OAKLAND, Calif. — The California activist movement to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom just got a national shot in the arm from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, two former Republican leaders who still have large conservative followings.
The bid remains a long shot in a state where Democratic President-elect Joe Biden won 63.5 percent of the vote and Republicans have no statewide officeholders. But Newsom’s attendance last month at an expensive dinner party for a top lobbyist, combined with mounting frustrations with pandemic closures, have sowed discontent among residents.
“The ‘blue wave’ that the left-wing media spent months talking about disappeared in California,” Gingrich said Friday in a statement to POLITICO, referring to Republicans taking back four House seats Democrats won in 2018. “This is a direct result of Gavin Newsom’s destructive leadership that has crippled small businesses and sent billions of dollars of California COVID-19 jobless benefits to criminals across the nation.”
Gingrich nodded to Newsom’s stay-home orders, which now apply to most residents, and recent findings by county prosecutors that crime rings have worked with California inmates to draw hundreds of millions in unemployment benefits.
The Gingrich endorsement was touted by California conservative recall backers as a major breakthrough that will boost fundraising, volunteerism and exposure for their recall effort. California signature efforts almost always rely on millions of dollars to reach voters in a state of 40 million residents.
“Newt Gingrich’s endorsement will bring us into the national spotlight,’’ Rescue California Chair Tom Del Beccaro, a leading proponent of the recall movement, told POLITICO. “He’s all in: he will support us through social media, with donor phone calls, zoom meetings and fundraising emails.’’
Gingrich’s support came a day after Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a radio talk show host, tweeted his endorsement of the California recall to his 1.7 million followers.
“California’s liberal elite send their kids to private school & dine out while lecturing YOU about danger of leaving your home,’’ he said. “Governor Newsom’s shutdown holds families hostage. It’s time to go @GavinNewsom, I’m backing the recall,” he said, while including a link to the recall drive’s fundraising page.
Fox News has continued airing stories about Newsom and California, both a favorite foil of conservatives, who oppose lockdowns and have taken pleasure in accusing the governor of hypocrisy for his French Laundry dinner. While Newsom did not necessarily break rules by attending the dinner, his attendance came as he and the state discouraged residents from gathering with people from other households.
Newsom campaign spokesperson Dan Newman emphasized the effort was backed by supporters of President Donald Trump, who is unpopular in deep blue California.
“Interesting timing at same moment the Supreme Court rejects Trump’s last ditch effort to overturn an election. Trump, Gingrich, Faulconer, and Cox are embracing the same playbook, the same refusal to play by the rules,” Newman said in a statement, referring to former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox, both of whom are considering a run for California’s top office.
“These anti-vaccine pro-Trump extremists would rather create an expensive sideshow instead of working together to distribute the vaccine and restart our economy,” Newman added.
Tom Del Becarro, who is working in conjunction with another recall leader, Orrin Heatlie, said that after six failed attempts to recall Newsom, the efforts are catching on nationally because the Democratic governor’s actions have hurt businesses and taxpayers. “Half of the nation’s homeless population is California — everyone is paying for this,” he said.
Federal data shows that nearly 27 percent of the nation’s homeless population was in California as of January 2019, while the state has roughly 12 percent of the nation’s population.
A Sacramento Superior Court judge last month gave recall backers until March to collect the needed 1,495,709 verified signatures. That number represents 12 percent of the vote for governor in 2018, the minimum required by law. Backers claim to have 5,000 volunteer petition circulators and are also collecting signatures online.
The campaign has now submitted 297,567 signatures, the secretary of state reported Thursday. That is well over the 10 percent threshold necessary to trigger signature verification in counties.
The California Republican Party has already officially endorsed the movement, as have half a dozen key GOP party leaders in the state. Among them are Don Wagner, an Orange County supervisor and lead proponent for OpenCalNow, a group fighting Newsom’s pandemic closures; former California GOP chair Tirso del Junco; former GOP chair Frank Visco; and Mike Antonovich, former Los Angeles County supervisor and a former California GOP chair.
Read more: politico.com