A Republican-led bid to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom ended in a crushing defeat tonight, as Democrats in the nation’s most populous state closed ranks against a small grass-roots movement.
With nearly 70 percent of the vote in, Newsom led with 5,619,538 votes, or 65.8%, against removing him from office, compared with 2,916,257 votes, or 34.2%, in favor of the recall.
“I said this many, many times on the campaign trail. We may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country. The Big Lie, the January 6 insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country,” Newsom said at his Tuesday night victory speech. “We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud and voter suppression. We said yes to women’s fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body, her faith, her future. We said yes to diversity.”
Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host, led 46 challengers way back behind the no vote.
The vote spoke to the power liberal voters wield in California: No Republican has held statewide office in more than a decade.
But it also reflected the state’s recent progress against the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 67,000 lives in California.
The state has one of the nation’s highest vaccination rates and one of its lowest rates of new virus cases — which the governor tirelessly argued to voters were the results of his vaccine and mask requirements.
Although Newsom’s critics had started the recall because they opposed his stances on the death penalty and immigration, it was the politicization of the pandemic that propelled it onto the ballot as Californians became impatient with shutdowns of businesses and classrooms.
In polls, Californians said no issue was more pressing than the virus.
The Associated Press called the race for Newsom, who had won in a 62 percent landslide in 2018, less than an hour after the polls closed on Tuesday.
In Orange County, Elder spoke to a packed ballroom of supporters and conceded the race. “Let’s be gracious in defeat,” he said, adding, “We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war.”
Considered a bellwether for the 2022 midterm elections, the recall outcome came as a relief to Democrats nationally.
Though polls showed that the recall was consistently opposed by some 60 percent of Californians, surveys over the summer suggested that likely voters were unenthusiastic about Newsom.
As the election deadline approached, however, his base mobilized.
President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota traveled to California to campaign for Newsom, while Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former President Barack Obama appeared in his commercials.
Some $70 million in contributions to his campaign poured in from Democratic donors, tribal and business groups and organized labor.
Read more in The New York Times.