California’s historic recall election ended with a whimper.
With 68% of ballots counted, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) leads the Republican-led campaign to remove him by 28 points. Even Orange and Riverside counties have elected to keep Newsom in the governor’s mansion by a five-point margin, although state officials expect those numbers to tighten.
After conservative talk radio host Larry Elder emerged as the favored candidate to replace Newsom, a majority of voters appeared open to the idea of removing him from office. Unfortunately for Elder, his numbers peaked in August, giving Democrats the time to reframe the race from Newsom’s perceived failures to a referendum on Trumpism in a deep blue state.
Fox News reports some other critical takeaways:
The governor also repeatedly took aim this summer at Elder, who quickly became the front runner among the replacement candidates after jumping into the race in mid-July. Newsom compared Elder to former President Trump, who outside of his conservative base is very unpopular in California, a state he lost to Biden by five million votes last November.
Newsom emphasized last month that it’s “important to focus on Larry” because he argued that Elder’s “even more extreme than Trump in many respects.” And the governor told a crowd at a recent rally that while Trump was defeated by Biden in November’s presidential election, “we did not defeat Trumpism…it is still alive across this country.” And spotlighting his fight, the governor said “it has come to the state of California.”
Newsom’s strategy was simple – in the very blue state of California where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans – a state he won election as governor by 24 points in 2018 – he and his allies acknowledged that they needed a strong turnout among Democrats and independents to counter Republican voters motivated to cast ballots in hopes of ousting the governor.
Republicans saw the recall election as their best chance to topple a politician who has never lost an election during his years as San Francisco mayor, California lieutenant governor and now governor – and their first chance to win a statewide contest since the 2006 gubernatorial reelection victory by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a moderate Republican. Three years earlier, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis became only the second governor in U.S. history to be successfully recalled and was succeeded by Schwarzenegger, who won the recall election.
Shortly after the Associated Press called the race, Elder conceded defeat, telling supporters, “we may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war.”
Among the 46 replacement candidates, Kevin Paffrath, the only Democrat running, came in second to Elder. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) finished third.