© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: California Governor Gavin Newsom attends the grand opening of a new federal and state-run vaccination center in Los Angeles
By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) – A Republican-led effort to remove California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has obtained enough valid signatures to participate on the ballot, state election officials said Monday. Newsom is likely to face retirement next fall in a race already shaping up to be chaotic, as three Republicans, including transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, have already said they will run to replace him. “I am ready to lead this movement,” said former San Diego Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer shortly after the signature count was announced. “Together, we will turn the page on Gavin Newsom’s failures.” Newsom’s campaign responded immediately, framing the withdrawal as a takeover by Republicans who have little other chance of winning state office in California, where the party only represents about a quarter of voters. “This impeachment attempt is a far-right partisan takeover and a waste of money,” Newsom’s Stop the Republican Recall campaign said in a text message to registered Democrats. In California, removing a governor is a two-step process. Voters decide if they want to remove the sitting governor and then, on the same ballot, choose a replacement. The state has not yet formally approved the revocation or set an election date. Under California law, officials have until Thursday to provide a final count of valid signatures. Voters will be allowed an additional 30 days to withdraw their approval if they change their mind. But as of Monday, supporters of the petition to remove Newsom, a cause celebrated among Republicans across the country, had submitted 1.6 million valid signatures demanding a recall election, the Secretary of State’s office said. Rescue California, one of the political action committees supporting the recall, had raised $ 2.2 million as of Monday, including $ 100,000 from an independent oil company and $ 500,000 from Prov 3: 9 LLC, a consulting firm. The California Republican Party has contributed about $ 186,000. Newsom, a former lieutenant governor and mayor of San Francisco, was elected governor in 2018 with nearly 62% of the vote. He would run for re-election in 2022. Newsom’s impeachment effort began in February 2020, led by a group called the California Patriot Coalition that opposed Newsom’s liberal policy. The campaign has gained momentum amid frustration with the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine in the state, schools closed and changes to public health rules.