In summary

Want to quickly get up-to-speed on efforts to recall California governor Gavin Newsom? This illustrated guide will walk you through it.

Gavin Newsom becomes governor beating John Cox
Orrin Heatlie's second recall attempt against Gavin Newsom succeeds after five previous ones fail
Recall election proponents frame it as nonpartisan anger over government overreach; opponents as a right-wing extremist power grab
Recall election proponents scored a boon when Gavin Newsom was caught at a lobbyist's dinner party at the French Laundry restaurant.
Recall election proponents get four more months to collect signatures after court ruling
Coronavirus surge and French Laundry scandal drive hundreds of thousands more signatures in support of recall election
County election officials verify signatures supporting recall election
Recall election proponents get 1.6 million verified signatures; things just got real for Gavin Newsom
As of May 21, 2021, anti-recall forces raised more than twice as much as recall election proponents
Voters who signed the recall election petition have until June 8, 2021 to change their mind
Gavin Newsom says the recall election could cost up to $81 million
Sometime in the Fall 2021, recall election candidates can official launch campaigns
Recall election proponents have several prominent GOP candidates to run against Gavin Newsom; Democrats are trying for unity
The recall election will be all done by mail, and voters will first decide whether to recall Gavin Newsom and then decide who should replace him if the recall succeeds
If 50% plus one voter supports the recall election, then the candidate with the most amount of votes wins, even if its fewer than 50% of votes cast
Except to decide on the recall election sometime in November, then we can do it all again next year!
Recall Newsom volunteer Pat Miller holds up a sign during petition-signing event at SaveMart in Sacramento on Jan. 5, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Recalling a California governor, explained

Gov. Gavin Newsom is fighting for his political life. He’s working to fend off a recall that began as a far-fetched effort by Republican activists — but has turned into a credible campaign that could throw the Democrat out of office. It’s hard to fathom in this deep blue state where Newsom clobbered his […]


Want to quickly get up-to-speed on efforts to recall California’s governor? This illustrated guide to the Newsom recall will walk you through it.

Our story begins when Californians elected then-Democratic Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom as governor in 2018. His opponent, millionaire GOP businessman John Cox, lost by about 24 points.  No sooner had Newsom taken office than talks of recall began.

This is the sixth attempt to recall Newsom; the previous five failed. Former Yolo County Sheriff’s Sgt. Orrin Heatlie, who complained Newsom was too lefty and pro-immigrant, succeeded on his second try to force the issue to the ballot.

Recall backers frame the recall as nonpartisan anger over government overreach — especially as Newsom ordered restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Recall opponents cast it as a ploy by right-wing extremists to take control of a blue state.

The recall attempt was delivered a scandal on a silver platter after Newsom — who told Californians to mask up and socially distance — was spotted Nov. 6, 2020, dining with lobbyists at the swanky French Laundry restaurant. That same day, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles handed recall proponents a victory by extending the signature deadline by four months due to the pandemic.

One month later the number of signatures collected had swelled by almost 450,000. The recall attempt became as real as the pandemic surge that followed.

Election officials in all 58 counties worked to verify recall campaign signatures — manually counting them all and comparing those signatures to others on file.

On April 26, 2021, state officials announced the sixth recall attempt against him was headed for the ballot, having submitted enough valid signatures — 1,626,042 — to make it.

Once election costs are determined and recall signatures are certified, the election will become official, opening up the race to interested candidates who collect 7,000 signatures or spend $4,000 to get on the ballot. 

While the date of the recall election has yet to be determined — it will be sometime this fall — ballots will be mailed to every registered voter.

John D’Agostino

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Cecily Mireles

Cecily Mireles is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator who has spent the last 10 years of her life developing her own unique visual style and language. You can check out more of her work at cecilymireles.com....