The Mama Bear Recall, Part 1: The Women Behind the Historic CA Recall of Gavin Newsom

The Faces of the Mama Bear Recall: Christine Abercrombie, Ellen Woitalla, Roxanna Maxam. Credit: Christine Abercrombie, used with permission

They call themselves the “Mama Bears”, and if it had not been for their partnership, organization, coordination, tire tread, and shoe leather, this recall of Gavin Newsom would not have been possible.

With the help of armies of volunteers across the state, volunteers that they themselves coordinated, these women garnered 2.1 million signatures. It is also due to their knowledge of past recalls, and the proper way to handle the petitions, that 1.7 million were verified by the secretary of state, triggering a recall election in order to remove Gavin Newsom.

In its 110 years of existence in Article II of the California Constitution, there have been 179 attempts to recall California elected officials. Only 11 of those attempts ever made it to the ballot phase. Of those recall attempts, 55 were to remove the California governor, and only one has been successful: the 2003 recall of Governor Gray Davis.

Eighteen years later, there is the strong possibility for a second successful recall. And we have these Mama Bears to thank for that.

Governor Hair Gel, as well as the legacy media, gives credence and promotion to every Left-wing fantasy horror group, from Q-Anon to Trumpists, to Proud Boys. Admittedly, the communications and visual face of the Recall has often been leads like Orrin Heatlie, Mike Netter, or Tom del Becarro. But it is these Mama Bears who did all the groundwork, the leg work, and sacrificed an entire year and a half of their lives in order to see the September 14 recall election happen.

Attention must be paid.

“We’re the ones that spent the hours, we’re the ones that got this pushed over the finish line,” Christine Abercrombie, Recall Gavin Newsom Executive Secretary and Lead Proponent said.

“And so, I really want to tell our story, you know, and from a woman’s perspective. This is not just a man’s kind of political world.”

I hopped on a Zoom call with six of the many Mama Bears behind the recall of Gavin Newsom. These women are scattered from as far north as Sacramento to as far south as Orange County, and they represent the (wo)man hours, the blood, the sweat, and even some tears, that went into collecting the necessary signatures to get the removal of a governor to the ballot.

Once the Newsom recall petition was approved, proponents were required to collect 1,495,709 verified signatures in order to trigger a special election. The Recall Gavin Newsom proponents collected 2.1 million signatures, 1.71 million which were verified by the secretary of state. The SOS reported the final signature verification on April 29, 2021.

For the call, Abercrombie staged herself in the room where it happened.

“This is called ‘The Mailroom,’ where all the magic happened.”

The wall behind Abercrombie is covered with cards, Post-Its, and notes.

Screenshot, Christine Abercrombie in The Mailroom-Mama Bears Zoom Call. Credit: Jennifer Oliver O’Connell.

All this stuff behind me is all cards we got from people saying, ‘Yes’” [to the recall], Abercrombie explained.

“We’re still getting petitions.”

All the petitions were submitted to the County registrars by March 17, 2021, but people are still sending them in. Roxanne Maxam, Recall Gavin 2020 Riverside County Coordinator chimed in,

“We stopped raining petitions,” she said.

I found this fascinating. Now that the legacy media is actually talking about the recall of Gavin Newsom in concrete terms, instead of some Republican pipe dream, they still channel their wish fulfillment in order to dismiss the possibility that their golden boy may well fall. So, most reports still say that Newsom will beat the recall, or paint it as too close to call. Maybe… But if people are still this motivated to the point of sending petitions, I would surmise there is no “too close to call” about it.

A substantial chunk of Californians want Governor Hair Gel gone; and they are looking forward to September 14 in order to see it done.

Abercrombie agreed.

“They’re big time activated.”

Abercrombie turned her camera to show me the laptop used to draft the recall petition.

Recall Gavin 2020, The Mailroom, Northern California. Credit: Christine Abercrombie, used with permission.

“It’s held together with Gorilla tape. As you can tell, the whole operation was a very sophisticated, ‘GOP Power Grab’!”

When the recall effort began to get close to the requisite signatures needed, the Johnny-come-lately CA GOP, and the national GOP decided it was worth paying attention to. Republican heavy hitters like former AR Governor Mike Huckabee and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich also chose to endorse and contribute money toward the recall efforts.

Once this Mama Bear team collected 1.6 million signatures, paid signature collectors were deployed to garner more, in order to have a cushion.

But the lion’s share of the work had already been done, and the Mama Bear teams deserve the credit.

Abercrombie proudly interjected,

“But we did it, you know, and we are not experienced and I want people to really know that—that we are not experienced at this. We are not part of the ‘machine.’ We are definitely, completely, one hundred percent grassroots and love our state. That’s why we’re doing it.”

Abercrombie is an accredited Master Florist who built a successful retail florist business in Fair Oaks, California, and she was an equally successful independent contractor for 16 years.

Until AB5 happened. That was the wake-up call for many of us, and Abercrombie was among them.

