Anne Dunsmore is the campaign director for Rescue California, one of two organizations driving efforts to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. As the petition has surpassed the required number of signatures to start the recall process, it’s become clear in recent weeks that “it’s going through; we’re ahead of schedule,” she said.
It reached the minimum 1.5 million signatures by Feb. 10, Dunsmore said, though campaigners are aiming for 1.8 million and beyond as a buffer for any that may be weeded out during the verification process. The momentum has been consistent and they have every hope of surpassing that well ahead of the March 17 deadline.
Dunsmore told The Epoch Times’ “California Insider” that “you can’t profile the people” involved in the effort and who have signed the petition. They come from both sides of the political spectrum and different walks of life.
Many of the volunteers are moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans—people who haven’t been activists in the past but are now coming out en force. There’s a 20:1 female-to-male ratio among the volunteers.
“Soccer moms” are the norm, she said. They’re focused on doing whatever they can to stay in the state where they were planning to raise their children and retire. They can’t afford it right now.”
The Baby Boomers have joined the effort, too. “[Newsom] woke up the largest demographic of voters in the state and possibly the nation, and that is the Baby Boomers.”
A lot of signatories to the petition have been people who registered as No Party Preference, Dunsmore said.
She listed off the problems in California motivating people to sign: “We have the highest taxes; we have the highest homeless rate in the nation; we have the highest jobless rate in the nation; these are not lists that anybody ought to be bragging about being number one on.
“People are just saying, ‘I have no faith California will come back in my lifetime.’”
But her message to voters is to have faith and take action.
“Don’t lose hope; don’t leave. Help fix the problem. Stay here, do your homework, vote, become active, teach your children how to be active, and by all means, please have reasonable conversations about what the solutions are.”
She is a Republican herself, but she hasn’t always been, and she’s married to a Democrat. She has two daughters, one on each side of the political spectrum. But, she said, they all get along well and have good, reasonable conversations.
“It’s not political. It’s a citizen’s movement,” Dunsmore said of the recall effort.
On Track for Success
The likelihood of the recall succeeding has hit home for Newsom, she said, as evidenced by his sudden lifting of lockdowns at the end of January. She believes the change of heart was due to fear of recall, which she thinks he and his advisors didn’t start feeling until recently.
The effort started about a year ago with the organization California Patriot Coalition. With about 5,000 volunteers out on the street, it laid the groundwork and got an extension granted for petitioning in November 2020.
That’s when Dunsmore’s organization, Rescue California, formed to help. It has 13,000 volunteers and it pushed forward with a mail campaign to complement the on-the-ground petitioning of the California Patriot Coalition.
With the mail campaign, she has seen 80 percent of the people who return a signed petition also drop a check in with it. The donations have averaged $37 each. By comparison, she said, a fundraising campaign mailing to known donors would expect an average of $18.
Rescue California has raised $2.5 million and counting, to complement the approximately $1 million raised by the California Patriot Coalition. The latter has garnered the lion’s share of the signatures and she lauded the group for its grassroots efforts, saying she thinks it has accomplished more than any other such effort in the past.
Dunsmore noted that major donors include people who often give to Democrats. For example, known Democrat and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya has donated to the recall effort. He has publicly criticized Newsom’s fiscal policies.
Avoiding ‘Bureaucratic Loopholes’
Dunsmore explained what’s on the road ahead to complete the recall process, but she prefaced it with a warning that the bureaucratic hurdles would be considerable.
“This is going to sound very tangled—and it is. … That’s what they [opponents to the recall campaign] are going to gain, is the bureaucratic loopholes that allow them to extend and extend and extend.”
Yet Rescue California is doing all it can to close the loopholes ahead of time.
Its volunteers are doing in-house verification of the petition signatures to decrease the likelihood that the official verification will find ineligible signatures.
They’re working directly with the petitioners, and those petitioners then send their own signatures directly to the registrar offices in their respective counties.
Those offices will verify the signatures, looking mostly for duplicates and non-eligible voters, Dunsmore explained. Her organization will have hopefully weeded those out already.
They are sending the registrars signatures weekly to avoid a pileup. “Because we know they’re going to say, ‘Oh, there’s too much and it’s going to take us extra time so we need to move the deadline back.’”
She estimates that even if they delay “completely to the nth degree,” the lieutenant governor will have to make the special election announcement in June, with the date for the election falling some time in August or September.
That’s perfect timing, Dunsmore said, because a new round of bills will be ready for the governor to sign into law by Oct. 15.
Campaigners are also aiming to submit all signatures by the beginning of March. They’re not waiting for the March 17 deadline. Though they’ve passed the 1.5 million mark, they’re ready to celebrate it as a sure thing when they have 1.8 million, and to aim beyond that, for 2 million. Dunsmore said they’re on track for their goals.
She compared it to the successful recall of California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003: that petition had about 400,000 more signatures than needed, totalling some 1.3 million. The recall Newsom petition already has more signatures, and will have a comparable buffer.
If all continues as planned, and the special election happens in the fall, voters will see a simple yes/no question on the ballot asking them whether Newsom should be recalled.
If yes, there will be a less simple choice of possibly more than 100 candidates to replace him. Newsom cannot put his name on the ballot.
With so many candidates, all it takes is for one to get more votes than the others, but that winner may not have a lot of support overall. “You could have a new governor with 20 percent of the votes,” Dunsmore said.
If the voters decide to recall Newsom, he’ll be out of office in a week or so. There’s no 30-day notice or anything, Dunsmore said. The law is designed to get governors engaged in criminal activity out right away.
Dunsmore highlighted a few specific cases of what she sees as Newsom’s failures.
He told a “bold-faced lie,” she said when he initially denied having dined inside the French Laundry restaurant after encouraging Californians to stay home.
He recently unveiled a $2 billion plan to reopen schools, but Dunsmore said he didn’t consult teachers, administrators, or others he should have. It was one of many decisions he has been criticized for making unilaterally.
Some Democratic officials, especially those who won by slim margins in their districts, may be looking at aligning themselves with other gubernatorial candidates, Dunsmore said.
She gave the example of Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris who won her seat by a slim margin and has spoken out against Newsom’s handling of unemployment benefit claims in the state amid the pandemic.
Dunsmore suggested voters “follow their moral compass,” and try to verify information they read in the news as much as possible. Though California may have a rough road ahead, she said, “I see it as a rebirth.”
“California Insider” is an Epoch Times show available on YouTube.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.