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California Gov. Gavin Newsom Officially Faces Recall Election

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The signatures are in. Today California's secretary of state says there are more than enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. The election would be California's first gubernatorial recall effort in nearly two decades, when Governor Gray Davis, also a Democrat, was recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Nicole Nixon, political reporter at CapRadio, joins us with more detail.

Hi there, Nicole.

NICOLE NIXON, BYLINE: Hi.

CORNISH: Remind us the background here, why this recall effort began.

NIXON: Yeah, this recall effort really took off back in November, when it came out that Governor Gavin Newsom attended a birthday party at this posh restaurant in Napa wine country. And that was around the same time he was urging other Californians to stay home, and people got very upset about that. But recall organizers say that there's a whole list of other reasons people signed these recall petitions - you know, for example, the high cost of living in California, this worsening homelessness crisis and just frustration over the state's strict COVID rules in general that have hurt businesses.

CORNISH: How has the governor responded so far?

NIXON: Newsom has painted this recall movement as driven by political extremists, anti-vaccine activists and national GOP figures, really, who despise California politics. He's launched a campaign to sort of fend off this challenge. He's even branded it the Republican recall.

CORNISH: Voters will be asked to weigh in on two questions later this year; whether the governor should be recalled but also who should replace him. Tell us who else might be running in that election.

NIXON: Yeah, so just on Friday, the transgender rights advocate, TV personality and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner announced that she would run. And she's reportedly being advised by members of Donald Trump's campaign team. She would join a crowded field of Republicans that's already announced that they're going to run. It includes some former elected officials - the former mayor of San Diego, former congressman and a Republican candidate who ran for governor in 2018 against Newsom and lost.

CORNISH: What do we know about how voters are reacting to all of this?

NIXON: Well, recent polls show that only about 40% of likely voters favor a recall. This is a Democratic state, and Gavin Newsom is a Democrat. He seems to have the favorability ratings to survive this. And many voters do point out that this would be an expensive election, and the governor's up for reelection again in 2022, just next year.

CORNISH: That's Nicole Nixon, political reporter at CapRadio.

Thank you.

NIXON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.