California Governor Gavin Newsom looks likely to face a recall election that could oust the Democrat before his first term ends.
The announcement that Mr Newsom was beginning to raise money to defend his seat seemed to confirm that he believes organisers behind the recall have collected sufficient petition signatures to place the proposal on the ballot.
Still, a series of bureaucratic checkpoints must be cleared before the secretary of state’s office determines that the requirements for scheduling a recall election have been satisfied.
The agency is headed by Shirley Weber, a former Democratic legislator Mr Newsom appointed in December.
Recall supporters are required to submit nearly 1.5 million signatures to place the proposal before voters.
Organisers say they have collected more than two million signatures since starting in June.
Collections surged in the autumn and winter as anger intensified about Mr Newsom’s handling of the pandemic.
Mr Newsom and his Democratic allies have cast the recall attempt as a politically driven power grab.
He tweeted Monday that he will not be distracted by a “partisan” recall attempt “but I will fight it”.
Wednesday marks the cut-off point for organisers to submit signatures to county election officials, who have until April 29 to verify the authenticity and notify the secretary of state with the results.
However, given the various legal hoops that must be cleared, it could take until September before an election date is scheduled, which strategists on both sides expect to be set for later this autumn, perhaps November.
Recall organisers believe Mr Newsom and leaders in the Democratic-run Legislature will do everything possible to delay the election, hoping that his fortunes turn as virus cases fall, vaccinations increase and schools and businesses reopen.
“They can’t win at the ballot box.
“The only way they can win is to delay the system and delay the process,” said recall senior adviser Randy Economy, who is confident recall supporters will surpass the required signature threshold.
The fate of a potential recall election will be decided behind closed doors, where election officials across the state have spent months assessing the validity of petition signatures.