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By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego

Dr. James Veltmeyer Recall Newsom ProponentLa Jolla physician James Veltmeyer got good news Friday. The state Secretary of State’s Office gave him the green light to circulate petitions to seek the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The bad news? Palm Springs author and speaker Erin Cruz beat Veltmeyer to the punch. On Sept. 7, the state OK’d her own campaign seeking to oust the Democratic governor.

As a result, both Republicans have 160 days to secure nearly 1.5 million valid signatures of California voters. Each.

Cruz told One America News that “we hope to send a love letter to Gavin Newsom on Valentine’s Day,” since her deadline is Feb. 13, 2020. Veltmeyer has until March 5 — two days after the statewide presidential primary.

But their efforts remain long shots. And petition drives can’t be combined.

Moreover, the California Republican Party isn’t endorsing either recall drive.

Bryan Watkins, the party’s field and political director, told Times of San Diego in a statement Monday: “We are aware and monitoring the efforts to qualify a recall of the governor. The party has not officially taken a position on these efforts as it has not been voted on by our membership, but we believe wholeheartedly that Gov. Newsom’s governorship has failed the people of California.”

Still, he said the state GOP will be relentless in highlighting what he calls the shortfalls of Newsom’s time in the Governor’s office.

“Gov. Newsom and the Democrats in Sacramento have failed the people of California by ignoring skyrocketing cost of living, homelessness epidemic and failing schools in our state,” he said. “In short, we need new leadership to address these issues.”

Watkins also says he’s unaware of either recall drive seeking state party backing.

Besides last November’s decisive victory by Newsom over Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox, another sign of the long odds is the cost involved.

San Diego political strategist Ron Nehring, a former state GOP chairman, noted the expense.

“A recall effort is a very challenging project requiring enormous sums of money and the gathering of a massive number of signatures within a strict time window,” Nehring said Monday. “I’m not aware of either of these efforts having those resources at this time.”

Nehring noted that Darrell Issa spent millions of dollars to fund the successful 2003 recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

“That kind of funding is necessary just to qualify a recall for the ballot, and while well-intentioned, I don’t see the organizers are there yet,” he said via email.

Nehring is sympathetic to recall proponents’ motivations, however.

“The organizers are certainly correct that California needs a new and better governor,” he said. “Gavin Newsom is keeping taxes high, signing bills that further restrict economic opportunity, and lacks the ability to make serious progress on housing and homelessness.”

Recall proponent Cruz didn’t respond to requests for comment. But she’s on the record as saying she wouldn’t run for governor on the same ballot a recall question is posed.

Veltmeyer spokesman Andrew Russo says the drives will proceed on different tracks.

“We are not coordinating with Erin Cruz,” Veltmeyer said. “We considered joining her at first but once we saw her petition, we realized that it was useless for professional, paid signature-gathering and the 8.5 x 14 format would result in many being invalidated because people would print them on letter-size paper.”

Russo says voters can sign both petitions, and the Veltmeyer campaign encourages this.

“But these are two separate recalls and two separate petitions,” he said. “The signatures can not be combined or pooled in any way. We believe ours has the best chance for success as we have our petitions formatted three different ways, based on how they will be used (by people at home, volunteers, or paid circulators).”

Veltmeyer plans on marketing and circulating petitions online and via email and social media, volunteers and organizations, and paid signature gatherers, Russo said, and “we continue to raise money in small donations from hundreds of donors throughout the state.”

“We will be advertising and marketing primarily through Facebook and other social media platforms as well as e-mail and probably events until we have raised sufficient funds for direct mail and the more costly forms of paid advertising.”

His campaign has produced two videos.

On Monday, Russo said the Veltmeyer effort sent a proposal to Cruz last week at the request of her campaign manager.

“She did not respond to us directly, but just produced a couple of videos attacking us as ‘thugs’ using strong-arm tactics trying to bully her, etc.,” he said via email.

“However,” Russo concluded, “we will not denigrate the Cruz effort at all.”

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