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Politics: Newsom's nightmare: How one November day fueled the recall

Newsom, Warren see national consequences in recall fight

  Newsom, Warren see national consequences in recall fight CULVER CITY, Calif. (AP) — California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom enlisted progressive star Elizabeth Warren on Saturday to help him overcome a looming recall election that could remove him from office, warning that his ouster carries possible consequences for the national Democratic agenda on climate change, immigration and reproductive rights. CULVER CITY, Calif. (AP) — California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom enlisted progressive star Elizabeth Warren on Saturday to help him overcome a looming recall election that could remove him from office, warning that his ouster carries possible consequences for the national Democratic agenda on climate change, immigration and reproductive rights.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — On a single day last November, two events helped set the course for just the second recall election against a governor in California history: Gov. Gavin Newsom dined with 11 friends and lobbyists at one of the country’s most expensive restaurants as he pleaded with Californians to stay home, while those looking to kick him out of office won four more months to qualify for the ballot.

FILE — In this June 26, 2020, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom displays a face mask as he calls on people wear them to fight the coronavirus, during a news conference in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history, and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021. The coronavirus has been a dominating factor in the recall, which was first launched last year. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE — In this June 26, 2020, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom displays a face mask as he calls on people wear them to fight the coronavirus, during a news conference in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history, and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021. The coronavirus has been a dominating factor in the recall, which was first launched last year. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File) In this Nov. 9, 2020 file photo California Gov. Gavin Newsom conducts his weekly news conference in this photo from an internet stream provided by the Office of the Governor in Sacramento, Calif.  Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history, and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021. The coronavirus has been a dominating factor in the recall, which was first launched last year(Office of the Governor via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press In this Nov. 9, 2020 file photo California Gov. Gavin Newsom conducts his weekly news conference in this photo from an internet stream provided by the Office of the Governor in Sacramento, Calif. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history, and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021. The coronavirus has been a dominating factor in the recall, which was first launched last year(Office of the Governor via AP, File)

Photos of the maskless dinner showed the Democratic governor going against what he had been urging for months to combat the coronavirus: don’t gather in groups, keep your distance, wear a mask. That it was happening at the French Laundry — where the cheapest meal is $350 — fueled the idea Newsom was out of touch. The dinner turned up the heat on the fledgling recall, and the extra time allowed it to reach full boil.

What The French Laundry Has to Do With Gavin Newsom's Recall Election

  What The French Laundry Has to Do With Gavin Newsom's Recall Election A dinner California's governor attended last November has been credited with galvanizing support for the recall petition that ultimately qualified for a ballot.More than a month before the first COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), California was battling a rising wave of new COVID-19 infections with health experts predicting additional increases during the holiday weeks that were still to come.

By March, organizers had more than the 1.5 million signatures they needed to force a vote on whether to remove the first-term Democratic governor in the nation's biggest blue state.

“We had a perfect storm with the judge's ruling, with the French Laundry incident, with the greater environment of COVID and the economic disaster," said Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California.

FILE — In this Nov. 21, 2020 file photo demonstrators shout slogans while carrying a sign calling for a recall on Gov. Gavin Newsom during a protest against a stay-at-home order amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Huntington Beach, Calif. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history. His response to the coronavirus has been a dominating force in the race. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE — In this Nov. 21, 2020 file photo demonstrators shout slogans while carrying a sign calling for a recall on Gov. Gavin Newsom during a protest against a stay-at-home order amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Huntington Beach, Calif. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history. His response to the coronavirus has been a dominating force in the race. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Voters will have the final say next Tuesday. A majority of voters would need to mark “yes" to oust Newsom more than a year before his term ends.

Recall election: Campaign trip for Gavin Newsom could bring bigger benefit to President Biden

  Recall election: Campaign trip for Gavin Newsom could bring bigger benefit to President Biden President Joe Biden's campaign trip for California Gov. Gavin Newsom ahead of Tuesday's recall election, could help Biden as much as Newsom.Polls indicate Republicans’ attempt to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom is likely to come up short in Tuesday’s election – for which many votes have already been cast.

If they do, they would chose from a list of 46 replacement candidates — many of them unknown, but others with some recognition, including conservative talk show host Larry Elder and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner also is running but has failed to gain traction.

FILE - This Thursday, March 19, 2020 file photo, is The French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, apologized for what he called © Provided by Associated Press FILE - This Thursday, March 19, 2020 file photo, is The French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, apologized for what he called "a bad mistake" in attending a birthday party that broke the very rules that he has been preaching to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He has suffered severe political backlash since it surfaced that he and his wife attended the party Nov. 6 with a dozen friends at the pricy French Laundry restaurant in wine country north of San Francisco. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history, and the last day to vote is Sept. 14. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg,File)

Because so many people are running, the winner would likely become the next governor of the nation's most populous state with 25% or less of the votes. That's a far cry from the landslide that swept Newsom into office in 2018.

