Gavin Newsom Challengers Line up As Recall Threat Looms Over California Governor

Challengers to California Governor Gavin Newsom are lining up as a petition to recall the Democrat closes in on the number of signatures it needs to trigger an election.

The RecallGavin2020 campaign now has 1.4 million signatures. It needs almost 1.5 million—1,495,709, or 12 percent of the votes cast in the last election for governor—to succeed.

Those behind the campaign have until mid-March to reach their target. There have been several previous attempts to recall Newsom, but this is the first that has come close to succeeding.

John Cox, the Republican candidate who lost to Newsom in 2018, has said he will run again if the governor is recalled.

"I'm in. Without question," Cox tweeted on Tuesday.

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has also declared his intention to run.

The Republican said Newsom had "failed" California and he wanted to stand to "make a difference, not to make promises."

"Governor Newsom's ruling class has failed us. They promised equality, but gave us some of the worst income inequality in the nation," Faulconer said.

"They promised modern infrastructure, but can't even keep the lights on."

After Faulconer's announcement, Newsom's chief strategist, Dan Newman, said in a statement to the Associated Press: "Trying to exploit a global pandemic to advance a political career exposes his craven ambition."

Far-right political commentator Mike Cernovich has also said he will run, although he concedes that he has "no chance in Hell" of winning.

Cernovich added, however, that he hoped his campaign would force debate on the state's COVID-19 strategy.

RecallGavin2020 issued a statement on Thursday to say it had broken the 1.4 million mark. "We are in the red zone at the 10-yard line," said Randy Economy, senior advisor and spokesperson for the group.

As the recall campaign has gathered steam, some critics have questioned who is behind it—even suggesting it is a right-wing coup.

Newsom has come under criticism for his handling of the COVID pandemic, although a recent poll found he still had a majority approval rating for his performance as governor.

Questions have been raised about the vaccine rollout in California and Newsom has taken action in a bid to speed this up.

He is also at the center of a dispute with education unions over reopening schools, having suggested that it is not realistic to wait until teachers have been vaccinated.

Newsweek has contacted Newsom for comment on the potential challengers and the petition.

john cox at california rally
John Cox at a rally on November 3, 2018, in Santa Clarita, California. He has said he wants to run for governor again. David McNew/Getty Images