SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Organizers of the statewide campaign to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom from office are waiting to learn when a special election will be held this year.
Many believe the recall election will be in late October or early November, but it could come sooner.
"All of these people that are making these determinations are actually under the authority of the Governor's office and so we expect anything can happen at anytime", said Anne Dunsmore with Rescue California, one of the leading groups that organized the Newsom recall, "they could call an election tomorrow if they wanted to and within 60 to 80 days we would have that election and that might be to his advantage, and I guarantee that process will swing to his advantage as best as they possibly can do it."
Those behind the recall effort say Governor Newsom has demonstrated a lack of leadership ability to the run the state since taking office.
"I think there is a long list, it started a long time ago before Covid", Dunsmore said, "it's for reasons that were cited in the recall of (former Governor) Gray Davis in 2003, rolling blackouts, raging wildfires, the inability to manage those things and get in front of them with preventative measures."
Dunsmore also points to a scandal in the California Employment Development Department where state prison inmates were fraudulently given jobless benefits.
"The EDD portal is still nearly impossible to get through to file claims and you don't receive them for awhile", Dunsmore said, "so prison inmates are getting their money fraudulently and good, law abiding citizens are not getting theirs."
Recall supporters say Newsom has failed to lead on other key issues including unemployment, homelessness, a lack of affordable housing, water resource management, sanctuary for illegal immigrants and the state's initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic which led to thousands of small businesses being forced to permanently close.
"One of the win-wins for the recall has been that Gavin Newsom is finally getting down to business", Dunsmore said, "however he's doing it in such a superficial way, lacking in leadership and representative governance that even the plans he's coming up with are inconclusive and very transparent political responses as opposed to planned policy."
Recall opponents say Governor Newsom deserves to stay in office after having to deal with historic, unprecedented challenges.
"I think he's done a fantastic job as governor considering the pandemic we went through, we were one of the worst hit states", said Beth Schneider with the Democratic Club of the Santa Maria Valley, "I think the Republicans are doing this to encourage voters to register and be ready for 2022."
"I think he (Newsom) is doing the best job he can given the nature of some of the problems the state faces", Schneider added, "we intend to turnout the Democratic vote and make sure that Governor Newsom remains in office."
Some political observers say the Newsom recall effort is a partisan power grab.
"It's an effort on the part of the Republican party to have some significance in the state of California", said Allan Hancock College political science instructor Dan Payne, "they've been denied any foothold in California, they don't have a majority in the statehouse. It's not about Newsom doing a bad job, or anything of that nature, it's them trying to basically upset the apple cart."
Governor Newsom says spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a special election one year before he's up for re-election in 2022 is a waste of taxpayer money.
"This was a challenging year for the world, not just this country and our state, and in that process I understand why people expressed themselves the way they did", Newsom said earlier this year, "my job is to earn that trust back."
More than 1.7 million recall petition signatures of registered voters have been turned in to the California Secretary of State, far more than the required minimum to get the recall on the ballot.
Once the petition is certified, expected in late June or early July, and following a budgetary review period, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, in consultation with Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber, has 60 to 80 days to set a date for a special election.
A simple majority of "yes" votes will remove Governor Newsom from office.
Should that happen, his replacement will come from an expected field of more than 100 candidates on the ballot, the one who gets the most votes will serve out the remainder of Newsom's term in office.
"Given that the majority of voters in California are Democrats, it will be interesting to see the turnout", Beth Schneider said.
Others say time is working in Governor Newsom's favor.
"When they started this recall effort it was his handling of the California economy in connection with the virus, well we're coming out of that now and the economy is starting to boom so that's no longer an issue", added Dan Payne, "the issue is do they put a strong Democrat in there (on the ballot) to counter that in case the recall happens, it's a dicey situation."
Recall organizers say momentum and history is on their side.
"It could be in fact that 10 to 20 percent of the vote wins this", recall organizer Anne Dunsmore said, "with a 60 to 70 percent turnout model, that means of the 20 million registered voters, 12 to 14 million people will vote and we need to get 6 to 7 million yes votes."
"We can do this, this is a very doable do", Dunsmore added, "all along the way it was said we couldn't get there and we did and it became a reality, there will be a special election. When a recall election is placed on the ballot it does not lose in the history of this state."