The petition to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) initially only gained traction after supporters of the movement seized on right-wing outrage over the governor’s COVID-19 mitigation measures.
Now, the unvaccinated lead organizer behind the effort has been infected with the coronavirus.
Orrin Heatlie is a retired Republican sheriff’s sergeant pushing the recall effort who has come under fire for incendiary social media posts that include urging microchips for undocumented immigrants. He told the New York Times this week that he was recovering at home after contracting the coronavirus, following a trip he took with a friend who got infected.
“Thought I was immune as I’ve had it before,” Heatlie, who is unvaccinated, told the Times in a text message. “Then spent 13 hours in a warm truck traveling back from Wyoming with a friend who came down with it on the trip.”
Heatlie added that his wife, who is vaccinated, got infected with the coronavirus because of him.
The petition spearheaded by Heatlie was once seen as a long-shot in the historically blue state. But Newsom’s coronavirus restrictions — and the controversy that ensued when he attended a dinner at the ritzy French Laundry last year without a mask, despite urging Californians to stay home — added to the running list of supposed grievances that recall supporters already had in their back pocket.
The outrage over Newsom’s actions further worked in recall supporters’ favor when a judge granted them an extension to continue circulating petitions last November – citing Newsom’s health orders that posed more obstacles to their signature-gathering efforts. The extension allowed Heatlie’s group to meet the requirement of the nearly 1.5 million signatures needed to bring their recall efforts to a vote.
Heatlie told the Times in February that Newsom’s French Laundry controversy made the recall effort an “easy sell.”
“I like to say we have nobody to thank but him,” Heatlie told the Times in February, “and he has nobody to blame but himself.”
Heatlie, who co-hosts an AM talk radio show called “Friday Night at the French Laundry, told Politico California Playbook that he missed his regular radio gig last week because he got sick with the coronavirus.
In the weeks leading up to the California governor recall election — which will take place on Tuesday — some GOP challengers have made headlines over a slew of eyebrow-raising actions.
In the middle of a candidate debate last month, Republican candidate John Cox was served legal papers that demanded that he pay $100,000 he owed to an ad agency that did work on his last campaign in 2018.
There’s also Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host who has emerged as a frontrunner among potential replacement candidates in the polls, who has gained significant media attention for his controversial remarks that include sexist comments against women and allegations of abuse towards his former girlfriend.