FRESNO, Calif. (KGO) -- At a campaign stop in Fresno on Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom lashed out at Republicans, arguing they have "weaponized" the recall process to help them win a statewide election.
"The recall process has been weaponized. It's been weaponized. It's been perverted," Newsom told the crowd of union workers. "It can't wait a few months? Quite literally a few months to go next June and go to battle?"
Newsom, who is up for reelection next year, told his supporters that he believes the reason Republicans don't want to wait until next year is because "they know in that traditional race you show up in unprecedented numbers and they can't win."
"So they have to catch us, as Dolores said, while we're sleeping," he continued, referring to civil rights activist Dolores Huertas, who was also at the event. "And here's our opportunity to send a powerful message that it will not work again in California."
Newsom's opponents say the recall election has nothing to do with timing.
With five days to go until the recall election, both Newsom and GOP frontrunner Larry Elder campaigned in Fresno on Thursday.
Elder attended a breakfast with farmworkers where he promised to tackle the water crisis if he becomes governor.
"I'm not a climate change denier contrary to what my opponents' ads say," Elder said. "I'm a climate change-alarmist denier."
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"Droughts are God made, but shortages are man made," he added. "And we're not preparing. We should be preparing when we have wet years to store the water."
The Central Valley has become a battleground for the recall effort with both Democrats and Republicans hoping to win over Latino voters. A poll from UC Merced that looked at likely recall voters in Fresno showed the recall failing in the city by 14 points. Voters said driving issues for them are climate change and the pandemic.
Still, the pro-recall groups are hoping to gain ground there in the coming days. A new ad airing across the region goes after Newsom for his demeanor. "You remind me of the guy in high school who took my girlfriend," a man says in the ad. "You still think you're better than everybody else."
The group "Rescue California" also held an event in Fresno on Thursday. Among the speakers was Angela Marsden, a restaurant owner who said her business was negatively impacted by the governor's policies during the pandemic. She said she is mad at the governor for how much money he's spent to defeat the recall.
"He raised $80 million to save his own job," Marsden said. "Where is the money for the woman...who is living out of her car and lost her house. If you can raise so much money, Newsom, why don't you raise it for us?"
Newsom has vastly outspent his GOP challengers. Supporters of Newsom argue they wouldn't have had to spend the money if Republicans hadn't pushed for the recall to begin with.
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See more stories and videos related to the 2021 California recall election here.