California Gov. Gavin Newsom established a political committee Monday to begin raising money to defend his seat in a potential recall election, the strongest acknowledgment to date that he expects to be on the ballot this year.
The Democrat’s new fundraising arm could soon send a powerful message to his possible rivals: Under state rules, Newsom alone is allowed to raise money in unlimited amounts, while other candidates must adhere to contribution limits.
It’s likely he will soon see a flood of cash from his familiar Democratic constituency, including powerful public worker unions that spent millions of dollars helping install him in office in 2018.
Organizers behind the recall say they have collected over 2 million petition signatures to place the election on the ballot – about 1.5 million are needed for it to qualify, though hundreds of thousands have yet to be validated by election officials.
Newsom has lined up support from state and national Democrats to defeat the campaign against him. The committee kicked off it’s drive with an advertisement attacking the recall effort as a Republican power grab.
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker said in a statement released by the committee that Newsom’s leadership during the pandemic “kept Californians safe and helped them recover financially.”
Defeating the recall “will be one of the most important priorities for Democrats this year,” he said.
Democrats have depicted the recall effort as seeded with extremists. However, recall organizers say 38% of petition signatures have come from independents and Democrats, but that could not be immediately verified.
For months Newsom sidestepped questions about the recall but more recently has started to ramp up his political operation and strategy.
He’s been traveling the state holding events to highlight coronavirus vaccinations, while a string of supporters have started staging online news conferences in an attempt to turn public favor his way.
Newsom received high praise for his aggressive approach to the coronavirus last spring, when he issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order. But in more recent months he’s faced growing public anger over health orders that shuttered schools and businesses and a massive unemployment benefits fraud scandal, while taking a public drubbing for attending a birthday party with friends and lobbyists at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant, while telling residents to stay home for safety.
Two Republicans have announced their candidacy: Kevin Faulconer, the former Republican mayor of San Diego, and Republican businessman John Cox, who was defeated by Newsom in 2018. Another name being discussed in GOP circles is former President Donald Trump’s then-acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, who has not responded to requests for comment on a possible candidacy.
It’s not uncommon in California for residents to seek recalls but they rarely get on the ballot — and even fewer succeed.