California Gov. Gavin Newsom picked up a major endorsement from President Joe Biden on Tuesday when White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted the administration’s opposition to a recall effort.
“In addition to sharing a commitment to a range of issues with @GavinNewsom from addressing the climate crisis to getting the pandemic under control, @POTUS clearly opposes any effort to recall @GavinNewsom,” the tweet said.
Newsom’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Newsom, a Democrat, has faced criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has battered California’s economy and killed more than 44,000 people statewide, according to NBC News counts.
California has the most coronavirus cases of any state, with more than 3.4 million confirmed infections.
As of this week, the recall campaign has collected close to the 1.5 million signatures needed to force a special election, said Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager for Rescue California, one of the organizations supporting the recall effort.
Recall organizers have until mid-March to submit 1.5 million certified signatures. Experts have said the campaign will need to submit a surplus of signatures to ensure that it meets the threshold set by state officials.
Dunsmore said Biden‘s wading into the recall shows that Newsom is taking the threat seriously.
“They’re calling in the big guns,” she said. “That says a lot. It means game on.”
Newsom and the Biden administration have remained close allies. Newsom enthusiastically supported Sen. Kamala Harris of California as Biden‘s pick for vice president. Before that, Newsom and Harris worked closely together when Harris was San Francisco’s district attorney during Newsom’s tenure as mayor.
Last week, the Biden administration announced that the federal government would open its first vaccination sites in California as part of its push to boost vaccinations. The sites will be in Oakland and Los Angeles, near communities hit hard by the pandemic.
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Recall organizers have raised about $3.4 million, Dunsmore said. While the effort started as a conservative-led initiative, more Democrats and independents are joining the campaign. More than 20 percent of the collected signatures appear to be from people with no party affiliations, and 10 percent are Democrats, Dunsmore said.
The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found in a poll it released last week that 54 percent of Californians approve of Newsom’s job performance, down from 65 percent in May.
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, has been one of Newsom’s most vocal critics, blasting him for keeping schools closed too long, crippling the restaurant industry by banning indoor dining and shifting vaccination strategies that have confused and frustrated millions of Californians. Faulconer announced his intention to run against Newsom in a recall election last week. He said that if the recall effort fails, he will run against Newsom next year, when he is up for re-election.