Updated Sep 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

California Gov. Newsom survives recall election


Gavin Newsom. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) defeated a Republican-backed effort to remove him, AP projected on Tuesday night.

Why it matters, via Axios' Margaret Talev: Tuesday's results highlight the limits of Republicans trying to use Trump tactics in a deeply Democratic state.

  • The campaign of Larry Elder — a conservative radio show host and Black Republican who has embraced Trump and anti-COVID vaccine rhetoric — in particular may have done more to help Newsom than hurt him by motivating Democrats to cast their ballots.

What he's saying: Newsom thanked Californians at a news conference for "overwhelmingly" voting "no" in the election, adding it meant they were saying "yes" to a lot of his policies, such as his pandemic response and environmental, racial, social justice issues.

  • He continued that people had voted "yes" to their "right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression" — a swipe at scaremongering from some conservative figures peddling the Trump-esque lie that the state's election might be rigged.
  • But Newsom added: "We may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country. The Big Lie, the January 6 insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country."

By the numbers: Newsom received more than 5.7 million "no" votes (64.7%) with nearly 75% of precincts reporting just before 3:30am ET, per state figures.

The big picture: Newsom got a boost in the lead-up to Tuesday's election, with several high-profile Democrats joining him on the campaign trail.

  • President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) each made stops in California in recent days. Former President Obama also appeared in a campaign ad.
  • Biden warned voters on Monday that if Newsom was ousted, the state would end up with a "clone of Donald Trump" as governor.

Catch up quick: The recall efforts gained momentum last year as frustration among many conservatives grew over Newsom's COVID-19 restrictions and other policies.

  • Newsom has also been criticized for reportedly misleading the public about the progress his office made in shoring up wildfire prevention.
  • More than 45 candidates were on the recall ballot, including Elder, who emerged as Newsom's biggest threat.
  • The California Republican Party chose not to endorse any candidate in the recall election, hoping the decision would unite its base toward defeating Newsom in the deeply Democratic state.

Flashback: This was the second time in the state's history that a gubernatorial recall campaign succeeded in getting on the ballot.

  • California voters removed Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Newsom and state election data.

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