A petition to recall Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) that had stalled five months after it was established has met a one-million-signature milestone. The petitioners now have nine weeks left — until the March 17 deadline — to amass the additional 500,000 signatures required to add it to the ballot.
Newsom has not commented on the effort to oust him, but surely now he understands there is a groundswell of ill will toward him. A substantial number of his constituents seem to abhor his punishing, hypocritical leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor made an egregious unforced error of considerable magnitude back in November. After repeatedly urging Californians to stay home because of the virus, he was photographed dining at the high-end Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry, whose menu offers the popular white truffle and caviar dinner that sets you back $1,200 per person. Also around his table were a gaggle of lobbyists, painting a troubling picture of how business may be done in Sacramento. Pictures of the event were widely circulated, showing the privileged entourage dined without masks the entire evening. Not to be outdone, Newsom’s fellow Democratic colleague San Francisco Mayor London Breed and friends partied at the French Laundry, too.
The blatant flouting of the mask mandates, lockdowns, and social distancing Newsom has demanded statewide since early last summer was enough hypocrisy on display to give the recall effort new life. Within two months, the million-signature milestone was met and has “huge momentum,” according to Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), who added:
“I think the important thing is that somebody has to have a wake-up call for the governor, or we’re going to go exactly down the road I saw in 2003, where Gray Davis didn’t understand and the people demanded a change, and they got a pretty radical change with Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
In attempts to stem the march of COVID-19 in California, Newsom has embraced increasingly draconian policies that have resulted in statewide devastation of small businesses, even as the Hollywood movie industry enjoys special lobbyist-crafted carve-outs to continue as “critical infrastructure.” The campaign of the wealthy, privileged, and industry-connected against the powerless small business owners was perfectly dramatized in a viral video in December.
It showed a restaurant owner who had spent thousands of dollars to install an outside seating area, only to have diktats by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Newsom shut her down. Across the street, just yards away, a movie production company shooting a film set up elaborate tents in an empty parking lot to feed its crew in open air. The beleaguered owner was in tears.
In November, Newsom lost a landmark court case brought by two Republicans that ruled his autocratic overreach during the pandemic unconstitutional. The presiding judge issued an injunction that has prevented the governor from issuing further executive orders under the California Emergency Services Act (CESA.) Unbowed, Newsom began lecturing Californians on what they could and could not do on Thanksgiving and how it was essential to wear a mask between bites.
This from the governor who ignored his own social-distancing and lockdown mandates to dine out mask-free with friends, and during the Christmas season. closed all restaurants and issued a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. Rules for thee but not for me. Newsom issued a public mea culpa, but it rang hollow. Signatures for his recall began quickly accumulating.
Democrats nationwide and the man from Sacramento with eyes on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are over the moon about the events of the last two months. But Newsom’s vaulting ambition will be checked by a most unwelcome reality if the remaining signatures for his recall are secured by March 17. That’s an eternity in political life that can change everything, as we have seen.
Read more from Pennel Bird.