,” Hyde-Dunsmore added.

California is currently facing rising rates of homelessness, joblessness, in addition to an increasingly high cost of living, a perpetually unbalanced state budget, and devastating yearly wildfires. Californians are also widely dissatisfied with Governor Newsom’s pandemic performance, which has included some of the strictest closure orders in the nation, while allowing a winery and tasting room owned by Newsom to remain open. Newsom also infamously dined indoors, last November, at the three-Michelin starred restaurant, French Laundry, in Napa flouting his own health and safety rules. The governor eventually called his actions “a bad mistake.”

At present, Californians remain divided on the recall effort. A new poll shows that 38% of voters say they would vote to recall Newsom, while 42% say they would vote to keep the governor. An additional 13.9% say they are undecided, and 6.1% say they would not vote. However, in a question about whether they would vote to keep Newsom in office in 2022, when he is up for regular reelection, 58.3% of those polled said it is time for someone new to assume the office, while 41.7% say they would vote for Newsom again.

This is Newsom's first term as governor.