A Republican-led effort to recall California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has garnered enough valid signatures to make the ballot, state election officials said on Monday.
Newsom will likely face a recall next fall in a race that is already shaping up to be chaotic, as three Republicans - including transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner - have already said they will run to replace him.
"I am ready to lead this movement," declared Republican former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer shortly after the signature count was announced. "Together, we will turn the page on Gavin Newsom's failures."
Newsom's campaign responded immediately, framing the recall as a power grab by Republicans who have little other chance at gaining statewide office in California, where the party only represents about a quarter of voters.
"This recall attempt is a far-right partisan power grab and a waste of money," Newsom's Stop the Republican Recall campaign said in a text message to registered Democrats.
In California, recalling a governor is a two-step process. Voters decide whether they want to remove the sitting governor and then on the same ballot choose a replacement.
The state has not yet formally approved the recall or set a date for an election. Under California law, officials have until Thursday to provide a final count of valid signatures. Voters will then be allowed an additional 30 days to remove their approval if they change their minds.
But as of Monday, backers of the petition to remove Newsom, a cause celebre among Republicans nationwide, had submitted 1.6 million valid signatures demanding a recall election, the Secretary of State's office said.
Rescue California, one of the political action committees supporting the recall, had raised $2.2 million as of Monday, including $100,000 from an independent oil company and $500,000 from Prov 3:9 LLC, a consulting firm. The California Republican party has contributed about $186,000.
Newsom, a former lieutenant governor and San Francisco mayor, was elected governor in 2018 with almost 62% of the vote. He would be up for re-election in 2022.
The recall effort targeting Newsom began in February 2020, led by a group called the California Patriot Coalition that opposed Newsom's liberal politics.
The campaign has picked up steam amid frustration with the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, closed schools and changing public health rules.