The ragtag campaign that could take down Gavin Newsom

The recall wasn’t purely the work of Heatlie, Netter and the superhero pirate; if not for a professional signature-gathering operation funded by more traditional Republican donors, it’s possible the recall would not have qualified. But Heatlie’s volunteer corps was still responsible for the large majority of signatures collected. And the origin of the entire enterprise was, essentially, a series of flukes.

Heatlie, who filed the initial recall paperwork, was off work and laid up with a bad back when he said he became “engaged in social media and Facebook-ing and YouTube and all that stuff.” It was only when he came across a 2019 video of Newsom advising immigrants of their right to refuse to open their door to anyone without a warrant that he began researching the possibility of a recall. Netter, a former office product sales executive who now sells real estate, said he initially “got a hair up my ass” not because of Newsom, but because of then-Senator Kamala Harris, who he saw as rising too fast through politics. When he found out senators couldn’t be recalled, he volunteered instead with a previous, failed effort to recall Newsom…

Looking back, Heatlie said he never doubted his approach would work. But the political establishment has been stunned. “It’s unbelievable,” said Tom Del Beccaro, a former state Republican Party chairman who is helping to raise money for the effort. “It’s not like some normal phenomenon.”