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California governor faces recall election after COVID lockdown hypocrisy exposed

The Governor has continued to face mounting criticism over his decision to ignore his own lockdown orders by dining with friends and lobbyists at a restaurant in Napa

Noah David Alter Toronto
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Increasing discontent with Governor Gavin Newsom in California has sparked a recall election petition, and the Governor appears to be preparing for its success, ABC7 reports.

The petition is the sixth to circulate since 2018 seeking to force a challenge to Governor Newsom's mandate, and while all the previous petitions failed to bring Newsom back on the ballot, the tides appear to be turning for the embattled governor.

The Governor has continued to face mounting criticism over his decision to ignore his own lockdown orders by dining with friends and lobbyists at a restaurant in Napa, a popular vacation town in California. The dinner took place at an expensive restaurant in the town, with a single seat at a table costing $1,200 per person.

Not only was Newsom seen violating his own indoor gathering restrictions, but he was also pictured multiple times without a mask, even after he was done eating and was socializing at close proximity with dinner guests. Newsom denied that he violated his own lockdown orders while also apologizing for his actions, with many observers labelling the governor as a hypocrite.

There is also widespread discontent over the severity of lockdown orders in the state, with businesses and schools shuttered and residents stuck in their homes.

Now, petitioners are seeking to force a recall election in California, a special election whereby a governor can have their mandate challenged in the middle of their term. Recall election petitions are popular in California, one of the 19 states which allow the practice, but rarely acquire enough signatures to force such an election. The last time a recall election took place in California was 2003, when Democratic Governor Gray Davis was successfully recalled, becoming the second Governor in American history to lose a recall election, after controversy over the California state budget. He was succeeded by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If the recall petition is successful, Governor Newsom will be forced to defend his record handling the pandemic in the Golden State, with potential challengers including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who entered office in the southern Californian city under different yet nevertheless messy circumstances, with the previously-elected Democratic Mayor being forced to resign in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal which resulted in his legal conviction. Faulconer, a moderate Republican, has seen success as mayor combatting homelessness, improving police staffing, and increasing affordable housing in a state where such issues are among the most concerning for local residents.

Another potential challenger to Newsom's leadership is John Cox, who ran against him in 2018 as the Republican Party candidate in the 2018 gubernatorial election. Newsom defeated Cox handily that year, winning over 61 percent of the vote, the highest percentage achieved by a candidate for California's governorship since 1950. Cox donated $50,000 to the recall election effort in October.

Former Davis aide Susan Kennedy thinks Newsom may be facing trouble, arguing "you just can't underestimate the depth of people's anger."

Garry South, a former advisor to Governor Davis, agrees that Newsom has every reason to be concerned. "He's got a plate of Biblical plagues staring him in the face," South said. He noted, however, that the situation for Newsom is not quite as murky as it was for Davis, further claiming that "the Republicans are in a far weaker position" than they were in 2003.

Newsom will also soon be filling Kamala Harris's senate seat, which she will be forced to vacate after ascending to the Vice Presidency in January. Even with popular discontent over the actions of Newsom, the heavily Democratic state, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2-1, will likely want to ensure a Democrat fills Harris's senate seat. For Democrats, filling the seat with a Democrat is especially important as the Georgia runoff elections continue to leave control of the Senate in limbo.

Petitioners, meanwhile, have claimed that they already have half of the 1.5 million signatures required to force a recall election in the state, and their petition does not need to be submitted until the middle of March 2021.

Randy Economy, one of the recall organizers, has said that support for the petition has risen dramatically since Newsom's ill-advised dinner party in Napa. "It has resonated," Economy said. "It's about the arrogance of power."

It is not all success for the petitioners, however, as recall election campaigners struggle to reach fundraising goals. Campaigners suggest that they would need $2.8 million in additional funds to allow their petition to succeed. During the 2003 recall election, it took a $1.7 million donation from a California business magnate to change the fortunes of their movement.

Newsom nevertheless appears to be preparing for the petition to succeed, hiring California lobbyist Jim DeBoo as a senior adviser just last week. DeBoo previously served as director of Assembly Democrats, the campaign wing of the California Assembly Democratic Caucus.

Steven Maviglio, a Democratic Party strategist who has worked with DeBoo in the past, has described the man as a "problem solver" and a "manager." Maviglio asserted that DeBoo is "wired to the Legislature in a way I don’t think this administration has seen before. He knows just about everybody in the Legislature and has worked on their campaigns and knows where they’re at and what they want," making him a powerful ally in any election effort.

Democratic Party officials and strategists in the state also believe that Republicans are fundamentally misreading voters, who they believe want consistent leadership during the pandemic. Rusty Hicks, the chairman of California's Democratic Party, said "the California Republican Party continues to demonstrate how disconnected they are from the plight and pain of working families."

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