SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Top Democrats urged California activists to stay united behind Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall, during the state party's annual convention Saturday.
"I know we're united and ready to work to ensure that he remains doing what he does best: Fighting for Californians every single day," said Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Harrison and others including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee and statewide elected officials addressed the California Democratic Party's virtual convention through pre-recorded videos, giving the annual event a more muted tone than most years. The gathering is typically held in person, bringing thousands of the party's more faithful activists together for days of policy discussions, networking and occasional controversy as delegates fight over the party's direction.
Later Saturday, delegates will hear from Newsom as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and other prominent Democrats.
The gathering comes on the heels of state elections officials announcing that a preliminary count shows the recall effort against Newsom has enough signatures to make the ballot.
Voters will get the chance in the all-but-certain election this fall to decide whether the first-term Democrat should be booted from office before his term ends. Delegates at the convention are some of the party's most hardworking organizers, who can knock on doors, make phone calls or provide a cheering section at rallies for Democratic candidates.
Newsom and his allies are also hoping to keep the entire party united behind him, and so far no other Democrats have announced plans to challenge him.
With no other major contests on the state ballot this year, Newsom's expected fall recall election will be one of the highest profile races in California and the nation. Republicans angered by Newsom's liberal policies launched the recall in early 2020 and his pandemic response fueled anger among a wider swath of voters. Democrats cast the effort as an attack on the state's progressive values, a theme that echoed through the convention.
Lee, who represents Oakland, said recalling Newsom would thwart California's efforts to build more affordable housing and curb homelessness.
"A recall against Gov. Newsom would not only be a setback in resolving the housing crisis, it would be bad for all Californians," she said.
State Controller Betty Yee said a special election could cost $90 million, which she called a waste of taxpayer money that could be better spent elsewhere. State finance officials have not yet done a formal estimate of the total cost.
In the recall, voters will be asked two questions: Should Newsom be recalled and who should replace him? He cannot run on the second ballot. Votes for that question will only be tallied if more than half of voters want Newsom gone.
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox, former congressman Doug Ose and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner are among the Republicans running to replace him.
The convention's theme was California Strong, and the morning session featured stories from nurses, teachers and others who struggled during the pandemic.
Harris' planned remarks are highly anticipated among California Democrats, who helped her rise through the state's political ranks, from San Francisco district attorney to state attorney general to U.S. senator, before she was chosen by Joe Biden for his presidential ticket.