What does it take to run in the California recall? A few thousand dollars, some signatures, and a dream

Liz Kreutz Image
ByLiz Kreutz KGO logo
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Why the 2021 CA recall is poised to be a circus
The recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to be a wild one, with candidates like Caitlyn Jenner and even Randy Quaid throwing their hats in the race. Here's what it takes to run in a California recall election.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Buckle up, California. The race to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is already becoming a circus.

Dozens of people have announced they're running or hinted they might be.

Candidates span the gambit from conventional (former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox, for instance) to the absurd (looking at you, Mary Carey). There's also celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and actor Randy Quaid, who tweeted this week he's also mulling a run.

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger predicted that more than 100 candidates will ultimately be on the ballot this year. Why? Well, it also happened in 2003. It's largely because running in the recall election is relatively easy.

RELATED: Map shows where the most recall Gavin Newsom signatures came from in California

According to the California Secretary of State's office, a person who wishes to run in the recall election of a governor must be a U.S. citizen, registered to vote in California and not convicted of a felony involving bribery.

There's also a relatively low filing fee and signature requirement. A person who wants to be on the ballot must pay nearly $4,000 ($3,916.12 to be exact) and gather at least 65 signatures. Gathering 7,000 signatures waives the filing fee entirely.

"Running in the California recall may be the best bargain there is in terms of seeking fame and fortune," Carla Marinucci, author of POLITICO's California Playbook, told ABC7 News. "It only costs $4,000 to get on the ballot and that gets you and your message before 22 million California voters."

Using a recall for publicity is something ABC7 News explored in our new documentary, "Total Recalled: The story of America's largest, wildest recall election," which looks back at the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis. There were 135 candidates who ran to replace him, including Daniel Watts, who was a college student who ran using money he won on Wheel of Fortune.

RELATED: Arnold Schwarzenegger weighs in on CA recall, says Caitlyn Jenner 'has a chance'

"I had a platform. It was lower student fees for college students," Watts, who now works as an attorney in San Diego, recalled in the documentary. "And I was upfront. I said, 'I know I'm not going to win. My goal isn't to win. I'm not a crazy person. All I want to do is make the real candidates, the people who will win, pay attention to this issue."

Other candidates, like former adult film star Mary Carey, admitted they ran to get publicity.

Marinucci predicts this time around it will be the same kind of circus -- and potentially even more.

"This is an opportunity for those wanting to up their profile on Instagram on TikTok and everywhere else on social media for $4,000," she said. "That did not exist in the 2003... this is a whole new universe, which is going to make California's recall the national election to watch this year."

Take a look at the latest stories and videos about the California governor recall.

WATCH: Total Recalled: Story of America's largest, wildest recall election

With a recall election of California Governor Gavin Newsom looming, ABC7 Originals presents, "Total Recalled: The story of America's largest, wildest recall election," a look at the Gray Davis recall and election of Arnold Schwarzenegger.