Gavin Newsom faces another recall attempt. Will it do any better than last time?

Recall Newsom volunteer Kerin Kay holds up a sign during a petition signing event at a Save Mart in Sacramento on Jan. 5, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Here we go again: Conservative activists who worked on the failed recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021 have launched another attempt, arguing that conditions in California only worsened in the two-and-a-half years since then as Newsom’s attention shifted to national politics.

Rescue California, one of the main political committees behind the 2021 recall, announced today that it was pursuing a campaign to remove Newsom from the governor’s office before he terms out in early 2027.

“We’ve got to do it again, because he’s a better governor when he’s under a microscope,” Anne Dunsmore, a fundraiser and campaign manager for Rescue California, told CalMatters.

“We cannot do this trajectory for three more years.”

Newsom defeated the 2021 recall, which was fueled by anger over his response to the coronavirus pandemic, by nearly 24 percentage points. Then he won a second term a year later by almost the same margin, suggesting overwhelmingly liberal California voters have little appetite to toss the governor.

But Dunsmore said she has been frustrated to watch Newsom tout California’s success in the national media and become a surrogate for other Democratic candidates across the country when the state is losing population, smash-and-grab robberies are out of control and there is a high rate of homelessness among veterans. She said extending health coverage to undocumented immigrants while California is facing a budget deficit estimated to be tens of billions of dollars was a breaking point.

Dunsmore said she hopes the recall campaign will either force Newsom to refocus his attention on solving California’s problems, or damage what many presume are his ambitions to run for president in the future.

“He cannot own any bragging rights on a national level,” Dunsmore said. “If he stays home and fixes these problems, he’ll be a political rock god. I have no problem with that.”

Prominent California Democrats immediately circled the wagons, dismissing the recall petition as political gamesmanship by Republicans. In a fundraising email, Newsom asked supporters to help him keep “some anti-science, anti-woman far-right conspiracy theorist from becoming governor of California.”

“We are taking it seriously,” Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click said in a statement.

“These Trump Republicans are targeting Gov. Newsom because he is out there defending democracy and fighting for the reelection of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. He’s not going to be distracted from that fight. Democracy’s on the ballot, and he’s going to keep fighting.”

Rescue California could begin gathering signatures on its recall petition within a matter of weeks. The committee needs about 1.31 million valid signatures from registered California voters to qualify for the ballot, some 180,000 fewer than last time — though that attempt only qualified after a judge granted proponents additional time to collect signatures.

Dunsmore brushed off the notion that another recall campaign would primarily be a financial boon to political consultants and said her team “learned so much about what we went through two years ago,” including how to qualify their petition at less cost.

She blamed the failure of the 2021 recall on voters’ distaste for Larry Elder, the libertarian radio host who was the leading replacement candidate, and suggested things could go differently with a more viable alternative to Newsom on the ballot.

“The job now is to find someone who’s qualified,” Dunsmore said.

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