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California recall elections officially end as Newsom prepares for 2022

Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted that his own “personal stupidity” helped provide the political fuel to spark the recall effort against him. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Election results showing California voters refused to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom were certified by state officials on Friday, ending an effort of historical and bitter recall while possibly increasing the Democratic governor’s chances next year of winning a second four-year term.

With all votes counted, the recall failed by a substantial margin: 61.9% of the vote was to keep Newsom in power until the end of 2022 while only 38.1% of voters voted to remove him.

The latest election results released by Secretary of State Shirley Weber show a result for Newsom that is largely unchanged from 2018, when he won the most lopsided California governor’s race since 1950. Supporters of the recall have not capitalized on the dissatisfaction of some voters with Newsom’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, having successfully used the pandemic as a catalyst for their long-running attempt to secure a recall on the statewide ballot.

Although the percentages were the same in the final results as in 2018, the political climate was radically different for the September 14 recall election. It was also different from the only other California governor recall, in 2003, when voters removed the then governor. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. In that election, polls showed Davis was deeply unpopular and voters believed he should be removed from office.

This year’s polls have never been worse for Newsom, although some early polls have sounded a warning to his supporters.

A UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies survey co-sponsored by The Times and released in late July found that the opinions of likely voters were almost equally divided, motivated mainly by the indifference of many Democrats about the recall. Momentum then turned sharply against the recall after a deluge of political ads and support from the main Democrats, who criticized the effort as a Republican takeover orchestrated by far-right supporters of the former president Trump and anti-COVID-19 vaccine campaigners.

Newsom’s campaign to defeat the recall was aided by a string of prominent Democrats who descended on California in the weeks leading up to Election Day, including President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as television commercials from Sense Bernie Sanders from Vermont and Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. .

Conservative talk show host Larry Elder, who led the field of candidates in hopes of becoming California’s next governor, has emerged as the perfect foil for Newsom. Among the field of 46 men and women vying to replace Newsom, Elder came out on top with more than 3.5 million votes. Her tally topped that of established GOP candidates such as former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and pop culture celebrities including reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner.

Elder provided red meat jobs to GOP voters, opposing the right to abortion and backing offshore oil drilling while capitalizing on his support for Trump – odious positions for most Democratic voters in one state where Democrats are almost 2 to 1.

In the month leading up to the recall election, at a time when the COVID-19 Delta variant was raging and polls showed most Californians supported the governor’s actions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Elder vowed to Repeal Newsom administration mandates requiring students to wear masks in public schools and for teachers, state employees and healthcare workers to be vaccinated.

The only Democrat among the replacement candidates to break through was Kevin Paffrath, a social media personality who has more than 1.6 million followers for his personal finance videos on YouTube. The final results show that he only won around 706,000 votes.

But the most popular choice has been to reject the replacement candidates. Nearly 5.5 million voters left their ballots blank over who should take Newsom’s place if the recall passes. Democrats urged voters to simply vote no on Newsom’s recall and ignore what they called a circus campaign among the replacement candidates.

Orrin Heatlie, a retired Yolo County Sheriff’s sergeant who was the official promoter of the effort to recall Newsom, blamed the loss of the election on a combination of factors. Elder, he said, did “really stupid things” during his campaign that allowed Newsom to portray him as a right-wing extremist.

Heatlie also said voter apathy, driven in part by Trump and others attacking the country’s electoral systems as rigged and brimming with fraud, also undermined the recall effort.

“I think a lot of these people just put their hands up and said, ‘You know, that’s not worth my time,’” Heatlie said. “Voting is an American right and it is a patriotic duty.”

Although he easily beat the recall attempt, Newsom recently explained how difficult the whole ordeal was for him and his family, especially when it coincided with the burden of the pandemic that all California families were on. faced.

“It’s hard. I mean, it’s hard to wake up with megaphones. It’s hard to have the omnipresence and surround sound of protesters,” Newsom said at the 24th Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Newsom said it was disturbing for her three children, all aged 12 or under, to see “billboards all over your face like Hitler” and to hear friends at school say their fathers hated the governor.

Despite this, the governor admitted at the event that his own “personal stupidity” had helped provide the political fuel to trigger the recall effort – a comment likely referring to her decision to attend a lobbyist’s birthday party at the upscale French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley last November, sometimes unmasked in photos which then surfaced after pleading with Californians to avoid similar gatherings.

“Nobody fights more than me for this. Dumb, stupid, stupid, ”Newsom said Wednesday. “But it has become something much more, and that is the nature of our policy. We don’t like to hate, we like to hate.

Perhaps the governor’s most impressive feat in beating the recall has been to maximize support from his political base. Compared to the 2018 gubernatorial election, Newsom has increased its margin of support in several large Bay Area counties. He also made more modest but notable gains in Orange and San Diego counties, in part reflecting the continued weakening of the Republican Party in those areas.

The final results show that 58.4% of California voters voted in the recall election, down slightly from the 2018 race, but still the third highest percentage in a non-presidential election to the statewide since 1994. This level of turnout may be due, in part, to Newsom’s decision, and Legislative Democrats will send a ballot to each of California’s 22 million registered and active voters – a repeat of extraordinary effort by the state in 2020 and motivated by concerns about possible exposure to COVID-19 at in-person polling places.

Other changes to the recall process were more controversial. None has been the subject of more intense debate than choose a date for statewide special elections, a process that the California Constitution left to Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. But the range of options she had was influenced by a state budget-related bill passed by Democrats and signed by Newsom, which expedited analysis of the cost of recall elections to a month. – and giving Newsom supporters a chance to get ballots into the hands of voters by the end of August.

If anything, Newsom’s success in the recall may have made his potential rivals in the 2022 governor’s race think twice before running. A UC Berkeley / Times poll last month found the governor would then beat any of the well-known Republicans who ran for the special election. Newsom is also entering the race with a sizable campaign war chest and no known opposition within the ranks of the Democratic Party.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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