The Republicans include Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego; John Cox, a San Diego businessman who recently distinguished himself by touring the state with a live Kodiak bear; Kevin Kiley, a Republican state assemblyman; Ted Gaines, a member of the State Board of Equalization; and Caitlyn Jenner, a reality television star and former Olympic athlete. After some legal wrangling over a requirement to produce income tax returns, the conservative talk radio host Larry Elder is also in the fray — and has quickly become the front-running challenger.
The leading challenger among Democrats is Kevin Paffrath, a YouTube influencer and financial adviser. Others include the former Los Angeles billboard fixture Angelyne, who also ran in the 2003 recall, and Jeff Hewitt, a Riverside County supervisor and a libertarian.
Who started the recall?
Three sets of critics tried five times to recall Mr. Newsom before the sixth recall petition caught on in 2020. The first two groups were led by unsuccessful Republican candidates for Congress in Southern California, and the first papers were filed three months after Mr. Newsom’s inauguration in 2019.
All three groups were Trumpian conservatives who, at least initially, raised familiar arguments against the governor’s liberal stances on such issues as the death penalty, immigration, gun control and taxes.
The lead proponent of the current recall campaign is Orrin Heatlie, a retired Yolo County sheriff’s sergeant who had handled the social media for one of the earlier failed recall bids. He and his group, the California Patriot Coalition, took issue in particular with the Newsom administration’s resistance to Trump administration crackdowns on undocumented immigrants.
Why pick on Newsom?
Mr. Newsom, 53, the former mayor of San Francisco, has long been a favorite target of Republicans.
His liberal pedigree and deep Democratic connections push an array of G.O.P. buttons. His aunt, for instance, was married for a time to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law. Mr. Newsom, a wine merchant, got his start in politics and business with support from the wealthy Getty family. In 2004, he and his first wife, the cable news legal commentator Kimberly Guilfoyle, appeared in a spread for Harper’s Bazaar shot at the Getty Villa and titled “The New Kennedys.”
As mayor, Mr. Newsom made headlines for sanctioning same-sex marriage licenses before they were legal. As governor, he has remained a progressive standard-bearer. He championed ballot initiatives that legalized recreational marijuana and outlawed possession of the high-capacity magazines often used in mass shootings. One of his first acts as governor was to declare a moratorium on executions.