California Governor Newsom Easily Keeps Job, Wins Election
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 14 (Reuters) – Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom easily pushed back an effort to oust him from office in Tuesday’s special election, overcoming a Republican campaign to overthrow him on his liberal policies in immigration, COVID-19 and crime.
Newsom, a first-term governor plagued by challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme drought and severe forest fires, boosted Democratic participation with a wave of late campaigns and easily overcame the decision of the Republicans to recall it.
On Tuesday evening, feedback showed Newsom easily won the majority of support from voters who said he should stay in office. With 46% of constituency reports, Newsom was up more than 30 points, with 67% supporting versus 33% who wanted to recall, state data showed.
U.S. television networks projected Newsom defeated the recall effort around 40 minutes after the polls closed on Tuesday.
“I am humble and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians who exercised their basic right to vote,” Newsom said in a victory speech Tuesday night in the state capital of Sacramento.
“Economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, our values where California has made so much progress, all of those things were on the ballot tonight,” Newsom said.
The decisive victory significantly strengthens Newsom’s chances in next year’s regular governors’ election, while weakening any potential Republican challengers, Republican political strategist Mike Madrid said.
Key to Newsom’s success has been an all-out campaign to mobilize a Democratic base that had initially been put to sleep, assuming the governor would win because the state is so overwhelmingly Democratic.
He made the campaign a referendum on former Republican U.S. President Donald Trump, tying Trump to his main challenger in the recall election, Larry Elder, a Republican talk show host who had made controversial statements about minorities and women.
In the final days of the race, Newsom appeared alongside President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who previously represented California as the United States Senator and Attorney General.
Malia Cohen, an elected member of the California Board of Equalization who has spent the last few days campaigning to increase the participation of African-American voters, said the effort was key to the campaign’s success.
“You can feel the energy,” Cohen said Tuesday. “I see ‘No to recall’ on the bumper stickers and buttons people wear. I only saw it on Friday.”
With 34.3% of ridings reporting, Elder had garnered about 43% of the vote on the portion of the ballot asking who should replace Newsom if recalled, state data showed.
Elder has pledged to remove requirements for COVID-19 vaccines and mask wear. In the days leading up to the recall vote, he and Trump pushed the narrative that Democrats were planning to steal the election.
The impeachment of Newsom, who was elected in a landslide in 2018, would have raised alarm among Democrats, arriving in one of the country’s most liberal states just over a year before the election of 2022 which will decide the control of Congress.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in the state, and polls have consistently shown a strong majority of voters opposed Newsom’s recall.
But Democrats feared the complacency of their constituents had tipped the election in favor of Republicans. Newsom’s immigration and crime policies – along with the governor’s handling of the pandemic – fueled the Conservatives’ petition campaign to put the recall question on the ballot.
In early polls and postal voting, Democrats returned the ballots at more than twice the rate for Republicans. This raised concerns among Republican leaders that their constituents took to heart false allegations of electoral fraud pushed by Trump and the conservative media after Biden won the 2020 presidential election.
In response, the California Republican Party has vowed to fight for the integrity of the elections and released videos showing party officials confidently sending out ballots.
Linking the recall effort to Trump and efforts in Texas, Georgia and other states to tighten restrictions on abortion and impose new laws that Democrats say restrict voting rights have helped Democrats to get their voters to vote.
“We could see changes like what’s happening in Texas,” said Katie Van Note, 27, a dance teacher who voted in Oceanside, just north of Carlsbad, and described her politics as leftist.
The Secretary of State has until October 22 to certify the results.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Additional reporting by Tim Reid in Los Angeles, Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad and Oceanside; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Jonathan Oatis, Kim Coghill and Richard Pullin
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