California Democrats sharpen messaging against Newsom recall

Full Screen
1 / 6

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2021, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his 2021-2022 state budget proposal during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. The California Democratic Party is gathering for its annual convention on the heels of a recall against Newsom reaching the signature threshold to qualify for the ballot. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Democrats sharpened their anti-recall messaging Saturday during the state party's annual convention, arguing removing Gov. Gavin Newsom from office early would roll back immigrant rights and criminal justice reforms, stall progress on the housing crisis and waste taxpayer money.

The California Democratic Party gathering, held virtually, served as a venue for party leaders to energize some of the party's most active volunteers ahead of Newsom's expected election later this year.

“I’ve seen firsthand what a leader he is and how he really does put his heart into his work on behalf of the people of California, and President Joe Biden and I support him 100%," Vice President Kamala Harris, who began her political career in San Francisco alongside Newsom, said in pre-taped remarks. She added, “because of your hard work, we're going to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento."

The annual convention comes on the heels of the California secretary of state announcing the recall election had enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Though there are several more steps before the recall is certified, it's all but certain voters will decide later this year whether to remove Newsom from office before his regularly scheduled re-election in 2022.

Republican voters angry at Newsom's liberal policies on immigration, criminal justice reform and more launched the longshot recall effort last year. It gained steam during the pandemic, as people grew frustrated by Newsom's pandemic response. Still, recent polling shows Newsom with support from a majority of voters.

Newsom and his allies paint the recall as a partisan effort in hopes of keeping Democrats and independent voters united behind him; Republicans make up just a quarter of the state's registered voters. Maintaining the support of activists will be key to keeping another Democrat out of the race.

“With the help of the Biden-Harris administration, California is poised to put our fight against inequality into overdrive," Newsom said. “National Republicans and extreme right-wingers, they're not sitting back, they're throwing everything they can at their recall power grab all in hopes — all in hopes — of rolling back all the important progress we have made together. We can't let them win."

Elsewhere, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said removing Newsom from office would roll back California's progress on the housing crisis, though critics say he hasn't done enough to speed building. State Controller Betty Yee said the recall could cost $90 million, money that would be better spent on other state priorities. (State finance officials have not yet done a formal cost estimate.)