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Newsom Vows to Take Latest Recall Effort 'Very, Very Seriously'

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Gov. Gavin Newsom in an interview with KQED reporters Marisa Lagos and Scott Shafer in the Sacramento KQED offices on Feb. 28, 2024 (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed on Wednesday to take a new recall attempt seriously during a taping of KQED’s Political Breakdown. Conservative activists, who forced a recall election in 2021, announced earlier this week that they are launching a new effort to remove him from office.

Though the 2021 recall was ultimately rejected by nearly 62% of voters, the campaign caught many Democrats by surprise. This time around, Newsom wanted to sound the alarm bells early.

“If it happens, we’ll take it on with a furiousness of purpose, meaning [and] mission that we took on the last one,” he told hosts Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos, who recorded the interview in Sacramento. “I don’t dismiss these things lightly at all. I take this one very, very seriously.”

Catch up fast: Leaders of Rescue California, one of the leading political committees behind the 2021 recall, announced Monday that they served Newsom with official recall papers, the first step toward putting the recall question on the ballot. “Gavin Newsom has abandoned the state to advance his Presidential ambitions, leaving behind a $73 Billion budget deficit and a public safety, immigration and education crisis,” Anne Dunsmore, Rescue California’s campaign director, said in a statement.

The context: Rescue California could soon begin collecting signatures from voters to qualify the recall on a future ballot. The group would need signatures from roughly 1.3 million registered voters, one of the lowest thresholds in America but still a tall order. The fact remains that most recall attempts fail to qualify for the ballot. And the last Newsom recall campaign hit a straight flush when a judge granted the campaign an extension to gather voter signatures, just weeks after Newsom violated his own COVID guidance to attend a birthday party at The French Laundry, a posh restaurant in Napa County, in 2020. The lapse in judgment galvanized his opponents and spurred support for the recall.

Zoom in: Newsom was candid in his assessment of right-wing efforts to kick him out of office, showing why he is a frontline surrogate for President Joe Biden. “They want to roll back to a pre-1960s world — on voting rights, on civil rights, on LGBTQ rights, on women’s rights,” he said. “This is the same group that’s out there promoting the IVF-type legislation. These are the same groups that want to criminalize doctors and women that try to leave the state to access reproductive care. These are the same Trump-backed people that tried to light democracy on fire and vandalize this country and are still in denial that he lost the last election. So these are serious forces, and this is the exact same group that successfully got it on the ballot before, and it doesn’t take a lot to do so.”

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Zoom out: Newsom acknowledged that the last attempt to remove him was widely shrugged off — at least initially. After all, four previous attempts had failed to qualify for the ballot. The 2021 recall ended up being a bruising campaign that Newsom said was particularly challenging for his four children. “I will say, no B.S., that recall for them was hard,” he said. “That’s when it gets personal, and they felt that. They felt it at school, people mocking their dad. They see recall signs and people when you walk into a grocery store or something. They’re going to likely see that again.”

What we’re watching: The 2021 campaign prompted Democrats in the state Legislature to weigh changes to California’s recall laws. One proposal could come before voters in November: Senate Constitutional Amendment 1 would eliminate successor elections in statewide recalls. Instead, the recall question would appear alone on the ballot with no replacement candidates. Under the proposal, the current rules for replacing elected officials would apply, meaning the lieutenant governor would likely take over if the governor were to be recalled. The measure still needs to win supermajority approval in the Assembly to qualify for the November ballot.

Listen up: The Political Breakdown episode featuring Newsom drops today. Find it wherever you get your podcasts.

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