As the pandemic-driven campaign to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom enters its final week, the chief proponent said he has been sidelined with the coronavirus.
Orrin Heatlie, 52, a retired Republican sheriff sergeant from Yolo County, said he was recovering at home from a bout of the coronavirus.
“Thought I was immune like I’ve had it before,” said Mr. Heatlie in a text, adding that he is not vaccinated. “Then I spent 13 hours in a hot truck driving back from Wyoming with a friend who came down with it on the trip.”
The pandemic has played a major role in fueling the recall, which was seen as an opportunity when Mr Heatlie and a small group of local Tea Party activists began spreading petitions in 2019.
Their first complaint to the governor stemmed from his views on the death penalty and immigration, which they disagreed with. But when Mr Newsom initiated injunctions, class closures and other health restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, recall supporters added those upheavals to their list of grievances against him.
In November, a judge granted them a reprieve from continuing to circulate petitions because Mr. Newsom had made it harder to collect signatures. That extension allowed Mr Heatlie’s group to collect the nearly 1.5 million signatures needed to put the proposed recall to a vote — an effort aided when a maskless Mr Newsom was spotted at an exclusive restaurant with friends, after he had asked Californians to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus.
Throughout the campaign, supporters of the recall have overturned the governor’s mandate to get vaccinated, social distancing and wearing face masks. Mr Heatlie said his wife, who has been vaccinated, contracted the virus from him.
The recognition came as coronavirus cases, which are rising in other parts of the country, have reached a plateau in California, which now has some of the highest vaccination rates in the country. This week, Mr. Newsom, leading the polls, runs a new ad warning Californians that Republicans behind the recall will “remove vaccine mandates” and jeopardize the state’s recovery.