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With the spread of COVID-19 plummeting in California, triggering reopenings across the state after a devastating year of lockdowns, the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom from office could lose one of its strongest selling points by the time voters are asked whether to remove him this fall.

Recall organizers remain confident that animosity will continue to linger over past school closures, job losses and the billions of dollars the state paid out to fraudulent unemployment claims during the pandemic, along with Newsom’s missteps, such as attending a lobbyist’s birthday party at Napa Valley’s French Laundry restaurant after asking Californians to refrain from similar gatherings.

But other Newsom critics say the recall campaign must tap into discontent over homelessness, sky-high housing costs and other central issues beyond the pandemic if the effort hopes to succeed.

“People want to get out and do things they haven’t done for a year and a half, so I think the challenge is getting their attention on issues that are not related to the pandemic,” said Republican political consultant Tim Rosales, who is not affiliated with the recall campaign. “The question is: Will people be thinking about that stuff again or will they say, ‘Hey look, I just want to get back to my life.’?”

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