Gov. Gavin Newsom Admits He’s ‘Worried’ About Recall Push but Insists Politics to Blame, Not COVID Response

The last California leader removed was Gray Davis, in 2003, who was replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Gavin Newsom
Gavin Newsom. Photo: The View

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week that he is "of course" worried about a potential recall vote that could force him out of office, but he intends to remain at the helm.

Newsom, 53, appeared on The View on Tuesday as pressure has grown from California Republicans in recent months to remove their state's leader.

"Am I worried about it? Of course I'm worried about it," Newsom said.

As the Associated Press detailed last month, the governor has faced criticism over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — including vaccine rollout and a decision to lift a stay-at-home order that drew conflicting reactions — as well as problems in his administration related to $10 billion in unemployment fraud.

The GOP-backed recall push, which started before COVID-19 according to the AP, has gained momentum with more and more people.

Organizers have until Wednesday to submit 1.5 million voter signatures to show support for holding a recall election later this year, according to USA Today.

Newsom said on The View that this is the sixth effort in 25 months to force a recall vote that could potentially remove him from office. However, "this one appears to have the requisite signatures," he said.

The Los Angeles Times reported last month that Newsom's popularity in the state has "plummeted" over the past year, with a University of California Berkeley poll showing one-third of Califorinians support the effort to remove him from office.

"People are reevaluating how well Newsom is doing handling the pandemic," the pollster told the Times. "Once your job performance rating starts to decline, it's more difficult to put it back in the right direction. You kind of accumulate negatives over time."

However, the full picture remains unclear: The AP also reported last month that 54 percent of Californians still approved of Newsom's leadership, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll.

What's more, an election would still be months away when political circumstances could be different and Newsom's trajectory is not the same as former Gov. Gray Davis, who was recalled in 2003 in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Newsom would be removed with more than 50 percent of voters voting "yes" on the question of ousting him in the recall election.

The governor's successor would be whomever gets the most votes on the second question — who should replace Newsom? — though they would not need to get a majority.

Lamenting that California has the "lowest threshold" in the country to force a recall vote, Newsom told The View: "It just takes one quarter of the people who supported Donald Trump,"

Gavin Newsom
Mario Tama/Getty
Gavin Newsom
Gavin Newsom. Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Bloomberg via Getty

Newsom used his appearance on the show to defend his COVID-19 response and insisted the recall effort was being promoted by anti-economic shutdown protesters, right-wing militia groups, and other Trump supporters.

"That's the origin here," the governor said.

"It's the anti-maskers and the anti-vaxxers ... that are behind this recall," he added.

Nonetheless, Newsom has been criticized for wavering guidance on the pandemic, which has had a vast economic impact on the tourism-heavy state. California has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, behind Hawaii, according to the Labor Department's latest assessment.

The governor told The View the state's unemployment rate has been "stubborn and consistent with other tourism states like Hawaii."

Newsom also apologized for photos showing him eating dinner at a restaurant with a crowded table, in violation of health recommendations. The incident exasperated criticism against him last November.

"It was a terrible mistake," he said, adding that it was a dinner to celebrate a friend's 50th birthday. "Of course it was a mistake. I didn't shy away from that. Bottom line is I own that."

But the choice increasingly looks to be in the voters' hands, as Newsom recognized Tuesday the recall vote is now expected to go forward later this year.

"The zero-sum nature of the question is challenging. It's vexing," he said. "We're taking it seriously. I have to do my job every single day, but I'm going to fight this thing."

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