California Governor Gavin Newsom won a rare recall election that left him fighting for his political life.
The Associated Press showed the results about 45 minutes after the polls closed, reporting that voters avoided the choice to replace Newsom with its most popular challenger, right-wing radio host Larry Elder. While 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.
Newsom, the Democratic governor of the Dark Blue state, found himself in a special position after a Republican-led recall gained momentum amid the worst of the pandemic, fueled by frustrations over the school and business closures.
Gubernatorial 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 an estimated $ 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 nation’s eyes 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. ”
Among the first voters, Democrats were twice as numerous as Republicans – although the gap is expected to narrow on election day, with a greater 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. Although the governor won, the Republican challenge in Democrat-dominated California is expected to embolden fundraising efforts and appeals ahead of the 2022 midterm.
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.
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 remained closed in California for much longer than in other states. Under Newsom, the state’s unemployment service faced large 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 inappropriate 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.
More details soon.