California recall all but certain based on official signature update

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Trump supporters shout slogans while carrying a sign calling for a recall of California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a protest against a stay-at-home order amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Huntington Beach, Calif., Nov. 21, 2020. | AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

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OAKLAND — California Gov. Gavin Newsom is all but certain to face a recall election this year based on an official update Friday indicating that proponents have gathered more than enough valid signatures.

Supporters say they submitted 2.1 million raw signatures by Wednesday’s deadline, which at their prevailing validity rate would push them over the threshold of 1.5 million valid signatures with a comfortable margin to spare.

The first post-deadline tally from the California Secretary of State’s Office fleshed out that reality Friday. Proponents had submitted 1.2 million valid signatures through March 11. The state had not yet processed a block of another roughly 400,000 raw signatures, which are likely to yield enough valid signatures to qualify given organizers’ 82 percent validity rate.

While the state still has weeks to certify an election, any sense of suspense has evaporated as Newsom himself conceded the recall election was likely this week. After sidestepping the topic for months, the Democratic governor embarked on a national media tour and rolled out a national network of prominent defenders like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams.

“The reality is, looks like it’s going on the ballot,” Newsom told reporters Tuesday in California.

Assuming supporters have amassed enough signatures, voters will likely go to the polls some time in the fall. They will be asked two questions: whether to retain Newsom, and who should replace him.

The coronavirus has propelled the recall, fomenting voter frustration and allowing recall proponents to win a critical signature-gathering extension in court. Critics pointed to closed schools and shuttered businesses as evidence of Newsom’s alleged fecklessness. Multiple Republicans have already declared their candidacies as the national GOP has poured in money to unseat Newsom, while the Republican Governors Association this week launched a fundraising account.

Newsom and his allies have pointed to California’s plummeting infections and relatively low death rate as signs of success, and they have lambasted the recall as an effort driven by right-wing extremists and supporters of former President Donald Trump.

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