Organizers of the Newport Beach-based effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom said they believe they have collected nearly 2.1 million signatures to qualify the recall for the ballot.

The deadline for filing the signatures was Wednesday.

“It’ll come close” to 2.1 million, said Anne Dunsmore, campaign manager for Rescue California – Recall Gavin Newsom. “Maybe it will go over, but it’s safe to say it will come close.”

The recall requires valid signatures from 1,495,709 registered voters, 12% of the 12,464,235 votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Newsom on Tuesday said he expects the recall to qualify for the ballot. He also criticized the need for a special recall election, calling it a “waste of time” and money because the 2022 gubernatorial primary will be a few months later.

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, a co-chair of the recall effort, said that no matter how close the re-election campaign is it is still appropriate to push for a recall as soon as possible.

“Gavin can do a lot of damage between now and then,” Wagner said.

“Even if Gavin survives the recall or the public says no to Gavin, but yes to another Democrat there’s something to be said for keeping whoever is governor focused on the fact that you need to be responsive to the public.”

Dunsmore said Newsom “has really created so many problems in such a short period of time it’s very risky to keep him in office.”

In February, the Secretary of State’s office said that 83.7% of the signatures were proving to be valid, Dunsmore said.

“That could go up or down, but I don’t think the variance will be significant,” Dunsmore said.

The validity rate might be higher than usual because the organizers are fetching most of the signatures with direct-mail appeals, Wagner said.

“They’re targeting folks that you know are sympathetic and they have some confidence they will open the mail,” Wagner said. “They either throw it away or sign it and get it back. And it’s not like they’re going to sign Mickey Mouse… which is what you get sometimes (collecting signatures) at grocery stores.”

Wagner added he was surprised at how high the validity rate was.

“I’ve never seen in all my years of watching this stuff” a validity rate that high, Wagner said. “So we are very, very confidence that not only did we hit the mark, but that the public is dissatisfied with the direction of the governor and want change.”

Wagner said the recall was not just motivated by Newsom’s response to the pandemic.

“We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and he allowed about $30 billion in fraud (with unemployment assistance) and the highest poverty rate or very close to it, and yet we are overtaxed,” Wagner said.

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