Californians hoping to remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office have met the state's minimum number of valid signatures to push a recall election forward this fall.
County officials have verified 1,626,042 signatures, according to the California secretary of state's website. Recall backers needed at least 1,495,709 valid signatures to qualify, which represents 12% of the votes cast in the state's last gubernatorial election.
Newsom has already formed a political offensive to fight the recall, saying the effort is a partisan attempt by Republicans aligned with former President Donald Trump to wrest power from his majority-Democratic state.
"It is what it is. This is a Republican recall," Newsom quipped in an exclusive interview with CNN before the latest signature tally. "An RNC-backed Republican recall of White supremacists, ant-Semites and people who are opposed to immigration and immigrants is an accurate assessment of who's behind this recall."
While the recall effort began well before the pandemic, Newsom's restrictive response appears to have fueled the effort.
Officials will continue verifying signatures until April 29. After that, any voter who signed the recall petition will have 30 days to reconsider their support and withdraw their signature. A recall election could happen as early as August or as late as December.
Challengers have already declared their intent to run, from former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner to establishment Republicans like former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. California's recall, with its low threshold to run as a candidate in the election, expects to draw many challengers. By law, Newsom is not permitted to add his name to the ballot.
In the state's last gubernatorial recall, in 2003, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced Democratic Gov. Gray Davis after he was recalled by voters.
This story is breaking and will be updated.