The Republican-led, pandemic-fueled campaign to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom received an official election date Thursday when the state lieutenant governor announced that voters would vote on the matter on September 14.
The date, just 75 days away and the earliest that district officials said they could manage to hold a special election, was released shortly after the California Secretary of State officially confirmed the recall request. And it came after Mr Newsom’s Democrats in the state legislature decided to speed up the process.
California is overwhelmingly Democratic and Mr Newsom is widely expected to get his way, especially as the state is out of the coronavirus crisis. The common wisdom of his advisors and allies was that he would benefit from a quick decision while Californians still bask in relief from the state’s economy reopening and before the fall forest fire season begins.
The schedule, put forward by another Democrat, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, also severely restricts the ability of potential challengers to take part in the vote, leaving them only about two weeks to compete in the race to succeed Mr. Newsom. More than 50 candidates are already on the ballot, and a handful of wealthy Republicans are campaigning seriously.
The special election is expected to cost about $ 276 million and marks the second time in the state’s history that Californians have voted on the removal of an incumbent governor. The first led to the removal of Gray Davis and the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.
Mr Newsom and his supporters, who mocked the recall as the final act of right-wing extremist relevance, said Thursday that they applauded voters’ decision.
“This Republican recall is a bare attempt by Trump Republicans to take control of California – fueled by the same Republicans who refused to accept the presidential election results,” said Juan Rodriguez, head of the governor’s campaign organization.
Kevin Faulconer, former San Diego mayor and a Republican candidate, countered that “this movement is being driven by Californians from every community – Democrats, Republicans and Independents.”
Mr. Faulconer added, “Change is coming for California and retirement is coming for Gavin Newsom.”
Recall attempts are not uncommon in California, with every governor since 1960 faced with at least one. But getting a recall on the ballot is rare.
The campaign against Mr Newsom languished for months before a string of pandemic-induced missteps, court decisions and voter anger sent the governor – a liberal in a democratic state who was landslide-elected in 2018 – into a perfect political storm.