Gavin Newsom launched a committee Monday to fight a probable recall as signature-collection draws to a close, with his opponents declaring that they have more than enough names on their petitions to trigger a special election to unseat the governor.
The creation of the Stop the Republican Recall committee marks the first time Newsom has fully come forward to defend himself against the potential recall after months of remaining largely silent—and he’s doing it with a vengeance.
Top Democrats including senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker, as well as Georgia power broker Stacey Abrams, have all signed on to support Newsom in a counteroffensive that paints his opponents as QAnon conspiracy theorists, anti-immigration activists, and other MAGA leftovers.
Along with enlisting nationally prominent allies, Newsom’s campaign has a legal advantage his opponents can’t hope to rival. By California law, Newsom can raise an unlimited amount of money for his defense while his would-be contenders must adhere to contribution limits.
One of the committee’s first big spends was on a new ad released Monday that attacks “the partisan recall” as a “power grab” by “anti-vaccine, QAnon extremists, violent white supremacists like the Proud Boys who attacked our nation’s capital on January 6, and the same right wing Republican politicians who supported Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the election.”
The ad notes that, “Of course” it was all “paid for by the Republican National Committee.”
“We’re just concerned about violence moving into the future as we move farther and farther away from the January insurrection and we put down our guard,” Newsom told MSNBC on Monday. “We must remain vigilant about these groups and how serious they are. All you need is about a quarter of the people who supported Trump to just sign a petition and it appears they’ve done that.”
Recall advocates bristle at the idea that they’re aligned with hate groups—claiming that 38 percent of their petition-signers identify as independent or Democrat—despite a Los Angeles Times report detailing precisely how they are connected to the far right.
“Do we have to denounce everybody that is involved to move it forward?” retired Yolo sheriff’s sergeant Orrin Heatlie, who filed the recall petition, asked the Times. “Or do we just move forward and ignore these other elements?”
Calling the Newsom offensive “a smear campaign,” Heatlie told the AP. “This recall is driven by the people of California. It encompasses the entire political spectrum, all the way from the far liberal left to the alt-right.”
GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox, the businessman who blew $5.7 million of his own money to lose to Newsom by a landslide in 2018, also denies that he is backed by any substantial number of extremists, dismissing the unsavory element as “a couple of people who were unhinged.” Asked about the Holocaust imagery that is sometimes favored by recallers, Cox offered, “You’ll never see me inciting anything like that.”
Newsom, meanwhile, is working to cast the recall movement as a campaign against his progressive policies, not a response to his handling of the pandemic or his ill-fated fête at French Laundry.
“It’s about immigration. It’s about our health care policies. It’s about our criminal justice reform,” he told San Francisco’s KQED on Friday. “It’s about the diversity of the state. It’s about our clean air, clean water programs, meeting our environmental strategies.”
The California GOP countered in a Tuesday tweet, writing, “Gov. @GavinNewsom labels all these people who signed the recall a bunch of white supremacists and militia members. Over two million Californians of all backgrounds are united because this governor’s incompetence and hypocritical behavior cannot go unchecked. #RecallGavinNewsom”
Gov. @GavinNewsom labels all these people who signed the recall a bunch of white supremacists and militia members. Over two million Californians of all backgrounds are united because this governor's incompetence and hypocritical behavior cannot go unchecked. #RecallGavinNewsom https://t.co/ySkbFCKiqc
— CAGOP (@CAGOP) March 16, 2021
Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis warned that Democrats must “reject the efforts of the Republican party to sow discord in our state and their long-shot attempt to slip a Republican governor into the bluest state in the country.”
Sen. Booker said in a statement Monday that defeating the recall “will be one of the most important priorities for Democrats this year.”
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