Recall Election Adds to Governor’s To-Do List

In the coming weeks and months, California Governor Gavin Newsom will continue to toggle his attention between pandemic-related policies, business and school reopenings, expanding vaccination availability, and a likely fall recall election.

Registrars across California’s 58 counties have until the end of April to complete the voter signature validation process and certify if recall proponents reached the 12 percent threshold of total votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election to qualify the recall proposal for the ballot. If qualified, the final decision on when to hold a recall election would fall to Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, who would be required to schedule the contest 60 to 80 days after the final certification of voter signatures. Based on this proposed timeline, a recall election will likely take place anytime between September and November of this year. Such timing could benefit Governor Newsom given the potential for increased optimism for a more “normal” California, as its residents get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Risk Management Lessons from Litigated Cases
Get Medicine on Trial, a free publication of more than 80 litigated cases summarized by CAP's General Counsel Gordon Ownby.

Meanwhile, back on February 23, as Congress negotiated President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package, the governor signed his own $7.6 billion COVID-19 relief package providing urgent relief to those in the state who have continued to be greatly impacted by the ongoing pandemic. The package builds on the initiatives in the Governor’s January state budget proposal to provide cash relief to lower-income Californians, increase aid to small businesses, and provide license renewal fee waivers to businesses impacted by the pandemic. In addition, the legislation also commits additional resources for childcare services and funds for emergency financial aid for community college students.

Governor Newsom, elected in 2018 with 62 percent of the vote, has acknowledged mistakes in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking to the Associated Press on March 18, a year’s time from the first-in-the-nation statewide lockdown, Governor Newsom addressed reopening modifications put in place after a mid-summer surge in infections and hospitalizations.  “We were communicating with counties and businesses and sectors and industries, not with the public, what that modification meant and what it didn't mean," he said. "And in hindsight, clearly, we could have done a much better job by informing the public what those modifications meant."

On the question of the recall, though, Governor Newsom insists the effort against him has more to do with politics than the public health crisis.

“It’s about immigration. It’s about our healthcare policies. It’s about our criminal justice reform. It’s about the diversity of the state,” Governor Newsom told Bay Area public radio station KQED in March. “It’s about our clean air, clean water programs, and meeting our environmental strategies.”  

Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Government & External Affairs Specialist. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to