California Governor Gavin Newsom won a rare recall election that left him fighting for his political life, with voters flatly rejecting the choice to replace him on Tuesday.
The Associated Press showed the results about 45 minutes after the polls closed on Tuesday night. Newsom’s most popular challenger was Larry Elder, a right-wing radio host who drew comparisons with Donald Trump, and who tried to cast baseless doubts on the electoral process.
The governor did not organize a surveillance party or celebration on election night. Instead, he took a somber tone when speaking to reporters on Tuesday night, saying: “Tonight I am humbled, grateful, but purposeful. “
Speaking in Sacramento, Newsom said that by voting no to the Republican-led recall, Californians were saying “Yes to science, we said yes to vaccines.”
“I am humble and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians who exercise their basic right to vote,” Newsom said, “and speak out so overwhelmingly in rejecting division, rejecting cynicism. “
As Democratic governor of a deep blue state, the governor found himself in the special position of having to defend his seat after the recall effort gathered momentum amid the worst of the pandemic , fueled by frustrations over school and business closures.
Although the race was called by the PA on Tuesday evening, the vote count is not yet final and election officials have 30 days to count all the ballots.
Recall petitions are very common in California, but only one other such recall has been voted in state history. Newsom initially dismissed the recall election as a costly distraction – indeed, it cost the state around $ 276 million. But Democrats shifted into high gear at the end of the summer as polls indicated apathetic and angry voters could cost him his job as head of America’s most populous state.
In the run-up to the election, Newsom – who struggled to overcome missteps and connect with young progressive voters – reframed the recall into a referendum on Trumpism – focusing on Elder.
The day before the Sept. 14 deadline to vote, Joe Biden campaigned alongside Newsom, telling voters “the eyes of the nation are on California.”
Calling Elder “the clone of Donald Trump,” Biden asked, “Can you imagine him as governor of this state? You can’t let this happen. There is too much at stake. “
Elder spent election night in Costa Mesa, Calif., Where party guests watched Fox News on the big screen and danced to live music from Phil Crosby (Bing’s grandson) and his band. of six men.
Among the first voters, Democrats were twice as numerous as Republicans – although the gap is expected to narrow on election day, with a larger proportion of Republicans expected to vote on election day. Polls that initially put Elder within striking distance of Newsom began to widen ahead of election day. As his chances of victory dwindled, Elder began to follow in Trump’s footsteps by spreading conspiracy theories to falsely suggest the election was rigged against him.
The results will have national reverberations.
The race also gave Elder, an element already popular in right-wing media, a bigger national stage. “I have now become a political force here in California,” he said in a recent radio interview, on KMJ Now radio. “I’m not going to leave the stage. His election misinformation, which was amplified by Trump and his allies, fueled a sense of mistrust of the U.S. election among conservative and right-wing voters.
Newsom’s other Republican challengers included former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner, businessman John Cox – who also lost to Newsom in 2018 – and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner.
The governor, who was elected by historic margins almost three years ago, has worked throughout the recall campaign to overcome his pandemic-era faux pas. Parents were frustrated when public schools were closed in California for much longer than in other states. Under Newsom, the state’s unemployment service faced significant backlogs and paid about $ 31 billion in fraudulent claims. The governor also faced strong criticism over the state’s initially slow rollout of the vaccine and its ineffective registration site. An untimely and lobbyist-laden dinner at Michelin-starred restaurant French Laundry amid the state’s Covid-19 outbreak last November gave his opponents new ammunition against him.
After surviving the recall, Newsom will serve another year before being re-elected.