|ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 16: California Gov. Gavin Newsom looks on during a news conference after he toured the newly reopened Ruby Bridges Elementary School on March 16, 2021 in Alameda, California. Gov. Newsom is traveling throughout California to highlight the state’s efforts to reopen schools and businesses as he faces the threat of recall. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)|
California Governor Gavin Newsom is “worried” about a bid to recall him, an effort which has tapped into anger over his handling of the pandemic and appears on the cusp of triggering a rare special election, he said Tuesday.
Among 20 states that let voters force a leadership poll if they gather enough signatures, California last saw a recall election in 2003 — which ultimately brought bodybuilder-turned-Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger into office.
That was one of only three recall bids in US history to successfully force an actual vote, but Newsom said he expects campaigners to reach the threshold of just under 1.5 million signatures by Wednesday to do so again.
“Of course I’m worried about it… we’re taking it seriously,” Newsom told ABC’s “The View,” adding that the campaign “appears to have the requisite signatures.”
Initially praised for his handling of the pandemic, Newsom has been increasingly blamed for lengthy business closures, a brutal winter Covid-19 spike, and — more recently — a slow and complicated vaccine rollout.
But Newsom, a Democrat, insisted the recall effort was driven by far-right supporters of QAnon conspiracy theories, and that it was “less about me, it’s more about California and our values, Democratic Party values.”
“I have to do my job every single day, but I’m gonna fight this thing because I’m gonna fight for California values and the things I hold dear,” he said.
The recall bid has received support and funding from prominent Republicans and conservatives.
If the vote goes ahead, it would likely take place between August and November this year. Newsom is already up for re-election in November 2022.
Voters would be asked two questions — whether they want to remove him, and which candidate should replace him if he goes.
Former “Terminator” actor Schwarzenegger, a Republican, tapped into discontent against then-Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, to become the leader of the nation’s most populous state in 2003.
But many experts are sceptical that Newsom would be removed in the deeply Democratic state, at a time of intense political polarization.
“It just takes one-quarter of people that supported Donald Trump to put a… recall on the ballot,” noted Newsom.
Former President Trump received more than six million votes in California last November — more than he managed in any other US state.
But President Joe Biden topped 11 million votes in the massive state of some 40 million, where mainly liberal urban cities vastly outnumber large, more conservative rural regions in terms of the electorate.
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