The Republican-led, pandemic-fueled campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom of California got an official election date on Thursday, as the state’s lieutenant governor announced that voters would head to the polls on the issue on Sept. 14.
The date, just 75 days away and the soonest that county officials said they could manage to pull together a special election, was released shortly after the California secretary of state formally certified the recall petition. And it came after Mr. Newsom’s fellow Democrats in the State Legislature decided to expedite the process.
California is overwhelmingly Democratic and Mr. Newsom is widely expected to prevail, particularly as the state has emerged from the coronavirus crisis. The conventional wisdom among his advisers and allies has been that he will benefit from a swift decision, while Californians are still basking in relief from the reopening of the state’s economy, and before the autumn wildfires begin in earnest.
The timeline, set by a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, also severely restricts the ability of prospective challengers to get onto the ballot, leaving only about two weeks for them to join the race to replace Mr. Newsom. More than 50 candidates are already on the ballot, with a handful of well-funded Republicans seriously campaigning.
Expected to cost some $276 million, the special election will be the second time in state history that Californians have voted on whether to recall a sitting governor. The first resulted in the ouster of Gray Davis and the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.
Mr. Newsom and his supporters, who have derided the recall campaign as a last-ditch ploy for relevance by right-wing extremists, said on Thursday that they welcomed the decision of voters.
“This Republican recall is a naked attempt by Trump Republicans to grab control in California — powered by the same Republicans who refused to accept the results of the presidential election,” said Juan Rodriguez, the leader of the governor’s campaign organization.
Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego and one of the Republican contenders, countered that “this movement is powered by Californians from every community — Democrats, Republicans and Independents.”
Mr. Faulconer added, “Change is coming for California and retirement is coming for Gavin Newsom.”
Recall attempts are not uncommon in California, with every governor since 1960 facing at least one. But getting a recall onto the ballot is rare.
The campaign against Mr. Newsom languished for months before a series of pandemic-related missteps, judicial decisions and voter fury landed the governor — a liberal in a Democratic state who was elected in 2018 in a landslide — in a perfect political storm.