Gavin Newsom dined out with 11 friends and lobbyists in one of the most expensive restaurants in the country as he appealed to Californians not to leave while those who wanted to remove him from office won four months more.
The photos of the masquerade dinner show the Democratic governor going against the advice he has been giving for months: Don't get together, keep your distance and wear a mask. Newsom seemed out of touch because it took place at French Laundry, where the cheapest meal costs $350. The extra time and dinner raised the temperature on the fledgling recall.
By March, organizers had more than the 1.5 million signatures they needed to force a vote on whether to remove the first-term Democratic governor in the nation's biggest blue state.
Mindy Romero from the University of Southern California, Director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy, said, "We had a perfect storm, with judge's ruling and French Laundry incident with the greater environment of COVID, and the economic catastrophe."
Voters will have the final say next Tuesday. To oust Newsom, a majority of voters must vote "yes" at least one year before the end of his term.
If they do, they would chose from a list of 46 replacement candidates -- many of them unknown, but others with some recognition, including conservative talk show host Larry Elder and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenniferner is also running, but has not gained traction.
Given the number of candidates, the winner will likely be the next governor in the most populous state in the country with at least 25% of the votes. This is a far cry of the Newsom-style landslide in 2018 that saw Newsom win by a wide margin.
California is a state that supports ballot initiatives. Many governors in California have been subject to recall drives. This was due to a century-old reform which allowed voters to elect new governors. Only one other attempt was successful enough to get on the ballot: The recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was fired in 2003 due to an energy crisis. Arnold Schwarzenegger took his place. He is the last California Republican who won statewide.