Who’s behind the effort to throw Newsom out of office?

Republican activists have been trying to recall Newsom since shortly after he was inaugurated in January 2019. Five attempts failed to get enough signatures. But a sixth try, led by a retired sheriff’s deputy named Orrin Heatlie, gained momentum after a judge granted supporters extra time to collect signatures due to the stay-at-home order at the start of the pandemic.   

Heatlie’s petition cites common conservative criticisms of California: high taxes, rampant homelessness, immigrant-friendly policies, and Newsom’s move to halt executions despite voters’ past support for the death penalty. Political consultants who worked on the 2003 recall of Gray Davis mailed the petition to potential supporters, an unusual technique that reflects constraints of signature-gathering amid a pandemic. 

Heatlie, a Republican who lives in Folsom, calls his campaign a nonpartisan effort and says it includes former Democrats who have lost faith in Newsom. “This is a movement that has brought people together throughout the state and unified people from all walks of life,” Heatlie said in an interview.

A few Silicon Valley tech executives who previously donated to Democrats now support the recall. But the campaign’s largest funders and most visible backers are Republicans. Supporters include wealthy businessmen and established GOP politicians, as well as far-right extremists who have peddled misinformation. 

“Voters signed recall petitions because California is on the wrong track, and we deserve better than the failures of this incompetent governor,” California GOP chairperson Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement after the announcement on enough valid signatures. “Gavin Newsom earned this recall, and we look forward to helping him into early retirement later this fall.”

Newsom spokesman Dan Newman calls recall supporters “a strange mishmash of people who are motivated for different reasons….You’ve got some pro-Trump, anti-mask, anti-vaccine extremists, along with opportunistic and ambitious Republican politicians who would like to be governor.”

CalMatters is tracking contributions to both the pro-recall and anti-recall campaigns.