A full eight months ago, Ric Grenell, the former Trump official and Republican strategist, promoted the website RecallGavin2020.com and said it was time to kick California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) out of office.
“He has compounded the negative impact of the Chinese flu by shutting down businesses, and ignoring science based solutions,” Grenell wrote on Instagram. “California can do much better – we must end the one party control of Sacramento.”
That was just the start of a months-long effort for Grenell, who’d just weeks earlier stepped down as the U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence. He’s since kept pushing the recall, posting a picture of himself with signature-gatherers and writing on FoxNews.com that Newsom “cannot be recalled fast enough.”
The recall effort has now gone mainstream among Golden State Republicans — Wednesday marked the last day for signature collection, and even Newsom has acknowledged that his opponents will likely meet the threshold of 1.5 million valid signatures needed to have a statewide vote on the question.
Several previous recalls aimed at the first-term governor failed, but the current effort surged in November after the governor was photographed eating at the upscale restaurant the French Laundry despite the state’s public health orders, Recall Gavin Newsom spokesperson Randy Economy said.
But Grenell was on board long before that. And, now, he has emerged as a potential challenger for the governorship himself.
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) August 1, 2020
“If a public official is still failing to deliver on their promises, and if you can’t limit their term or recall them in time, there’s always one other option: you can run against them yourself,” Grenell told the Conservative Political Action Conference late last month.
Whether the hype will amount to an actual campaign is still an open question: Two weeks before the CPAC speech, Grenell denied a Politico report that he’d been interviewing campaign staff and preparing to announce a gubernatorial run if the recall qualified. But two days after that, in an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo, he dodged on whether he’d throw his hat in the ring, saying he was still focused on collecting signatures.
“I‘m not trying to be cute, Maria, I really just want to focus on long-term solutions in California,” Grenell said. “It’s going to take five, six years for somebody to really reform this place.”
After leaving the Trump administration, Grenell worked hard for Trump’s reelection, doing campaign events and fundraisers for him, acting as a spokesperson for Trump’s post-Election Day fight in Nevada. In December, Trump named Grenell to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, and, the day before Trump left office, Grenell posted on Instagram that he had spoken on the phone with Trump about California politics, among other things.
He’s also stayed close with the Republican establishment: In all, Grenell has received more than $111,000 in management consulting fees from the Republican Party over the past seven months, including a $30,000 payment in late January, according to campaign finance records.
All of that could help Newsom in the end: Trump lost California by nearly 30 points, and Democrats in the state have sought to tie the recall effort to Trump.
Then again, recalls involve some tricky mechanics: If more than half of voters decide they want Newsom gone, then the person with the most votes on the same ballot aside from Newsom himself will be elected governor, even if they don’t have a majority. In a crowded field, therefore, Newsom could receive more support than the person replacing him.
For that reason, timing could be key. It will take months for signatures to be certified and an election date set. And as time ticks on, more Californians are vaccinated and the state begins to reopen, the swelling frustration with Newsom in the state may subside.
Grenell, in a mid-February Newsmax interview, showed a seeming awareness of the schedule.
“I want to be able to go through and do the long-term changes in California,” he said, as reported by Newsweek. “And so I’ve made it clear I’m not running for governor in 2022, because I think nobody should be running on a normal election cycle if we’ve got a lot of work to do.”