SACRAMENTO — The Republican-led bid to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom ended in defeat late Tuesday, as Democrats in the nation’s most populous state closed ranks against a small grassroots movement, Which intensified with the spread of Covid-19.
Voters reaffirmed their support for Mr Newsom, whose lead as well as counting continued after voting closed in Los Angeles County and other large Democratic strongholds. Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host, leads 46 challengers in hopes of becoming the next governor.
The vote spoke to power liberal voters 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 the lowest rates of new virus cases – which the governor argued tirelessly with voters was the result of his vaccine and mask requirements.
Although critics of Mr Newsom began to recall as they opposed his stance on the death penalty and immigration, it was the politicization of the pandemic that prompted it on the ballot as Californians grew impatient with the closure of businesses and classrooms. Had gone. in elections, Californians said no issue was more pressing than the virus.
“As a health care worker, it was important to me to have a governor who follows science,” said Mark Martino, 26, who was dressed in blue as he left his ballot in Irvine.
The Associated Press called the race for Mr Newsom, who won in a landslide in 2018, less than an hour after voting closed on Tuesday. Of the 80 lakh ballots that were counted till 9.30 pm, around 66 per cent said the governor should continue in office.
Considered as a bell for the 2022 midterm elections, the result came as a relief to Democrats nationally. Although polls showed that nearly 60 percent of Californians were consistently opposed to the recall, summer polls suggested potential voters were not enthusiastic about Mr Newsom. As the deadline for the election approached, his base got stronger.
President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota traveled to California to campaign for Mr Newsom, while Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former President Barack Obama appeared in his advertisements. Some $70 million in contributions to his campaign came from Democratic donors, tribal and business groups, and organized labor.
The governor alleged that far-right extremists and supporters of former President Donald J. Trump were attempting a hostile takeover in a state where they could not expect to win a majority in regular elections. He compared California’s low rates of coronavirus infections with large numbers of deaths and hospitalizations in Republican-run states such as Florida and Texas.
The electoral math did the rest: Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one in California, and pandemic voting rules encouraged higher turnout, allowing ballots to be sent to each of the state’s 22 million registered, prepaid mail-active voters. could.
Initiated by Orrin Heatley, a retired Republican sheriff’s sergeant in Northern California, the recall was one of six conservative-led petitions that began circulating within months of Mr Newsom’s inauguration.
Remembrance efforts are common in California, where direct democracy has long been a part of political culture. But only one other effort against the governor qualified for the vote—in 2003, when Californians recalled Governor Gray Davis on the heels of the September 11 attacks, dot-com busts and rolling lightning blackouts. He chose Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace Mr. Davis as governor, substituting a centrist Republican for a centrist Democrat.
Initially, Mr Heatley’s petition had difficulty gaining traction. But it took off as the pandemic broke out in California and Mr Newsom struggled to control it. Californians, who had previously supported the governor’s health orders, were weary of shutdowns in businesses and classrooms, and public discontent boiled over in November, when Mr Newsom was asked to attend the French Laundry, a specialty wine country restaurant, urging the public. After was seen mask-free. To avoid meetings.
A court order extending the deadline for collecting signatures due to the pandemic shutdown allowed supporters of the recall to capitalize on the outrage and unease.
As the results of Tuesday’s recall election became clear, Derry Sargo, a Democratic strategist and publisher of the California Target Book, a nonpartisan political almanac, said the governor stopped “a Republican mugging” and “before can be stronger than that, depending on its margins.”
Remembrance supporters also claimed a measure of victory.
“We were David against Goliath – we were the Alamo,” said Mike Netter, one of the Tea Party Republican activists, whose anger at Mr Newsom’s opposition to the death penalty, his embrace of undocumented workers and his deep-founded The roots helped inspire the removal effort.
Mr Heatley said gathering the nearly 1.5 million signatures needed to trigger the special election was “a historic achievement”.
