Who Is Running Against Gavin Newsom? Governor's Challengers as Recall Date Set

California Governor Gavin Newsom will face a recall election on Thursday, September 14, after a campaign seeking to remove him from office successfully collected more than 1.7 million signatures.

More than 70 candidates have already filed preliminary paperwork with the Secretary of State's office, which could make for a crowded field in the election. During the 2003 recall of Governor Gray Davis, there were more than 130 candidates.

The election has two parts. Firstly, voters will be asked if they want to recall Newsom. He will only be removed from office if 50 percent of voters agree. Secondly, Californians will be asked to choose his replacement from a list of candidates. Newsom can't run as his own replacement.

Some of the state's prominent Republicans have already declared their candidacy, while no major Democrat has yet come forward.

Newsom's party may choose to focus on winning the recall rather than on fielding a potential replacement candidate. Polls show Newsom is likely to survive the recall.

Here are some of the most prominent candidates who have declared an interest in the race so far.

John Cox

John Cox was the Republican candidate for governor in 2018 and lost to Newsom. He won 38.1 percent of the vote to Newsom's 61.9 percent. Cox launched his campaign this year standing next to a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear.

A businessman who has run for office unsuccessfully several times, Cox wants to slash taxes, tackle the state's homelessness problem and make California more affordable. He was recently criticized by mental health experts for saying he would "force" homeless people to receive mental health treatment.

Cox is running a beast-themed campaign featuring a "Meet the Beast" bus tour. His campaign website says he "will rip up the corruption from the roots to pass the beastly changes California needs."

Caitlyn Jenner

The former Olympic athlete and Keeping Up With the Kardashians star is probably the best-known candidate vying to replace Newsom. Caitlyn Jenner is transgender and a lifelong Republican who has previously expressed support for former President Donald Trump and said she wants to be a "disrupter" like he was. However, her campaign website doesn't list a party affiliation.

In announcing her campaign, Jenner said in a statement that "for the past decade, we have seen the glimmer of the Golden State reduced by one-party rule that places politics over progress and special interests over people. Sacramento needs an honest leader with a clear vision."

Her celebrity status has drawn comparisons to actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was elected governor in the 2003 recall election.

Kevin Faulconer

Kevin Faulconer was mayor of San Diego from 2014 to 2020 and previously served on the city council from 2006 to 2014. He's being touted as a Republican who can appeal to Democratic voters.

San Diego is California's eighth-largest city and was the largest city in the state with a Republican mayor during his time in office. Faulconer wants to create more homeless shelters and treat homelessness in the state as an emergency.

"I just firmly believe that every human being has a right to shelter, and I also believe that when we provide that shelter you have an obligation to use it," Faulconer told the Associated Press (AP).

Doug Ose

A former GOP member of the House of Representatives for California's 3rd congressional district, Doug Ose briefly ran for governor in 2018 but dropped out of the race citing a lack of support from Republican donors.

While serving in the House between 1999 and 2005, he pushed to make then President George W. Bush's tax cuts permanent and to stop automatic pay rises for members of Congress. He also ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 2008 and 2014.

"Californians are tired of having a governor whose operating themes are hypocrisy, self-interest, half truths and mediocrity," Ose said in a statement announcing his campaign.

Jeff Hewitt

Jeff Hewitt is a Libertarian businessman and Riverside County Supervisor. He's been a critic of California's COVID pandemic restrictions and has touted his position as a third-party candidate, suggesting he would be able to work with both Republicans and Democrats.

Hewitt explained his reasons for running in an op-ed in The Orange County Register on May 2.

"The reason I am entering the race for governor in the recall election is that this state no longer accommodates dreams, fosters ideas or solves problems. Instead, the state seems to grow more restrictive and punitive to individuals who want to make this state a better place to live through hard work and innovation," Hewitt wrote.

Steve Chavez Lodge

Caitlyn Jenner isn't the only candidate with reality TV connections. Steve Chavez Lodge is a retired homicide detective and fiancé of Vicki Gunvalson, who was a star on Real Housewives of Orange County for 15 years. A Republican, Lodge announced his campaign via Instagram on Tuesday.

"It's time for the people of California to regain control of their government," Lodge said. "Over the past decade we have seen the consequences of horrible state policies and even worse legislation."

He also claimed he has a "solution" to the state's homelessness problem and will share it "in the coming days."

Kevin Paffrath

Kevin Paffrath is 29 years old and has more than 1.6 million followers on YouTube. He's a real estate executive who's running as a Democrat—making him one of the few Democrats who have filed preliminary paperwork.

He says he can end California's homelessness "in 60 days utilizing the National Guard."

"The National Guard will be charged with providing compassion as well as building 80 Emergency Facilities to house and care for our homeless population," a campaign statement said.

He also suggests eliminating state income tax on the first $250,000 of income in an effort to deal with the state's cost of living. Paffrath will hold 10 rallies over 10 days starting on July 2

Sam Galluci

Republican and tech businessman Sam Galluci served as executive vice president and general manager of PeopleSoft until the company was sold to Oracle for $10.3 billion in 2004. He then focused on non-profit work and became senior pastor of Embrace! Church in Oxnard, California.

"As Governor I will work to not only provide new housing opportunities but education, medical, and mental health treatment to reintegrate our homeless population in society, by cutting red tape, partnering with non-profits, and expanding mental health treatment," Galluci says on his campaign website.

Larry Elder

Conservative talk show host Larry Elder is "seriously considering" a run for governor, according to Politico. He makes regular appearances on Fox News and has a nationally syndicated radio show on the Salem Radio Network.

Elder, who also calls himself "The Sage from South Central," issued a statement on Wednesday saying he "will announce my decision and why it was made" early next week.

Ric Grenell

Former Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Ric Grenell is one of the most prominent openly gay Republican men. He's reportedly been considering a run for governor in the recall election, but has yet to make a formal announcement.

Grenell was appointed by former President Trump in 2020 and was the first openly gay person to serve at cabinet level in the U.S. He had previously served as the ambassador to Germany from 2018 to 2020 and as the Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Peace Negotiations from 2019 to 2020.


Billboard model Angelyne ran for governor in 2003 and was one of a host of colorful also-rans in that contest. This year, she's set up a campaign website and appears set for another tilt at the state's highest office.

Angelyne told Los Angeles Magazine on April 9: "My slogans are 'Good Luck California' and 'I have the Key to California.' I'm going to be sitting on the key. In 2003 I set the pace and the pathway for people to run who were not just the gray-suited people."

"I'm this gorgeous blonde with big boobs and people saw that if Angelyne can run with that image, we can all do it and 500 people followed my lead. I've made a pathway for anyone who wants to run," she said.

Mary Carey

Another of the colorful candidates from 2003, former pornographic actor Mary Carey has also announced a run—a possible indication that the election could be as full of unusual contenders as the last recall vote. She's also set up a campaign website.

"Last time, I was young, dumb and full of fun," Carey told ABC 7 News on April 13. "And this time I'm more experienced and I am not going to take this position laying down. I am ready to be on top."

Newsweek asked Governor Newsom's campaign for comment.

Update 7/2/21 7:40 a.m. ET: This article was update to include a new image.

Correction 7/3/21 4.30 a.m. ET: This article was corrected to note that candidates submit filings to the Secretary of State's office, not the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) as previously stated.

California Gubernatorial Candidates Newsom, Jenner and Cox
In this composite image, California Governor Gavin Newsom (l.) is pictured with two of his rivals in the gubernatorial recall election, Caitlyn Jenner (c.) and John Cox. Getty Images