California Gov. Gavin Newsom will officially face recall election

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FILE – In this April 23, 2021, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference in Big Sur, Calif. A California appeals court has upheld Newsom’s emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic. The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento ruled Wednesday, May 5, 2021, for the Democratic governor in a lawsuit brought by two Republican lawmakers. (AP Photo/Nic Coury, File)

(NewsNation Now) — After weeks of validating signatures, the California secretary of state has confirmed there were enough valid responses to go forward with a gubernatorial recall election.

Only 43 of the 1.7 million signatures were deemed invalid, according to a news release from the secretary of state’s office.

The recall election will likely be in the fall. If Newsom survives the race he will be up for re-election in 2022.

Among the most prominent Republicans running to replace Newsom are former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, who has never run for elected office. Businessman John Cox, who lost badly to Newsom in 2018, and former Congressman Doug Ose, also are running.

Newsom is also facing criticism for overstating wildfire prevention work completed by his administration, according to a Capital Public Radio investigation released Wednesday.

State fire officials have treated less than 18 of the 140 square miles that the Democratic governor has touted, the radio station reported. The land is part of 35 priority projects Newsom designated in 2019 on the heels of the deadliest wildfire season in state history.

In 2020, California’s fuel reduction efforts also dropped from the year before, and Newsom cut the fire prevention budget by $150 million, CapRadio reported.

The governor’s office declined to comment on the investigation, and state fire officials took responsibility for Newsom sharing inaccurate information. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had not “done our job in educating the public, nor the governor’s office” on how to communicate about the efforts, Chief Tom Porter said.

Republican lawmakers and those challenging Newsom in an expected recall election later this year quickly jumped on the story as evidence of mismanagement and deceptive governing.

“It’s clear that Gov. Gavin Newsom has our state woefully unprepared for fire season,” former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a video posted on Twitter. “It’s time to have a governor that’s going to take it seriously, not stand up and say one thing and do another.”

State Assemblyman Vince Fong, the top Republican on the Assembly’s budget committee, called for an oversight hearing into the radio station’s findings.

In 2003, voters recalled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s the only other recall of a California governor to qualify for the ballot.

Newsom won election in 2018 with support from more than 60% of voters. Recalling him will be a tough sell in the heavily Democratic state where just a quarter of the state’s registered voters are Republicans, about the same number as those who identify as “no party preference.”

But organizers see an opening by energizing voters who were angered by Newsom’s handling of the pandemic and those frustrated by one-party rule in Sacramento. Republicans have not won statewide office since 2006, when voters gave Schwarzenegger a second term.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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