Governor Gavin Newsom
Governor Gavin Newsom speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

The Repub­li­can Par­ty’s plot to replace Cal­i­for­nia Gov­er­nor Gavin New­som with one of its own extrem­ist can­di­dates is crash­ing and burn­ing in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion, not only leav­ing New­som in office, but giv­ing him a big boost head­ing into next year’s midterms, when he will once again be on the bal­lot as a can­di­date for reelection.

With 16.7% of precincts par­tial­ly report­ing, New­som had a com­mand­ing lead on the piv­otal ini­tial ques­tion in the recall, “Shall Gavin New­som Be Recalled (Removed) From the Office of Gov­er­nor?” Vote-rich coun­ties like Los Ange­les, San Diego, and San­ta Clara are over­whelm­ing­ly back­ing the no position.

The no vote stood at 68.2% as of press time with 5,074,795 votes, and the yes vote was 31.8% (2,365,971 votes). Net­works began call­ing the recall for New­som short­ly before 8:40 PM Pacif­ic Time, hav­ing seen enough data to con­clude that the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s attempt to seize the gov­er­nor­ship had failed.

(Network/Outlet Calls: AP | CNN | MSNBC | CBS)

New­som deliv­ered a short vic­to­ry speech begin­ning at 8:53 PM Pacif­ic, declar­ing that Cal­i­for­ni­ans had not just vot­ed no on the recall, but yes on envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice, yes to repro­duc­tive rights, yes to sci­ence, and yes to vaccines.

“I’m hum­ble, grate­ful, and resolved,” the Gov­er­nor said, focus­ing most of his remarks on his hopes for the future and express­ing a desire for the rejec­tion of the pol­i­tics of divi­sion, extrem­ism, and cynicism.

The Gov­er­nor took no ques­tions and con­clud­ed his remarks just before 9 PM.

“Once again, vot­ers reject­ed the Repub­li­can Party’s denial of the pan­dem­ic sweep­ing our coun­try and their sub­se­quent refusal to address it, reject­ed Repub­li­cans’ dis­proved con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about our elec­tions, and reject­ed Repub­li­cans’ unwa­ver­ing loy­al­ty to the man who caused it all — Don­ald Trump,” said Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee Chair Jaime Harrison.

“Tonight is a win for the bold agen­da put forth by Pres­i­dent Biden, Gov­er­nor New­som, and Democ­rats in Con­gress to build our coun­try back bet­ter, deliv­er on their promis­es, and get our coun­try back on track.”

“I am con­fi­dent we will con­tin­ue to do so in 2021, 2022, and beyond. Gov­er­nor New­som pro­vides the smart, capa­ble and focused lead­er­ship nec­es­sary to keep Cal­i­for­ni­ans safe and build the state’s econ­o­my back bet­ter amid the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. He has a strong record of deliv­er­ing for the peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia and I look for­ward to watch­ing him con­tin­ue that crit­i­cal work as governor.”

“The peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia have spo­ken. They chose to keep an accom­plished gov­er­nor who has led on cli­mate & eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty. In doing so they reject­ed a right-wing attack on sci­ence and pub­lic health. Con­grat­u­la­tions, Gov­er­nor New­som,” said Wash­ing­ton State Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

“I’m hap­py to have strong part­ner­ships with lead­ers like [New­som] and Ore­gon Gov­er­nor Kate Brown up & down the West Coast,” Inslee continued.

“Our con­stituents are bet­ter served because of it. This elec­tion is also anoth­er resound­ing loss for the pol­i­tics of Don­ald Trump. Today’s results con­firm what we already know, that most peo­ple across the coun­try believe in the life­sav­ing pub­lic health mea­sures that will help us defeat COVID-19.”

It took a peti­tion signed by 12% of Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers in the last elec­tion to ini­ti­ate the recall. The recall cost the state $278 mil­lion. The race was effec­tive­ly decid­ed with­in fif­teen min­utes of polls clos­ing,” the BBC’s Antho­ny Zurcher tweet­ed.

Los Ange­les Times colum­nist Mark Z. Barabak offered this “tweet-length” analy­sis: “There are far more Democ­rats than Repub­li­cans in Cal­i­for­nia. Ear­ly inter­est + inten­si­ty were on the side of recall pro­po­nents. Once Gavin New­som and allies were able to rouse Democ­rats to vote in a weird­ly timed elec­tion, that was that.”

Past NPI Pres­i­dent and cur­rent NPI Advi­so­ry Coun­cilmem­ber Robert Cruick­shank not­ed: “There were near­ly 10,000 peo­ple send­ing more than 46 mil­lion texts against the CA recall this sum­mer, a tru­ly mas­sive mobilization.”

Change Research, one of NPI’s poll­sters, point­ed out the polling has sug­gest­ed a New­som vic­to­ry for a while, and espe­cial­ly in the final weeks, thanks to suc­cess­ful Demo­c­ra­t­ic efforts to rouse vot­ers ahead of today’s dead­line to return ballots.

“In late August, it had been over two months since any poll showed New­som with a dou­ble dig­it lead,” Change’s Ben Green­field wrote. “We were the first to see a changed race: No +15, due to an enthu­si­asm surge among Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers. Based on ear­ly returns, looks like we were not only first, but we were right.”

“Yes­ter­day, before results were released in the Cal­i­for­nia recall, Lar­ry Elder’s cam­paign launched a web­site pro­mot­ing base­less claims that the elec­tion was stolen. We’ve reached the point where Repub­li­cans don’t even wait until polls close before claim­ing an elec­tion was rigged,” for­mer Sec­re­tary of Labor Robert Reich remind­ed his fol­low­ers, refer­ring to the top Repub­li­can run­ning to top­ple Newsom.

Elder, as expect­ed, is cur­rent­ly win­ning the irrel­e­vant sec­ond item on the recall bal­lot (who should replace New­som) with a plu­ral­i­ty of 42.1% (1,629,337 votes). Elder, who holds a wide range of extreme views, emerged as the “fron­trun­ner” among a pack of Repub­li­cans hop­ing to take New­som’s place after catch­ing fire with the Repub­li­can base, who were look­ing for a suit­ably Trumpian can­di­date to get behind and ral­ly around. They found their man… but he proved to be the per­fect foil for Gov­er­nor New­som, Pres­i­dent Biden, and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

In a bit of sym­bol­ism of how anti­cli­mac­tic the results were, MSNBC wrapped up its spe­cial cov­er­age at 9 PM (mid­night East­ern) and began re-air­ing The Rachel Mad­dow Show instead of con­tin­u­ing to offer live coverage.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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