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California’s Governor Was Tested by the COVID-19. Now a Recall Looms

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In California, both Republicans and Democrats say the threat of a recall election has shaped Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Things have been looking up in California. Vaccines will soon be available to everyone over 16. Los Angeles schools are about to bring hundreds of thousands of students back to classrooms. Disneyland, dark for a year, will throw open its gates in just a few weeks.

At the state capital, however, the coronavirus pandemic still clouds Gov. Gavin Newsom’s horizon. Soon, the secretary of state is expected to announce that a campaign to recall him has officially qualified for a special election.

Led by Trump stalwarts, amplified by Republican National Committee money and fueled during the pandemic by Mr. Newsom’s own political missteps, the recall initiative is widely regarded as a long shot. Putting it on the ballot requires roughly 1.5 million signatures from disgruntled voters, a drop in the Democrat-dominated bucket of 40 million residents.

But even if Mr. Newsom prevails, the pandemic has both tested and tarnished him politically.

Mr. Newsom presented the plan last month as proof of his determination to ensure that rich Californians did not crowd the poor out of access to scarce vaccinations. But the policy change also helped Mr. Newsom politically.

A new tweak in the system for determining health restrictions let a county move into a lower tier once a critical mass of vaccinations had been administered in disadvantaged ZIP codes. Many of those targeted ZIP codes were in Los Angeles, where teachers’ unions were refusing to return to classrooms until the county was out of the strictest level of health rules. Parent groups, meanwhile, were demanding in-person instruction.

Dr. Smith — whose Bay Area county has plenty of poor people but virtually none of the targeted ZIP codes — said the vaccine targets were part of a “fake equity plan,” based less on fairness than on Mr. Newsom’s desire to open up Los Angeles.

“What’s really going on has nothing to do with distribution,” said Dr. Smith, who serves in a nonpartisan position but said he identifies as a Democrat. “It has to do with the governor’s desire to buy himself out of the recall election by reopening Southern California as fast as he can.”

It is unclear how much voters will care about Mr. Newsom’s mix of motivations. Californians, who overwhelmingly opposed former President Donald J. Trump in the last election, are unlikely to replace a Democratic governor if their main alternatives are limited to the current challengers, who are Republican supporters of Mr. Trump.

The tall, telegenic heir to the “fifth-largest economy in the world,” as his predecessor Jerry Brown routinely boasted, Mr. Newsom has lost some of the benefit of California’s doubt. His approval rating has dropped by more than 10 points since May, when 65 percent of Californians trusted his handling of the pandemic. Critics even within his own party have questioned whether his recent decisions have been motivated by public health or the recall attempt.

The campaign against Mr. Newsom has highlighted the differences between the powerhouse California that elected him and the virus-battered California he now governs. Longtime political analysts see hidden weaknesses in his polling: The state may not want to recall him, they say, but his popularity has suffered, and his political fortunes are linked more closely than ever to the ebb and flow of the virus in his state.

“When you’re evaluating an executive — be it a mayor, a governor, a president, whatever — there are really only a couple of basic questions,” said Mike Madrid, a former political director of the state Republican Party and a co-founder of the anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project.

“Are the lights on? Are the trains running on time? And in this case, how have you managed the global pandemic?”

At the moment, Mr. Newsom’s report card is mixed.

California has record budget reserves, one of the nation’s lowest rates of new virus cases and a vaccine rollout that, after a rocky start, has started to gain steam. But the state also has lagged behind the nation in school reopenings and has the third-highest unemployment rate.

The politicking to come is expected to be expensive, national and corrosive. Recall proponents and their allies say they have raised about $4.1 million, including large contributions from major Republican donors, the state Republican Party and potential candidates such as John Cox, a San Diego businessman who lost to Mr. Newsom in 2018.

The governor’s team has reported about $3 million in contributions, including about $400,000 from the state Democratic Party, $250,000 from a union representing state government engineers, $125,000 each from the agricultural magnates Stewart and Lynda Resnick and more than $500,000 in small-dollar online donations in the 48 hours after the governor started a website called Stop the Republican Recall.

Supporters of Mr. Newsom portray the initiative as the work of Republican extremists. The leader, the governor has said, believes that the government should “microchip migrants.”

Orrin Heatlie, the retired Northern California sheriff’s sergeant who is the recall’s lead proponent, wrote a 2019 Facebook post that read: “Microchip all illegal immigrants. It works! Just ask Animal control.”

Mr. Heatlie acknowledged in an interview that he wrote the post, but he said that it was not meant to be taken literally and that he intended it as a “conversation starter.”

He said Mr. Newsom brought the recall on himself by imposing too many restrictions early in the pandemic and dining at an elite wine country restaurant while asking Californians to quarantine last fall.

Darry Sragow, a longtime Democratic strategist, predicts that Mr. Newsom will survive the recall. But he added that the governor’s numbers indicate that his troubles with voters are not over.

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Suspect arrested in fatal Brooklyn stabbing

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Police have apprehended a suspect in the fatal December stabbing of a Brooklyn man, cops said on Saturday.

The suspect, John Headley, 32, also of Brooklyn, was taken into custody Friday and charged with murder and weapons possession for the Dec. 12 knifing of Ken Baird, 37, police said.

Baird was stabbed multiple times in the chest following a dispute on Crown Street near Utica Avenue in Crown Heights at about 6:40 p.m., police said.

EMS transported Baird to King County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, cops said.

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Man dies after jumping from Staten Island Ferry

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A 53-year-old man died Saturday after jumping from the Staten Island Ferry into the chilly waters of New York Harbor, police said.

NYPD Harbor launch officers pulled the man out of the water after responding to reports of a jumper near the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan at around 2 p.m.

“He jumped off the ferry as it pulled away from the dock,” an NYPD spokesman told The Post. He jumped off the Ferryboat Andrew J. Barberi, police said.

The unidentified victim was removed to Pier 11 and transported to New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 3:10 p.m.

A newsstand worker said there were “about 50 or so emergency people” at Pier 11 following a valiant effort — which included CPR — to save the man’s life.

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An NYPD spokesman says the 53-year-old man “jumped off the ferry as it pulled away from the dock.”

Michael Dalton

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The 53-year-old man was transported to New York-Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Michael Dalton

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Kemp Lashes M.L.B. as Republicans Defend Georgia’s Voting Law

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Mr. Kemp, who is gearing up to run for re-election in 2022, has striven to re-enter the good graces of Republican voters after becoming a central political target of former President Donald J. Trump because of his refusal to help Mr. Trump overturn the state’s election results last year. A former secretary of state of Georgia who has his own record of decisions that made voting harder for the state’s residents, he is again a key G.O.P. voice leading the charge on the issue.

On Saturday, he repeatedly tried to paint the league’s decision as driven by Stacey Abrams, the voting rights advocate and former Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia who is seen as likely to challenge Mr. Kemp again next year.

Ms. Abrams, one of the most prominent critics of Georgia’s voting law, has pushed back on calls for sports leagues and corporations to boycott the state. She said on Friday that she was “disappointed” baseball officials had pulled the All-Star Game but that she was “proud of their stance on voting rights.”

In defending the law in Georgia, Mr. Kemp singled out two Democratically controlled states, New York and Delaware, and compared their voting regulations with the new law in Georgia. Those states do not offer as many options for early voting as Georgia does, but they have also not passed new laws instituting restrictions on voting.

“In New York, they have 10 days of early voting,” Mr. Kemp said (New York actually has nine). “In Georgia, we have a minimum of 17, with two additional Sundays that are optional in our state. In New York, you have to have an excuse to vote absentee. In Georgia, you can vote absentee for any reason.”

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