Republicans and activists say their recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D., Calif.) is aimed at protecting the rest of the country from the failed policies of California Democrats.
More than 1.1. million Californians have signed the recall petition, rapidly approaching the 1.9 million necessary to force an election. The activists hope that an additional batch of 1.5 million mailed petitions can push the number over the edge. State assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R.) told the Washington Free Beacon that the campaign will challenge the growing influence California Democrats wield over the national political conversation—from coronavirus lockdowns to economic and environmental policies that reward big tech while hurting small businesses.
"Part of our responsibility in California is to warn the rest of the country," Kiley said. "The same failures that have led Gavin Newsom to do so much harm, we can't let that spread to the rest of the country."
Newsom has boosted his national star on late night television and in national media profiles. Even as the governor has wooed national Democrats, though, he has seen close allies leave for Washington, D.C. President-elect Joe Biden tapped current California attorney general Xavier Becerra (D.) to join his cabinet as the secretary of health and human services. Newsom appointed longtime associate and California secretary of state Alex Padilla (D.) to replace Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the Senate.
Anne Dunsmore, a political strategist and campaign manager for the pro-recall group Rescue California, said that the loss of top Newsom allies to the Biden administration could open up further opportunities to chip away at the traditional dominance of California Democrats in future statewide elections.
"The absence of all these people are going to make it harder for them to defend the U.S. Senate seat, all the constitutional offices that are being vacated," Dunsmore said. "I think it's delightful."
The Biden transition and California Democratic Party did not respond to requests for comment.
Those working the recall effort worry that the failed policies on display in California could soon affect the nation at large. According to Dunsmore, California has served as fertile testing ground for liberal policies, particularly under the leadership of House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).
"This is a big game on the national stage because it's a test of the Pelosi machine," Dunsmore told the Free Beacon. "A lot of the ideas they want to try out nationally they test here."
Democrats have dismissed the effort as a Republican "coup" of the governorship, even though it's being done through legal means. Newsom's predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown (D.), was subject to multiple recall attempts, which were ultimately unsuccessful. There is, however, precedent for a successful recall: Californians recalled then-governor Gray Davis (D.) in 2003, replacing him with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state's last Republican governor.
Gov. Newsom's office did not respond to a request for comment.
While the rising Democratic star is tinkering with his public image, Republicans told the Free Beacon that he has lost much of the support that propelled him to the governorship in the first place. Former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, a potential GOP candidate in a recall election, said Californians are already voting with their feet. In the last year, tech supergiants such as Oracle, Hewlett Packard, Palantir, SpaceX, and Toyota have all moved the brunt of their operations to more hospitable business environments.
"Under Gavin Newsom, jobs are leaving, homelessness is skyrocketing, and the state government can't even do the basics, like issue unemployment checks to those most in need," Faulconer said. "It's time Gavin Newsom is held accountable because his failures are harming lives and livelihoods."
Newsom rode into office in a wave, winning by 20 points in 2018, but recall organizers are confident that his handling of the coronavirus—particularly his flagrant violation of his own rules so that he could dine with lobbyists at a November birthday event—has given them a chance. Dunsmore said a large bloc of petition signatures came from Newsom voters and registered Democrats.
"It's the mad moms … women who [are] basically at home schooling their children, or trying to run their businesses, or trying to do work for their employers and keep their jobs," Dunsmore said of those in the front of the recall campaign.
Organizers have until March 17 to submit the recall petition.