By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Gavin Newsom earlier today, via his Twitter feed
September 14, 2021 (San Diego) – Major networks including CNN, CBS and NBC have called California’s gubernatorial recall election, with voters statewide resoundingly rejecting efforts to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. As of 8:30 p.m., the recall is failing by a 67.8% “no” to 32.1% “yes” margin with more than half of all votes tallied.
The recall is losing by wide margins even in conservative counties such as Orange, Riverside, and San Bernadino. In San Diego County, early results show 60.63% voted against recalling Newsom, with 39.37% in favor of the ouster effort.
The second question, who should replace Newsom, is moot since question one, whether to recall the Governor failed. The Democratic Party had urged its members to leave question two blank and there was no big-name Democratic in the race; more Republicans likely voted on question two.
Of the 45 candidates listed, statewide, conservative talk show host Larry Elder drew 42.6% of the votes, followed by Democrat Kevin Paffrath, who has a popular YouTube show on finance. San Diego’s former Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer has 9.8%, followed by doctor/attorney Brandon Ross, a Democrat, and Republican businessman John Cox at 6.3%. State election law did not allow Newsom to be listed as a candidate, but thus far, two-thirds of votes cast support keeping Newsom in office. (Faulconer fared slightly better in his hometown, drawing about 17% of the vote in San Diego County in early results.)
Due to the pandemic, all Californians received mail in ballots. As of yesterday, 40% of mail-in ballots had been counted and were included in the first returns, but early returns from voting at polls has not dramatically shifted the result. However mail-in ballots can be counted if they arrive up to a week from today, and the result could shift somewhat . The Secretary of State then has up to 38 days after the election to certify final results.
Backers of the recall recently criticized Newsom’s handling of the pandemic including vaccine and mask mandates as well as business shutdowns. However the recall was launched before the pandemic based on economic issues and rising homelessness.
The recall initially failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but a judge granted an extension due to the pandemic. Early polls suggested Newsom faced a tough battle to stay in office, fueled largely by anger among some voters over economic impacts of COVID-19 shutdowns, as well as other issues ranging from Newsom’s handling of wildfires to offering benefits for undocumented immigrants.
But that polling gap vanished as the state’s large majority of Democratic voters received mailers and viewed ads characterizing Elder, the leading Republican candidate, as an extremist who among other things has called for elimination of the minimum wage, a rollback of vaccine and masking mandates amid the pandemic, and voiced support for reparation of people who owned slaves.
Newsom credited his win to “turnout” adding, “Labor knows how to turn out.” Unions spent millions to get out messaging characterizing the recall as a Republican scheme to takeover California and threaten rights of workers.
Elder has not yet conceded, but yesterday he appeared to be setting the stage for a potential challenge to the outcome. He set up a website for voters to report fraud, which urged voters to “join us in this fight” by signing a petition “demanding a special session of the California legislature to investigate and ameliorate the twisted results of this 2021 Recall Election of Governor Gavin Newsom.”
Faulconer tonight hinted at potential future political ambitions or, perhaps, a court battle over the trouncing that Republicans appeared to receive from voters. “Tonight was round one,” said Faulconer, CBS reports. “There is more to come.”
The failed recall cost taxpayers over $300 million and has prompted calls to reform California's recall process for the future.