Who, What, Why, When, How on the Newsom Recall

Who, What, Why, When, How on the Newsom Recall
California Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo courtesy facebook.com/CAgovernor

What is happening?

Republicans have petitioned the state of California to have a special recall election of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. The election will be on Sept. 14. Two things to remember about the election: 1) make sure you are registered to vote, and 2) vote “No” on the recall.

The recall election will present voters with two questions.

The first question will ask whether Governor Newsom should be recalled (removed) from office. The voter can answer “Yes” (to recall) or “No” (not to recall).

If there are more “No” votes than “Yes” votes, Governor Newsom remains governor. If there are more “Yes” votes than “No” votes on the recall question, Newsom will be removed from office and replaced by whoever wins the gubernatorial recall election. According to the California State Constitution, the officer being recalled (in this case, Governor Newsom) cannot be a candidate in the recall election.1

Forty-one of the 76 candidates who filed to run in the gubernatorial recall election had qualified as of July 17.2, 24, 25 One of the criteria candidates had to fulfill to qualify for the ballot was to provide the Secretary of State with IRS income tax reports from the past five years.

The second question will ask voters to select one of the candidates who have qualified to replace Governor Newsom if the recall initiative passes.

The results to the second question only matter if the majority of voters (50% plus one) say “Yes” to recalling Governor Newsom. If the majority of voters say “Yes” to the first question, the candidate with the most votes on the second question wins the election and will be the next governor. No majority is required. The candidate does not need to garner more than 50% of the total votes cast—just one more vote than anyone else running.

If you read no further, you know all you need to know about the recall. Vote “No” on the recall. Continue reading if you want more details and background regarding the recall.

Why is Governor Newsom being recalled?17

California’s changing demographics make it extremely difficult for a Republican to win a statewide office. Governor Newsom is being recalled because Republicans are frustrated by their inability to elect a Republican to statewide office in a general election. Due to changing demographics, a recall might be the only way a Republican can be elected to a statewide office.

The voter registration numbers are against the Republicans winning a statewide office in a general election. As of 2020, there were 22.05 million registered California voters,18 10.17 million (46.1%) are registered as Democrats, 5.33 million (24.2%) are registered as Republican and 5.28 million (24%) are independent/No Party Preference. Other parties make up the rest.

The Democratic percentage of overall voters has remained stable at 44%–47% since 1996. The Republican percentage has fallen from 36% in 1996 to 24% in 2020, whereas independents went from 11% in 1996 to 24% in 2020.

Increasing numbers of young people, Latinos, Asians, women, college-educated people and others are not drawn to the Republican Party’s increasingly anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, misogynistic, anti-science and White supremacist ideology. The last Republican elected to California statewide office was Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Although it will be an uphill endeavor, given the voting demographics and Governor Newsom’s approval rating, a recall gives Republicans a better chance of winning the governor’s seat than a conventional election.19 Two advantages Republicans have in a recall election are the up-down vote on the incumbent and the unpredictable turnout for special elections.  

This recall effort represents Republican voters who never wanted Newsom to be governor in the first place and still don’t want him to be governor. Those Republicans might be joined by a small number of Democrats and independents who are dissatisfied with Governor Newsom.

The Republicans are condemning Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic, mask mandates, school shutdowns and business shutdowns as a diversion from the fact that they do not like his liberal policies. The Republicans complain about crime, homelessness and the French Laundry mistake as reasons to recall him, but the real reason is that a recall is their only opportunity to win a statewide election.

What is the danger of low voter turnout?

Although the 2003 recall of Governor Gray Davis had a bigger voter turnout than the 2002 general election, most off-cycle elections are low voter turnout affairs. Well-organized, passionate interest groups do well when voter turnout is low.3 They are able to get a high percentage of their supporters to the polls.

The majority of supporters of the recall are Republican Trump supporters who are organized and committed to recalling Governor Newsom.19 Although they are not the majority of Californians, recall supporters are more committed than those opposed to the recall.19

Of California’s 22 million registered voters, 11 million voted for Biden in the 2020 presidential election and 6 million voted for Trump. By comparison, in the November 2018 gubernatorial race, only 7.7 million (of the 12 million who voted) voted for Democrat Gavin Newsom. Newsom won 62% of the vote and defeated Republican challenger John Cox (who had put in $7 million to his own campaign).21 In June 2018, only 7,141,987 Californians voted in the primary. Newsom won the California Democrat primary with 2.3 million votes.