How the Newsom recall could strengthen the push for Covid mandates

  How the Newsom recall could strengthen the push for Covid mandates The closely watched California gubernatorial recall election on Tuesday is poised to send precisely the opposite political message that its proponents initially intended. © Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images An observer who declined to give their name watches election workers process ballots (and signatures verified) at vote centers across the state during the California gubernatorial recall election, including the Orange County Registrar of Voters in Santa Ana, on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, then Lt. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, holds his son, Dutch, 2, as he waves to the crowd at an election night party in Los Angeles after being elected California's 40th. Newsom was accompanied by his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and their children. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history, and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, then Lt. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, holds his son, Dutch, 2, as he waves to the crowd at an election night party in Los Angeles after being elected California's 40th. Newsom was accompanied by his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and their children. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history, and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

In California, a state where ballot initiatives thrive, many governors have faced recall drives under a century-old reform that created a mechanism for voters to remove them mid-term. But only one other effort tapped into enough frustration to make the ballot: Voters recalled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 over an energy crisis and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the last California Republican to win statewide.

A loss for Newsom, 53, would be a shocking twist in his relatively charmed political career and would almost certainly install a Republican governor in the nation’s chief laboratory for progressive policies. A slight majority approve of his job handling, according to a recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California that also shows the recall failing.

California recall election: Will the state keep or remove Gov. Gavin Newsom? Results could take time.

  California recall election: Will the state keep or remove Gov. Gavin Newsom? Results could take time. Tuesday is decision day in California and voters in the Golden State will decide whether they will keep Gov. Gavin Newsom or remove him from office.It's been a winding path to get here, but polls show the Democrat is likely to keep his job leading a state that is known nationally as a liberal trendsetter.

The results will be picked apart for clues on how voters are feeling heading into the 2022 midterm elections, when control of Congress and more than half of governorships are up for grabs.

“The outcome of this election is going to be fuel for 2022, period," Romero said.

Amateur political organizer Orrin Heatlie launched the recall in February 2020, before coronavirus became a full-fledged public health crisis in the United States. He was upset about Newsom's support for immigrants in the country illegally and other liberal policies.

By the time he began collecting signatures, the coronavirus dominated.

Newsom was the first governor to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, and when he dined at the French Laundry eight months later, the state had gone through whipsaw reopenings and closings that left small-business owners, parents of schoolchildren and others overwhelmed and confused.

FILE — In this March 27, 2021, file photo Orrin Heatlie, the main organizer for the Recall of California Gov. Newsom campaign, poses with a banner before recording a radio program at KABC radio station studio in Culver City, Calif. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history, and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021. The coronavirus has been a dominating factor in the recall, which was first launched last year. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE — In this March 27, 2021, file photo Orrin Heatlie, the main organizer for the Recall of California Gov. Newsom campaign, poses with a banner before recording a radio program at KABC radio station studio in Culver City, Calif. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history, and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021. The coronavirus has been a dominating factor in the recall, which was first launched last year. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

California was facing an uptick in infections and hospitalizations, and Newsom's administration was urging people not to gather with more than three households. While Napa County, where the French Laundry is located, allowed outdoor dining and limited indoor seating, the dinner party brought together a dozen people from more than three households.

Gavin Newsom looks to hold on to his job as California governor

  Gavin Newsom looks to hold on to his job as California governor California voters, who have endured raging wildfires, a historic drought and an ongoing pandemic, will decide Tuesday whether they want to remove from office Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who's led the nation's most populous state for the past two-and-a-half years. © FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images People check in before casting their vote at the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office in Norwalk, California on September 14, 2021 in the recall election of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

FILE - In this Thursday, April 1, 2021, file photo, In an effort to encourage Californians to get vaccinated Gov. Gavin Newsom receives inoculation from Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary, California Health and Human Services, at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles. The coronavirus has been a dominating force in the Sept. 14, recall election Newsom is facing.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Thursday, April 1, 2021, file photo, In an effort to encourage Californians to get vaccinated Gov. Gavin Newsom receives inoculation from Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary, California Health and Human Services, at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles. The coronavirus has been a dominating force in the Sept. 14, recall election Newsom is facing.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

News of the Nov. 6 dinner broke a week later, on a Friday when Newsom had no public appearances. In a statement, he said he and his wife “followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions" but “should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner." When he appeared in public that Monday, Newsom said it was an “outdoor restaurant" but acknowledged he made a “bad mistake."

The next day, a Los Angeles TV station obtained cellphone photos calling into question that the dinner was outdoors. The photos showed the table set back in a space with three walls and one side open with a sliding glass door. Newsom and the other guests were sitting close together and not wearing masks.