The recall campaign, the two people said, had expanded the smaller cadre that launched the effort into a statewide coalition of 400,000 members who are already helping push ballot proposals to fund school vouchers, schools. refusing the vaccine mandate in the U.S., and dismantling public workers unions. Which has long been a democratic force in California.
However, other Republicans called the recall a serious political miscalculation. Nearly one-quarter of the state’s registered voters are Republicans, and their numbers have been declining since the 1990s, a trend that recall supporters believed if they could somehow overturn the nation’s largest state. If you can, the opposite can happen.
Tuesday’s defeat instead marked “another nail in the coffin”, said Mike Madrid, a California Republican strategist who has been deeply critical of the party under Mr. Latino voters have been driven out.
Mr Madrid said the recall was a sign that, even in California, Mr Trump’s party had become “part of an increasingly radical, experimenting and shrinking Republican base, which differed in different ways in different parts of the country.” was happening.” He drew attention to allegations of voter fraud that some in his party began doing well before the election closed, an echo of Trump, who claimed without evidence that Democrats had “rigged” the recall election.
Despite yawning differences in support, for example, Mr. Elder demanded this week, before voting ended, that a special legislative session be convened “to examine and correct the twisting results”. He said there were “instances of unspecified ballots”, but gave no examples.
Some Democratic observers were watchful, warning that the disruption caused by the recall effort signals deeper problems.
“This recall was a canary in the coal mine,” said Mr Sargo, a veteran Democratic strategist who cited the state’s income inequalities, housing shortages and the climate crisis. “And unless the issues creating it are dealt with, those in power are in trouble. There is a lot of anger and fear and despair. “
Tuesday’s vote followed a nearly year-long push by the governor to persuade voters to look beyond that darkness. Mr Newsom has campaigned relentlessly since earlier this year, when it became clear the recall would have the money and time to qualify for the ballot.
Taking advantage of a vast state surplus – the result of higher-than-expected gains in income and stock prices for affluent Californians – the governor has moved aggressively to demonstrate that the state can protect its economy and curb the virus. can put In recent months, they have started vaccinations, trash cleaned Neighborhoods neglected by pandemic-ridden Californians threw open motel rooms for homeless Californians, announced stimulus checks and rent aid for poor and middle-class Californians, and hosted one of the nation’s biggest vaccine lotteries. The golden lame stood again and again in front of the curtain.
Past recall efforts informed his political strategy. Unlike Mr. Davis, whose lieutenant governor ran as a Democratic alternative in the 2003 recall, effectively allowing partisans to oust Mr. Davis, Mr. Newsom and his team quickly cleared the field of potential Democratic alternatives. done.
Like Scott Walker, the former governor of Wisconsin and the only previous governor to win in a recall election, Mr Newsom portrayed the recall effort in national, partisan terms and dismissed a defensive posture. His strategy inspired major donors and their base.
In 2003, when he ran for mayor of San Francisco against a popular progressive, Mr Newsom framed the race not as a referendum on him but as a choice between himself and a potentially disastrous alternative – this Case in point, Mr. Elder, whose name recognition propelled him to the top of the list of challengers.
Noting that Mr. Elder had built a career bashing liberal causes, the governor portrayed him as a Trump clone who would impose far-right policies on a state that has been a bastion of liberal thinking.
The governor told voters, “Don’t vote and go,” suggesting that they cling to voting against recalling them and not even respecting the second question on the ballot, which asked if If the recall is successful, who should replace Mr Newsom?
Republican support and money failed to come anywhere close to matching Mr Newsom’s massive operation and chest of war.
California has no limits on donations to committees on the pros and cons of recall, but the state does set contribution limits for candidates of individual donors. Mr Newsom took advantage of the rules, raising over $50 million in donations of just over $100,000 to protest the recall. Mr Elder raised about $15 million, less of which committees promoted the recall.
Several prominent Republican donors said it was pointless to try to recall a Democratic governor in such an overly liberal state.
Thomas Fuller contributed reporting from Sacramento, and jill cowan From Irvine, Calif.