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Newsom recall organizers submit 2.1 million signatures

Organizers of the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomNPR journalist discusses home affordability in California California Democrats weigh their recall options California opens vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and up MORE (D) submitted more than 2.1 million signatures to get the question onto a ballot later this year in the latest sign that the embattled governor will likely have to face voters in 2021.

Recall backers said Wednesday they submitted 2,117,730 signatures, far exceeding the 1.5 million needed by the Wednesday deadline. Supporters of recall efforts often submit hundreds of thousands more signatures than are needed in anticipation that some will be deemed invalid, but the California organizers appear to be comfortably above the signature threshold even if some are tossed. 

“The people of California have awoken,” said Randy Economy, a senior adviser to the recall effort.

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The signatures now go to 58 county elections officials for verification. Should enough signatures be verified, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) will notify counties by May 9 that the recall has qualified and then give voters the chance to withdraw their signature by June 21. Counties then have until July 6 to inform Weber if there are still enough signatures. Weber will officially certify the signatures on Sept. 17, the same day the actual date of the election will be scheduled. 

Of the signatures submitted, just over 64 percent represent Republicans, about 25 percent are from people with no party preference and 9 percent are from Democrats, according to Republican recall strategist Dave Gilliard. 

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Newsom has already conceded that the recall is likely to make it to a ballot. 

“I've only been in office 25 months. Just in 25 months, there's been six efforts to put a recall on the ballot. This one appears to have the requisite signatures,” Newsom said during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” Tuesday.

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“Am I worried about it? Of course I'm worried about it,” he added. “The nature of these things, the up-or-down question, the zero-sum nature of the question is challenging. ... We're taking it seriously.” 

Should the recall make it to a vote, voters will answer two questions on the same ballot. First, they will be asked if Newsom should be recalled. The second question asks who should replace him, though the results of that question are only tallied if a majority vote for Newsom’s ouster. Newsom cannot appear as a candidate on the second question. 

The one-term governor has ramped up his defense in the past few days after it became clear the recall effort was likely to garner the requisite signatures. Newsom on Monday launched a new fundraising arm that is allowed to raise virtually unlimited sums of money and has enlisted a string of national figures, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNewsmax host: Jury decided to 'sacrifice' Chauvin to the mob Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' World passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality MORE (D-Mass.), to aid his defense.

The recall effort has largely been centered around Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with critics bashing his lengthy school and business closures. Newsom received bipartisan backlash when he ordered some businesses to shutter and urged Californians to remain home only to be spotted at a posh restaurant celebrating the birthday of a political adviser. 

At least three Republicans have already said they plan to run should Newsom be recalled. Businessman Kirk Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin FaulconerKevin FaulconerFederal stimulus boosts Newsom ahead of recall Post-COVID equity must include closing racial gaps in housing What's next in the California recall MORE and former Rep. Doug Ose have all said they plan to run in the recall election. However, the field could become increasingly unwieldy given that there are no limits on the number of candidates who can run. 

The recall effort marks the GOP’s best chance of retaking the governorship in a state that has become increasingly Democratic over the past several years, though they still face an uphill battle in California, where registered Democrats have come to outnumber registered Republicans by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.