The majority of Californians do not support the recall.19 If Trump supporters and other supporters of the recall come out in strength with 6 million votes or more, a low voter turnout by Democrats (as occurred in the June 2018 primary) could result in the recall passing.4

Who is leading and funding the recall effort?

Starting in February 2019, there have been six different recall petitions filed against Governor Newsom. Five of the six efforts failed to qualify for the ballot.5 The California Republican Party has supported all the recall efforts. Retired Yolo County Deputy Sheriff Orrin Heatlie has filed two petitions to recall Governor Newsom. The initial petition for recall, which was filed on Feb. 13, 2020, failed to qualify for the ballot.

The current recall effort targeting Newsom began on June 10, 2020.5 This was the second recall campaign led by Heatlie and the California Patriot Coalition. Heatlie and the other organizers are supported financially by the California Republican Party, the National Republican Party, Rescue California, the PAC Rescue California–Recall Gavin Newsom and a right-wing group called the California Patriot Coalition that opposes Newsom’s liberal politics.6

As of July 16, 2021, the recall effort had raised about $5 million and Stop the Republican Recall has raised $31 million.15 The recall effort is supported by a small number of large donors. Two Fresno large-donor supporters of the recall are anti-masker David Fansler (owner of Pismo’s and Westwoods BBQ and Spice Company) and Bonadelle Homes Inc.16

Newsom made the fact-based claim that recall leaders are “members of the Three Percenters, the right-wing militia group; the Proud Boys, [who] supported the insurrection; [and] folks who quite literally, enthusiastically support QAnon conspiracies.” A fact check of Newsom’s claims indeed showed that Heatlie has made racist, anti-immigrant statements and that the supporters of the recall have ties to far-right militias and QAnon.7

How did the recall occur?

Heatlie’s June 2020 recall effort did not have the 1.5 million signatures to qualify for the ballot before the end of the 160-day timeline on Nov. 17, 2020. Heatlie sued then–Secretary of State Padilla for an extension due to delay from the Covid-19 epidemic. Per the final judgment by the Sacramento County Superior Court on Nov. 17, 2020, “As of October 15, 2020, Petitioners had collected approximately 675,000 signatures.”20 A 120-day extension was issued on Nov. 17, 2020, by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James R. Arguelles.

Concern of judicial bias has been raised because Trump had unsuccessfully nominated Arguelles to a federal judgeship in June 2020. Ethical questions as to whether Arguelles should have recused himself from the case were identified after the ruling.8, 9

Judge Arguelles’ extension allowed the proponents of the recall of Governor Newsom to continue to circulate petitions from Nov. 17, 2020, through March 17, 2021. The Secretary of State’s office did not appeal the decision. The recall organizers had submitted 2.1 million signatures by the March 17 filing deadline. Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s office found 1,719,943 signatures to be valid—more than the 1,495,970 necessary to trigger a recall election. 

The recall election, according to a July 1 letter from the California Department of Finance, is estimated to cost the state’s taxpayers more than $215 million.10

Final Message

Make sure you are registered to vote. Vote “No” on the recall.

Key Dates for the Recall Election

Aug. 16Deadline for counties to mail all registered voters a vote-by-mail ballot
Aug. 30Deadline to register to vote. Registration forms must be postmarked by this date or delivered to a county elections office
Aug. 31Filing deadline for write-in candidates
Sept. 4Counties implementing the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) will open early voting centers. The VCA is an election model that allows voters to choose how, when and where to cast their ballot by 1) mailing every voter a ballot, 2) expanding in-person early voting and 3) allowing voters to cast a ballot at any vote center within their county.
Sept. 10Early voting ends in VCA counties.
Sept. 14Election Day
Oct. 6Deadline for officials to notify voters of signature mismatches
Oct. 12Deadline for voters to verify signatures in the case of a mismatch
Oct. 22Election certification date

If the recall passes, the winner will be installed as governor within 10 days after the election certification date. There will be another general gubernatorial election in November 2022.


