Both sides of Newsom recall spar in virtual discussion as signature count deadline approaches

Inside California Politics

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Within the next few weeks, the secretary of state is expected to announce if an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom has enough valid signatures.

Wednesday, both sides of the effort to recall the governor gathered in a public virtual discussion, called “Inside the Recall,” hosted by the Sacramento Press Club.

There was plenty of finger-pointing and arguing about how California got here in the first place. Newsom’s Chief Strategist Ace Smith and recall organizer Anne Dunsmore verbally sparred.

“I feel like I’m debating Donald Trump!” Smith exclaimed.

“And I feel like I’m debating Bernie Sanders,” Dunsmore retorted.  

During the event, Smith said the recall is a Republican attempt to gain power in California.

“It will be a national debate about which is the direction California should go in,” Smith asked. “Is it one where we actually caring about people and taking care of them, or do we go toward the division and hate we saw in the Trump years?”

Dunsmore, who helped raise money for the recall effort with Rescue California, said the governor’s pandemic-related policies pushed millions to this point.

“Gavin Newsom has to answer to the people of California,” she declared. “Good luck if you want to keep going on and on about that because you’re talking to a universe of people that are not all Trumpers. They’re not all Q’Anon. They’re not all Three Percenters.”

Dunsmore had worked on the 2003 recall against former Gov. Gray Davis, which some likened to a circus, inviting celebrities like eventual Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to jump in the race.

Smith was asked if there are any celebrities or other potential candidates that might worry Newsom’s team.

“We’re not really worried at all because we’re going to beat the recall,” Smith replied.  

As Newsom’s administration plans for a full reopening for the state June 15, both sides were asked how the campaign might be affected if coronavirus restrictions have to be imposed between now and the likely election.

“He’s not afraid of anything. He will do what’s right,” Smith said.  

“This isn’t just about COVID,” Dunsmore argued. “It’s going to be about more rolling blackouts, mismanaging the power grid, wildfires, joblessness, homelessness and all the things that started this in the first place.” 

Although the final petition signature count has yet to be released, a campaign to remove signatures from the recall petition is underway. State law provides a month for opponents to do so.

Neither side Wednesday would say how effective that campaign would be.

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