Costa Mesa, Calif. – About 10 minutes before voting closes, supporters of leading Republican candidate Larry Elder began sipping wine and whiskey sours in a hotel ballroom in Orange County. The band played “The Girl from Ipanema” and there was red-white-and-blue bunting on stage as attendees waited for Mr. Elder.
Right after voting closed at 8 p.m., Fred Whitaker, the chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, warned the crowd – erroneously, it turned out – that it was likely to be a long night, with early results likely in favor of the Democrats. Was. “Enjoy the meal,” he said. “Enjoy the drink.”
And then he prayed.
Jack Hibbs, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills, thanked God for creating California. “We pray, we ask you to beg,” he said.
Later, after The Associated Press called the race for Governor Gavin Newsom, Mr. Elder spoke to the crowd and accepted.
“Let’s be gracious in defeat,” he said, “we may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war.”
The packed ballroom cheered.
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Elder met former President Donald J. Made unsubstantiated claims about election fraud, echoing Trump. He had previously suggested that he would challenge the results if he lost, and Mr Newsom continued with his work. But on Tuesday night, he did not say whether he planned to contest the elections.
At the event, which the candidate billed as the “Victory Party”, some of Mr. Elder’s supporters said he would accept defeat if he came. “Of course,” said Cheryl Rosenberg, a teacher at Inland Empire. “I wouldn’t call that cheating.”
Ms. Rosenberg, 57, arrived at the Costa Mesa hotel straight from work, with both her friend and colleague, Susan Sawyer, wearing an American flag-themed outfit. Ms Sawyer also said she would accept the election result if the election did not go in Mr. Elder’s favour.
But Ms Sawyer, 58, said that in any case, she had already decided to leave California because of the cost of living. A lifelong Californian, she said she wished she could stay. But she and her husband are nearing retirement, and believe they can’t afford to spend their golden years in the state. So he recently sold his house for $720,000 and will move to Arizona.
“We’re just going to take the money and run,” she said.
When the recall attempt turned out to be eligible for the ballot, the two friends were delighted, both of whom believed Mr Newsom had been “a terrible governor”. He decided to support Mr. Elder, a conservative radio host, because he was not a career politician and what he said were common-sense solutions to problems like wildfires and the homelessness crisis.
“He wants a California we want back,” Rosenberg said.