  1. https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/recalls/recall-procedures-guide.pdf  Secretary State of California 2020 revised guide to recall procedures. 
  2. https://ballotpedia.org/Gavin_Newsom_recall,_Governor_of_California_(2019-2021)#Timeline  Ballotpedia review of the recall process and a list of the candidates.
  3. https://www.city-journal.org/off-cycle-local-election-timing-decreases-voter-turnout?wallit_nosession=1  September 2020 article by Sarah F. Anzia, the Michelle J. Schwartz Associate Professor of Public Policy & Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California-Berkeley.  Off-cycle elections are usually low voter turnout affairs that favor organized interest groups not just Republicans.  
  4. https://www.sos.ca.gov/administration/news-releases-and-advisories/2018-news-releases-and-advisories/california-secretary-state-certifies-november-2018-general-election-results Results of 2018 gubernatorial election.
  5. https://ballotpedia.org/Gavin_Newsom_recall,_Governor_of_California_(2019-2021)/Path_to_the_ballot  list of the 6 efforts to recall Governor Newsom.
  6. https://recallgavin2020.com/meet-the-board/  Website for the recall committee “Paid for by California Patriot Coalition.” The members of the board of directors of the Recall Gavin Newsom 
  7. https://www.capradio.org/articles/2021/03/18/are-california-recall-leaders-tied-to-far-right-militias-and-qanon-we-fact-checked-gov-gavin-newsoms-claims/  Newsom said Recall leaders are, “Members of the Three Percenters, the right wing militia group; the Proud Boys [who] supported the insurrection, [who] are folks who quite literally, enthusiastically support QAnon conspiracies.”  Fact check of Newsom’s claims shows that Heatlie and other have made racist, anti-immigrant statements and have ties to far-right militias and QAnon
  8. https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article249843718.html.   March 15, 2021, article in SacBee about the extension for the recall signature gathering.
  9. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-06-07/judge-attorney-newsom-recall-lawsuit-former-law-partners    Judge James P. Arguelles and Bradley Benbrook were attorneys in the same law firm.  Benbrook represented recall proponents Orrin Heatlie and the California Patriot Coalition in the November 2020 recall case.  trump had nominated Arguelles to a seat on the U.S. District Court in June, 2020, but Arguelles did not get voted on for the appointment.
  10. https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/recalls/dept-finance-letter.pdf   July 1, 2021, letter from the California Department of Finance estimated that the 2021 California Governor recall election will cost the state at least $215 million.
  11. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/01/us/dissecting-the-california-recall.html  NY Times article with background on the recall
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/article/california-recall-election-gavin-newsom.html  “Encyclopedia” on the recall of California Governor Newsom. 
  13. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/why-californias-governor-is-facing-a-recall-election/2021/07/15/f92566d8-e5b5-11eb-88c5-4fd6382c47cb_story.html  Analysis of the recall election.
  14. https://stoptherepublicanrecall.com/news/  Governor Newsom’s website to Stop the Republican Recall. 
  15. https://calmatters.org/politics/2021/05/gavin-newsom-recall-money/  The money behind the recall
  16. https://ballotpedia.org/Gavin_Newsom_recall,_Governor_of_California_(2019-2021)
  17. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/05/newsom-recall-california/618872/  review of why Gov Newsom is being recalled
  18. https://www.sos.ca.gov/administration/news-releases-and-advisories/2020-news-releases-and-advisories/ap20108. Numbers and percentages of Democrats and Republican voters in California
  19. https://www.ppic.org/blog/tag/approval-ratings/  Analysis of several polls on Gov. Newsom’s approval and the recall.
  20. https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/ccrov/pdf/2020/november/20251ra.pdf  On November 17, 2020, the Sacramento County Superior Court issued a final judgment in Heatlie v. Padilla extending the deadline to collect signatures.
  21. https://www.latimes.com/projects/california-recall-election-money-newsom-vs-jenner-cox/ List of large donors to the campaigns
  22. https://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Misc/filerSearch.aspx?SEARCH=recall+newsom
  23. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-03-11/political-battle-lines-form-newsom-recall-effort-boasts-2-million-signatures  March 11, 2021 LA Times article on the recall effort.
  24. https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/statewide-elections/2021-recall/notice-to-candidates.pdf   Update from the Secretary of State with the list of 41 candidates who have qualified for the election as of July 17, 2021.  A Certified List of Candidates will be available on July 21, 2021.
  25. https://calmatters.org/newsletters/whatmatters/2021/07/california-recall-roster-rundown/  Who is running as of July 19, 2021
  26. https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/statewide-elections/2021-recall/recall-calendar.pdf. Key dates and deadlines


  • Jim Mendez

    Jim Mendez came to Fresno in 1977 for his medical residency training at what was then called the Valley Medical Center. He stayed to practice medicine and raise a family. He is now a retired physician and a community activist.

    View all posts
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x