California governor Newsom faces prospect of recall election

State officials receive over 1.6m petition signatures – enough to trigger a new ballot

California's governor Gavin Newsom faces the prospect of an early ballot, after officials said they had received enough petition signatures to hold a recall election.

Under Californian law, a special election to recall a governor can be held if signatories representing 12 per cent of the total votes cast in the previous gubernatorial race call for a ballot.

Late on Monday, officials said this threshold had been reached after 1.6 million people signed the initiative to remove Mr Newsom. Though signatories now have 30 business days to remove their names from the petition if they so choose, the effort paves the way for a special election later this year.

Mr Newsom, a Democratic governor, took up office in January 2019. But he has faced criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.


In particular, he was widely criticised for attending a dinner at the upmarket French Laundry restaurant in the Napa wine region with a lobbyist in November when gatherings of this kind were banned.

Last week, Kaitlyn Jenner, the former Olympian who shot to fame through the Keeping up with the Kardashians television series, filed papers to run in the governor's race.

Ms Jenner, who is running as a Republican, would be the first transgender person to hold a governor position in the United States if elected.

While recall petitions are common in California, they rarely succeed.

The only time a governor was recalled was in 2003 when incumbent Democratic Gray Davis lost to Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Mr Schwarzenegger, an actor and body builder who is married to Maria Shriver, the journalist and niece of the late president John F Kennedy, was then re-elected in 2006.

Relatively popular

Mr Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, was elected as governor of the country’s most populous state in November 2018. He won that election with 62 per cent of the vote – the highest for any Democratic governor in California’s history.

He was previously married to Kimberley Guilfoyle, a lawyer and former Fox News host who is now dating Donald Trump jnr, the son of the former president.

– a theme that will likely to be a key argument of Mr Newsom if an election is held.

Opinion polls suggest he still remains relatively popular in California, which increasingly leans Democratic.

Announcing that she had filed papers to run for governor, Ms Jenner, who was formerly married to the media personality Kris Kardashian, said she had been a "compassionate disruptor" for all her life.

“Californians want better and deserve better from their governor. For too long, career politicians have over-promised and under-delivered. We need a leader with a vision and the resolve to see it through,” she said.

Should the recall election take place, it is likely to be scheduled for late autumn.

Other Republicans who are expected to run include former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and John Cox, a businessman who lost to Mr Newsom in 2018.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent