OAKLAND – Governor Gavin Newsom opened a huge head start on early returnees Tuesday night when California decided whether to oust the Democratic governor in the state’s second gubernatorial election.
With more than 5.2 million votes counted, 69 percent opposed the recall, compared with 31 percent in favor, as the results show shortly after polling stations closed at 8 p.m. Pacific Time. It was too early to call the race as the district election officials still have millions more ballots to process and report.
Democratic voters dominated the more than eight million ballots returned prior to election day, which likely gave Newsom a significant cushion as they returned ballots faster than Republicans and independent voters. However, political experts expected a late spike in recall ballots for Republicans who waited until election day to vote because they distrusted the postal process.
A number of recent polls suggest Newsom is poised to beat the recall by a double-digit margin, but Democratic turnout emerged as a key variable. While California has about five million more registered Democrats than Republicans, Conservatives initially reported higher enthusiasm – a difference that could allow Newsom’s opponents to narrow its advantage.
But post-election polls have also shown that the void is closing, and Newsom has repeatedly claimed over the past few weeks that its campaign successfully activated more Democratic voters. Newsom battled the recall back by resorting to a number of deep pocketed defense attorneys to fill a campaign war chest with approximately $ 70 million, giving it an unrivaled ability to communicate with voters. He also recruited national Democratic figures such as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Bernie Sanders.
Newsom also took advantage of the rise of libertarian talk show host Larry Elder, who quickly climbed to the top of the Republican field. Newsom pounded Elder relentlessly for his beliefs inconsistent with California’s Democratic electorate, such as his opposition to abortion rights, minimum wages, and climate protection programs. He referred to Elder as the heir to former President Donald Trump – an argument that Biden reinforced in an election night speech portraying the election as a choice between Newsom and Trump.
That dynamic has made Newsom advisors extremely confident, enough that top advisor Sean Clegg told reporters on Monday that “there is no scenario in which we lose”.
Newsom’s argument that the recall was a costly diversion serving a larger Republican agenda seemed to be resonating.
“I think it’s ridiculous that we have to be called back personally. Governor Newsom is not perfect, but these are tough times, it’s been a year and a half stressful and I think he got us through a pandemic. “Old Hollywood resident Chris Ciccarelli said, adding he was forced to leave on Tuesday personally after receiving a text message from the Newsom campaign. “What is happening in Texas, I don’t want this to happen, and it makes me very angry to see forces at work trying to undermine the progress we have made.”
However, Stephen Polillo, a 39-year-old water company from South Sacramento, said he voted to remove Newsom despite being a registered Democrat. He believed that the recall efforts were fueled by legitimate complaints about Newsom, rather than “Trump’s rights attacking a liberal state,” as the governor and his supporters have repeatedly claimed.
Even before the polling stations closed on Tuesday, Republicans were expecting a loss. Elder questioned the integrity of the postal vote and launched a website soliciting affidavits for voting irregularities. He refused to say whether he would accept Tuesday’s results when asked by MSNBC this week.
Other Republicans feared that Elder’s electoral fraud allegations would only serve to squeeze the GOP’s last-minute turnout. Ron Nehring, an adviser to Republican candidate Kevin Faulconer, tweeted that Elder’s website was “the most irresponsible act I have seen by a California candidate in my 20 years in politics,” and said allegations of election rigging were “synonymous with Republicans ”. to throw away their ballots instead of sending them in. “
The prospect of removing Newsom once seemed like a political fantasy, considering activists petitions to remove any incumbent governor but only qualified for one prior gubernatorial election in 2003 when film star Arnold Schwarzenegger took office.
But the pandemic has reshuffled California’s political landscape. Conservative enemies of the governor took advantage of pervasive frustration when Newsom closed the state last winter and benefited from an additional four months to collect signatures after a judge in Sacramento agreed to allow more time due to Covid-19 challenges admit. Newsom spurred signatures in November with its unfortunate decision to celebrate a lobbyist friend’s birthday in an opulent restaurant, despite urging Californians not to congregate.
The Republicans used the French laundry to condemn Newsom as out of reach. They tried to stir up anger over protracted school closings and ruined businesses to argue that Newsom’s mismanagement did permanent damage. Efforts began to attract national attention when it appeared that Republicans might stand a real chance of recapturing governorship and breaking a generational dry spell in what was once purple California.
Not long after supporters of the recall garnered enough signatures to qualify for the election, a declining virus and recovering economy put Newsom back on its feet. California’s mass vaccination program helped bring infection rates down to the point that Newsom was able to break a system of county-specific restrictions into taxpayers’ rebates on June 15.
Newsom had started something like a victory tour that summer. He promoted the revival of California at triumphant press conferences that also served as campaign events, and hosted game shows at glittering lottery events that gave vaccinated Californians the chance to win prizes.
This upward trend led Newsom to persuade the legislature to postpone the election date to mid-September, believing voters would be in high spirits. The Delta variant threw this plan through the bill and drove virus rates so high that the counties re-imposed mask requirements and Newsom ordered vaccinations or negative tests for government employees, teachers and health care workers.
But instead of shying away from the kind of restrictions that first sparked the recall, Newsom leaned on them. Making his closing argument a matter of pandemic contrast, he made a choice between the strict California rules – which Republican contenders vowed to dissolve – and the more relaxed approach of Texas and Florida.
Alexander Nieves and Colby Bermel contributed to this report.