FILE In this March 9, 2021 file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers his State of the State address from an empty Dodger Stadium as his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom listens, in Los Angeles. Newsom suffered severe political backlash after it surfaced that he and his wife attended a party Nov. 6, 2020, with a dozen friends at the pricy French Laundry restaurant in wine country north of San Francisco. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE In this March 9, 2021 file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers his State of the State address from an empty Dodger Stadium as his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom listens, in Los Angeles. Newsom suffered severe political backlash after it surfaced that he and his wife attended a party Nov. 6, 2020, with a dozen friends at the pricy French Laundry restaurant in wine country north of San Francisco. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager for the pro-recall group Rescue California, said it reinforced the narrative that Newsom says one thing and does another. It also aligned with the image that Newsom's detractors have pushed — that he's an out-of-touch politician.

Gavin Newsom projected to win California recall race

  Gavin Newsom projected to win California recall race CNN and NBC both projected that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom would win Tuesday's recall race in California.Newsom held an early and substantial lead in results from California's Tuesday recall election shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m. local time.

“The French Laundry was an incredible boost to the effort," Dunsmore said.

The recall campaign similarly tagged Newsom as elitist when his children returned to class in person at a private school while most public school students were stuck with virtual learning.

Ace Smith, Newsom's longtime political consultant, disputes the dinner's importance in the recall's march to the ballot. He views the presidential election, also that November, as an important marker, saying Donald Trump's loss created fresh anger for the recall campaign to seize on. Six million people in California voted for Trump.

FILE - In this March 26, 2020, file photo, an indoors sitting bar is closed inside the Gelson's Market in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles.   Newsom suffered political backlash after it surfaced that he and his wife attended a party Nov. 6, 2020, with a dozen friends at the pricy French Laundry restaurant in wine country north of San Francisco. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this March 26, 2020, file photo, an indoors sitting bar is closed inside the Gelson's Market in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Newsom suffered political backlash after it surfaced that he and his wife attended a party Nov. 6, 2020, with a dozen friends at the pricy French Laundry restaurant in wine country north of San Francisco. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

“They realized that they had bottled up this intense anger among the Trump base, and the trick is they only needed a fraction of the Trump base to get this thing qualified" for the ballot, Smith said.

Neither explanation would have mattered had recall organizers not won four more months to pitch voters. A judge granted the extra time because the coronavirus stalled traditional in-person signature gathering outside stores or at farmers markets.

Newsom's team never appealed the judge's decision, a move widely seen as a tactical mistake. Then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla had said recall organizers were not showing signs of a serious campaign.

FILE — In this April 7, 2020 file photo food is loaded into vehicles at a food distribution center in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles.   Gov. Gavin Newsom  suffered political backlash after it surfaced that he and his wife attended a party Nov. 6, 2020, with a dozen friends at the pricy French Laundry restaurant in wine country north of San Francisco. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021.AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez,File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE — In this April 7, 2020 file photo food is loaded into vehicles at a food distribution center in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles. Gov. Gavin Newsom suffered political backlash after it surfaced that he and his wife attended a party Nov. 6, 2020, with a dozen friends at the pricy French Laundry restaurant in wine country north of San Francisco. Newsom is facing the second recall of a governor in California history and the last day to vote is Sept. 14, 2021.AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez,File)

The judge sided with recall organizers in a tentative ruling, and neither side showed up to argue it in court on Nov. 6, making it final.

The two main recall committees raised roughly $2 million in November and December, five times what the effort had raised before, and ultimately collected 1.7 million valid signatures.

Newsom launched his “Stop the Republican Recall" campaign in March, weeks before the signature gathering ended, painting the effort as one driven by Trump-supporting extremists. He's made the state's response to the pandemic and the economic fallout a central theme of his campaign.

The highly contagious delta variant blunted his early message of California “roaring back," and in the final weeks before the election, he's warning that the choice before voters is “a matter of life and death."

Elder is the target of much of Democrats' attention. They warn the conservative talk radio host would roll back mask and vaccine mandates and reverse progress on a host of liberal issues.

It's part of a calculation by Newsom's team to turn the recall from a referendum on the governor and his actions into a choice between Democratic and Republican values.

“If you sit around and let it become a referendum on the person in office, it doesn't matter how good or how positive they are, you're always at a disadvantage because you're playing defense," Smith said. “We need to be in a place, very simply, where we're playing offense."

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See AP’s complete coverage of the California recall election: https://apnews.com/hub/california-recall

Seven takeaways from California's recall election .
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday won a broad and renewed mandate from voters who soundly rejected a recall attempt on the strength of a mammoth turnout campaign that targeted Democratic voters.Newsom is the second governor in American history, after former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), to survive a recall attempt. His victory comes just weeks before the 18th anniversary of a recall that ousted then-Gov. Gray Davis (D).Here are seven things we learned from Tuesday's results. Newsom's margin was bigger than expectedWith about two-thirds of the expected vote in, 64 percent of California voters had chosen to keep Newsom around for the end of his first term.

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