Leaders of the campaign to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom have now gathered more than a million signatures, according to a new report from the California secretary of state’s office that suggests the effort is still on track as they inch toward a March deadline to qualify for the ballot.
Capitalizing on the frustration and anger among California Republicans and small business owners about Newsom’s restrictive stay-at-home orders last year, which were intended to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, as well as the high case numbers that the state experienced over the holiday months, recall proponents say they have actually gathered 1.7 million signatures so far and are continuing to turn those in to the county registrars around the state for verification.
The most recent report from the secretary of state is a lagging indicator of the progress toward ballot qualification, because it only tallies signatures that California counties had received as of February 5. And of those nearly 1.1 million signatures, the counties have only verified a portion so far.
The report shows that of the 798,310 signatures verified, nearly 84% were valid. Longtime recall observers in California say that high percentage is a strong indicator that the recall will ultimately qualify for the ballot if recall proponents stay on track with that validation percentage as they turn in additional signatures. Under the California Constitution, the leaders of the recall must turn in 1,495,709 valid signatures by March 17, which is equivalent to 12% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
If the recall effort qualifies, it is unclear what month it would land on California’s ballot, because there are a series of bureaucratic steps that must take place at various levels of state government before the state’s lieutenant governor could formally call the recall election.
CNN has reached out to Newsom’s office for comment.
Newsom, a Democrat, has largely brushed off the threat of a recall as he has traveled around the state in recent days visiting vaccination sites and trying to speed up the efficiency of the state’s vaccination program after it initially got off to a shaky start. Two community vaccination sites were opened in partnership with the Biden administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Oakland and Los Angeles last week, creating greater access to shots in some of the state’s most vulnerable communities — a partnership Newsom hailed as a critical expansion of California’s vaccine supply.
During a visit to a mobile vaccination site in Inglewood Sunday, Newsom highlighted the fact that Covid-19 hospitalizations are down by 41% in California in the past two weeks and said the state is building out a system that could allow them to administer 4 million vaccinations a week.
“Our only constraint now in terms of more vaccines into the community — meeting people where they are, where we are here in Inglewood and elsewhere — is supply limitations,” Newsom said, noting that some 702,000 doses were affected by the extreme weather last week.
Responding to the frustration about the inability to reopen many schools in California — a central theme of the recall — Newsom recently announced that 10% of the first-dose vaccine shipments allocated to California will be made available to teachers — setting a goal of providing more than 300,000 doses to educators over the next month.
But Newsom is also still taking heat from some teachers’ groups for stating during an interview with the Association of California School Administrators last month that “if we wait for the perfect, we might as well just pack it up and just be honest with folks — that we’re not going to open for in-person instruction this school year.”
“There’s an old thing my mom taught me that says, ‘You find whatever you look for,’” Newsom said during the January meeting. “So if we want to find reasons not to open, we’ll find plenty of reasons. If we want to start building on ways to strategize to find ways of getting to where we all want to go, we’ll figure that out as well.”
He added that he has witnessed first-hand how Zoom classes are not working well for younger students, including his 4-year-old son, as well as for children who are homeless, in foster care, English learners or those struggling with disabilities.
President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten responded to Newsom’s comments about finding “reasons not to open” Sunday morning during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” by suggesting that Newsom was not doing enough to prioritize teachers in the areas where viral transmission is the highest in California, referencing the state’s color-coded system.
“When I hear politicians — when I hear Governor Newsom saying we are always going to find a way out, well, why is he not actually prioritizing the teachers in LA,” she said, noting they were in “purple zones,” or the areas of highest viral transmission.
“If the NFL could figure out how to do this in terms of testing and protocols, if the schools are that important, let’s do it, and my members want it,” she said.
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