ORLANDO, Florida — Richard Grenell, a former top official in the Trump administration, on Saturday gave the strongest signal yet that he will run to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a recall election.
In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Grenell made the case that Mr. Newsom‘s failed leadership underscored the need for term limits or recall votes.
“If a public official is still failing to deliver on their promises, and if you can’t limit their term or recall them in time, there’s always one other option. You can run against them yourself,” said Mr. Grenell, a veteran diplomat who served as director of national intelligence and U.S. ambassador to Germany in the Trump administration.
A petition drive is gaining momentum in California to put the recall question before the voters. It would also open the door for replacement candidates for governor on the same ballot.
Influential people in former President Donald Trump’s orbit have been prodding Mr. Grenell to enter the race if the recall petition succeeds. Mr. Grenell was quietly preparing for the race but, until now, had publicly knocked down talk of his candidacy.
In the speech, he said Mr. Newsom was the “best case for a recall campaign.”
Mr. Newsom is under siege in California for, among other things, imposing strict COVID-19 shutdowns while flouting the rules himself.
“California used to be Reagan country, the shining example of business innovation and middle-class success. But now, when you think of California, you think of out-of-control wildfires, of rolling blackouts, of schools still closed, of shuttered businesses, bans on fracking and wealthy people jumping the vaccine line,” Mr. Grenall said.
He also hit Mr. Newsom for buying $1 billion of face masks and other personal protective equipment from a Chinese company despite American companies located in California make the same products.
The deal has been widely criticized, though Mr. Newsom insisted he “negotiated a pretty good price in the middle of all this.”
“In my three decades in American politics, I have never seen a better case for a recall than there is right now in California,” he said.
The recall petition needs 1.5 million valid signatures before a March 17 deadline. Organizers recently said they so har have 1.7 million signatures.
• Seth McLaughlin reported from Washington.