“I was never an activist. I’ve had nothing to do with politics, Abercrombie said. “You know, I always voted. I was a pretty good citizen, I guess, but, you know, when they did the AB5 thing… I was a freelancer for 16 years. I just watched my career just get signed away by Gavin, so, this is personal for me.

“And that’s my first and main reason, and then all the other reasons, you know, that we all have.”

Lead proponent Orrin Heatlie recruited Abercrombie and Ellen Woitalla, who was instrumental in taking the disjointed communities of Tulare and the surrounding counties, making them a cohesive unit for the collection of petition signatures.

“It’s been more than just collecting signatures for me,” Woitalla explained. “The Valley has a lot of different conservative groups, but they were never connected. And through the recall, through the signature process of collecting signatures, all these little communities that I represent—I mean, I represent a lot of little communities. Some of these ladies have big communities, where you have millions of people. While I have, you know, 10,000 here, 15,000 here, 5,000 here, all these little, tiny communities who felt like they were little islands.

“Well, through this whole process we’ve brought all these little communities together.”

Who knew that Gavin Newsom could be such a unifier? Yet, here we are.

The Recall Gavin 2020 executive team consists of six people, three women and three men. As the executive team secretary, Abercrombie ran point with the regional managers of 11 women and two men, and the managers facilitated the County authorized coordinators of 101 women and 28 men.

Woitalla became the Regional Manager for the Central San Joaquin Valley only after Heatlie assured her that it would be better organized than prior recall efforts. Heatlie made Woitalla manager in order to ensure this.

“So, I became Regional Manager for the Central San Joaquin Valley from Madera all the way down to Kern County, and my journey has just been to redeem California, Woitalla said.

“We’ve just been under a lot of tyranny, and my perspective is coming from an educators point of view, and I really want to see the union, the Teachers Union and other unions to have their day. They have to reveal why, why they are so in bed with Gavin, you know? But there’s plenty of other reasons.”

Heather Keller partnered with Abercrombie in The Mailroom as a coordinator.

Keller said she “saw the writing on the wall,” regarding the removal of the governor. She located a Recall Newsom Facebook group, then connected with Abercrombie to collect petitions and recruit volunteers.

“We had a group of us that lived at Christine’s house,” Keller said.

Abercrombie affirmed this.

“We were all women in The Mailroom, except for my dad and one gentlemen. We made my husband into the bartender in the after hours.”

Keller continued,

“It was full time, and we had lunches together, coffees together, tears together, it was actually a really great experience to go through. All of this, together with like-minded people.

“I think that’s how we survived a lot of it.”

Keller was promoted to Regional Manager for Northern California and five counties, including Sacramento. Along with working The Mailroom, Keller set up and coordinated volunteers for the signing stations.

And you know, I’ve just continued to be motivated by every action that this narcissist, tyrannical leader takes, and he’s giving us tools every single day to get more and more people angry and ready to recall.”

Representing the Central Coast of California, Ventura County Coordinator Shellie Balsz was also a part of the call. Balsz worked five days a week to collect signatures, and even went on some road trips, connecting with the coordinators and managers in other counties.

“I’m a single mom raising two children in California. That in itself is hard work, and I worked full time.”

Balsz owned her own business, and part of her impetus for involvement in the recall was the pain and stress that Newsom and the California legislature imposed on small business owners.

“But my biggest motivator is now my kids are out on their own, and I have grandkids,” she said.

“I really want my children to prosper in this state and my grandkids to have good schools. I agree with everything these other ladies were talking about, with the school choice and whatnot. I want my grandchildren to have those options.”

At the opposite end of the State, Riverside Regional Coordinator Roxanna Maxam, and Orange County Coordinator Wendy Redlew Shrove shared their experiences on why they fought for those signatures.

Shrove has one child in college, and another in high school, so her family felt the shutdowns and having her children locked out of school in a most potent way.

“Those of us who’ve been involved in education. We called it back in March. We knew that once the initial COVID scare was over with, that the Union would jump in and start negotiating for the things that they couldn’t get,” Shrove said.

“L.A. for the first time in history rejected a bond measure the prior year, and it’s, I think that’s really what gets me, what keeps me going is I am heartbroken for our children in California. We have got to get this man out of office.”

Like Woitalla, Maxam had been involved in prior recall efforts, and was determined to ensure this one would be different.

“We knew what we wanted in structure and we just hit the ground running, forming teams and different areas of accounting.

“I only signed up to collect signatures, but it ended up being so much more. I would not have traded a minute of my duties for anything—I loved it.

“I thrived, I worked with amazing women. We had some really good men in our team.”

Maxam has no children, but she has nieces, nephews, and a grand niece who motivate her.

“My goal is to restore the state back to something similar to what I grew up in, and I will move mountains to make that happen,” she said.

“This is not the state that I want my family, my nieces and nephews growing up in, so everything has to be put on the back burner for me ‘cause I’m pushing forward for them. I’m happy that we’ve gotten as far as we have.

“I love the Recall Gavin 2020 teams North to South. Everyone is connected whether it be in chit chats, group, individual emails, group emails—we’re all connected.

“We’ve become a unit, a family, and our main goal is to make sure that California is restored.”