Gavin Newsom appears in San Diego debate before 2018 primary.
Gavin Newsom spoke during San Diego debate before 2018 primary. Photo by Chris Stone

A physician who twice lost bids for Congress is taking steps to launch a recall drive against Gov. Gavin Newsom, even signing up the treasurer of the successful effort to oust Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.

Dr. James Veltmeyer of La Jolla is using social media and email to collect “proponents” for a notice of intention to circulate a recall petition, said political consultant Andrew Russo on Monday.

“We’re in a process of setting up our committee,” said Russo, who also managed Republican Veltmeyer’s 2018 campaign against Rep. Scott Peters in the 52nd Congressional District. “We should have that by tomorrow.”

(In 2016, Veltmeyer lost to Rep. Susan Davis in the 53rd District primary.)

Russo said the group’s treasurer is Vona Copp, a 1984 psychology graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Dr. James Veltmeyer is a Sharp-affiliated family medicine doctor. Photo via Veltmeyer

In 2006, Copp reportedly was assistant treasurer of a committee aimed at getting Democratic state Treasurer Phil Angelides elected governor. The committee was seeded by $5 million from Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakapolous and his daughter, Eleni Kounalakis — now Newsom’s lieutenant governor.

Copp has been treasurer of multiple candidates and political action committees, including the California Fresh Fruit Association PAC, as noted by

Democrat Davis was recalled — and replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger — after a recall effort bankrolled by former Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista.

In a message to supporters — on Facebook and via email — Veltmeyer listed four main reasons why the former San Francisco mayor and lieutenant governor “has violated the trust of California residents.”

“He seeks to make California taxpayers pay for the health care of criminal lawbreakers who entered our nation illegally at a starting cost of over $100 million,” Veltmeyer said. “This policy will serve as a magnet to attract thousands more illegal immigrants to California which will lead to skyrocketing costs and additional burdens on physicians and hospitals.”

Veltmeyer also cited Newsom proposals for more than $2 billion in additional taxes, “[allowing] our major cities to be overrun by homelessness” and encouraging “Sanctuary State” and city policies he says shield criminal illegal aliens from law enforcement and immigration authorities, “including vicious and brutal MS-13 gang members.”

Veltmeyer, 51, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but Russo said the recall effort is “pretty much (Veltmeyer’s) brainchild. He’s kind of been the impetus for this.”

Facebook pages and online petitions — including one by Joshua Lindsay of Los Angeles with nearly 42,000 signers — have been seeking a Newsom recall for months.

But Veltmeyer felt it was time to launch a serious effort, Russo, 54, said in a phone interview. Online petitions are of “no value in something like this.”

On Thursday, Veltmeyer announced a recall website whose FAQ says: “We’ve set a goal of 2 million signatures to ensure we have the required number of valid signatures. We expect our deadline to be approximately February 1, 2020.”

Veltmeyer — named a Physician of Excellence by the San Diego County Medical Society in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017 — said in another email that he’ll speak on the Newsom recall drive at a meeting Friday of the Chula Vista Tea Party (7 p.m. at 465 Vista Del Rancho in Chula Vista.)

A spokeswoman for Newsom didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The Secretary of State’s Office said the recall campaign has to file its “notice of intention” within seven days of informing Newsom — along with an affidavit on the “time and manner” of the governor being told of the effort.

Besides the four major reasons, Veltmeyer also alleges Newsom is defying the will of California voters on capital punishment and “shifting the burden of PG&E’s mismanagement of the state’s wildfires to ratepayers.”

The Newsom recall effort comes as The Associated Press reported Monday that “Republicans frustrated by losing their grip on political power in some Western states have begun deploying a new weapon: the recall.”

“Once reserved for targeting corrupt or inept elected officials, the recall has become part of the toolkit for Republicans seeking a do-over of election results,” said the AP report. “One GOP strategist in Colorado has put a name to it — ‘recall season.’”

To become the state’s 40th governor, Newsom defeated Cox 7,721,410* to 4,742,825 in November. But Russo cites a recent Quinnipiac University Poll taken July 10-15 that found 38% of California voters disapprove of Newsom’s job performance — up from 28% in February.

(The poll said 39% approve of Newsom’s job with 24% unsure or not responding.)

If the state signs off on the petition drive, nearly 1.5 million signatures of registered voters would be needed to trigger a recall election — or about 40 percent of the votes won by losing GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox of Rancho Santa Fe. Russo says his committee would shoot for close to 2 million.

“We’ve got a number of people out there already,” becoming proponents, said strategist Russo of Paramount Communications. “I understand there are signing parties going on in parts of the state…. John Cox got 4.7 million votes in his campaign. So the potential is there.”

*An earlier version of this report gave the wrong number of votes for Newsom.

Updated at 11:05 a.m. July 25, 2019