Recall campaign against once-popular Gov. Newsom gains momentum

DUBLIN, Calif. (KGO) -- A campaign is gaining momentum to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom based off of how he has handled the pandemic.

Newsom originally received some praise for his aggressive approach with the nation's first stay-at-home order last spring. But there is growing criticism over extensions to the order, and his admission last month that he dined at an opulent restaurant in Napa Valley while telling state residents to spurn social gatherings and stay home. The public shaming continues for his ill-advised dinner at the French Laundry, an establishment that features a white truffle and caviar dinner for $1,200 per person.

The governor has since apologized, but some are growing tired of the rules.

WATCH: Backers of a petition to recall the governor held a signature collection drive in the East Bay
EMBED More News Videos

Supporters of the recall of California Governor Newsom say they are more than half-way to the 1.5 million signatures needed to trigger a recall vote.

Outside the Dublin Hobby Lobby store where a signature collection drive took place on Saturday, volunteers had many complaints about his handling of the pandemic.

"Kids should be in school and they're not except for his kids because they go to a private school. He's doing things like he says we can't do like going to the French Laundry. We can't go to a restaurant but he can, " volunteer Jan Pedrini said.

Organizers would need to collect roughly 1.5 million valid signatures to trigger a recall vote.

"This is about citizens who are tired of being dictated to every single day and being told, 'You cannot go outside,' 'You cannot do this,' 'You cannot do that,'" said Randy Economy, a senior adviser to the recall effort.

In a statement from Dan Newman, a spokesman for Gov Newsom says the campaign by Trump supporters is a waste of money, adding the governor would "rather focus on getting through the homestretch of the pandemic."

It's not uncommon in California for residents to seek recalls but they rarely get on the ballot - and even fewer succeed. Several launched against Newsom faded but another attempt is drawing greater attention as his fortunes change while he enters a critical stretch in his governorship.

RELATED: 2 California regions' stay-at-home orders extended indefinitely as ICU capacity remains at 0%
EMBED More News Videos

Regional stay-at-home orders for Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley are extended indefinitely, California health secretary Dr. Ghaly said in a press conference Tuesday. ICU capacity is projected to remain critically low in both regions.

Photos of the Napa dinner - a birthday party for a Newsom confidante who also is a lobbyist - emerged showing the governor without a mask at a time when he was imploring people not to socialize with friends and wear a face covering when going out and around others.

Economy said there was a surge of several hundred thousand petition signatures after Newsom's restaurant debacle. "It has resonated. It's about the arrogance of power," he said.

Newsom appears to be getting on campaign footing. He has hired veteran Capitol insider Jim DeBoo as a senior adviser, which could help him repair frayed relationships with legislators and bring sharper political instincts to his office. Newsom also just named Dee Dee Myers, a former Warner Bros. executive and White House press secretary for President Bill Clinton, as director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development.

The prospect of a recall election is reviving memories of California's circus-like 2003 recall, in which voters installed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor after deposing the unpopular Democrat Gray Davis. There were 135 candidates on the ballot, including Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and former child actor Gary Coleman.

If the recall qualifies, Newsom would be forced to fend off rivals in the midst of a pandemic that has cost the state millions of jobs, cored government budgets and upended life for nearly 40 million residents.

RELATED: Small business owners react after companies founded by Gov. Newsom receive nearly $3M in PPP loans
EMBED More News Videos

Reaction continues to pour in following an ABC7 I-Team investigation revealing nine companies part of a group founded by Governor Gavin Newsom received millions in funding through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Read the full statement from Newsom's spokesperson below:

Gavin Newsom was the nation's first Governor to take bold action to combat the pandemic. Californians appreciate his decisive action, and support his current focus on distributing vaccines so we can safely reopen schools and businesses, and provide relief for families and small businesses.

Meanwhile, just like Trump refuses to accept and respect the will of the voters, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and other Trump supporters want California taxpayers to waste $100 million on a special election redo, mere months before a regularly scheduled election.

Californians don't generally take political advice from Newt and Huck - we'd rather focus on getting through the homestretch of this pandemic, instead of counterproductive debates about vaccines, masks, and Trump's delusional and destructive conspiracy theories.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.