© Reuters. California Governor Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall election on September 14, speaks during a campaign event at the Long Beach City College liberal arts campus in Long Beach, California, USA, September 13, 2021. REUTERS / Leah Millis
By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) – California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom cleverly rebuffed an effort to remove him from office in Tuesday’s special election, beating a Republican campaign to topple him over his liberal policies on immigration, COVID-19 and crime. .
Newsom, a first-term governor beset by challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme drought and severe wildfires, boosted turnout among Democrats with a flurry of late campaigns and easily outgrew the Republicans’ decision to impeach him. .
Late on Tuesday, the results showed Newsom easily won the majority of support from voters who said he should stay in office. With 46% of precincts reporting, Newsom increased by more than 30 points, with 67% supporting him compared to 33% wanting to call him, state data showed.
US television networks projected that Newsom had defeated the impeachment effort about 40 minutes after the polls closed on Tuesday.
“I am honored and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians who exercised their fundamental right to vote,” Newsom said in a victory speech Tuesday night in the Sacramento state capital.
“Economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, our values where California has come so far, all of those things were on the ballot tonight,” Newsom said.
The decisive victory significantly boosts Newsom’s chances in the regularly scheduled gubernatorial elections next year, while weakening potential Republican rivals, said Republican political strategist Mike Madrid.
The key to Newsom’s success was an all-out campaign to mobilize a Democratic base that had initially been dormant, assuming the governor would win because the state is overwhelmingly Democratic.
He made the campaign a referendum on former Republican US President Donald Trump, linking Trump with his main rival in the recall election, Larry Elder, a Republican talk show host who had made controversial statements about minorities and women.
In the closing days of the race, Newsom appeared alongside President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who previously represented California as a United States Senator and Attorney General.
Malia Cohen, an elected member of the California Equality Board who spent the past few days campaigning to increase turnout among African-American voters, said the effort was key to the campaign’s success.
“You can feel the energy,” Cohen said Tuesday. “I see ‘No to recovery’ on the bumper stickers and buttons that people use. I didn’t see that until Friday.”
With 34.3% of constituencies reporting, Elder had obtained about 43% of the vote on the part of the ballot that asked who should replace Newsom if he was removed, state data showed.
Elder has promised to remove the requirements for COVID-19 vaccines and the use of masks. In the days leading up to the recall vote, he and Trump pushed the narrative that Democrats planned to steal the election.
The removal of Newsom, who was overwhelmingly elected in 2018, would have set off alarms among Democrats, in one of the most liberal states in the nation just over a year before the 2022 elections that will decide control of Congress.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in the state, and polls consistently showed a large majority of voters opposed Newsom’s recall.
But Democrats were concerned that complacency among their voters might have tipped the election toward the Republicans. Newsom’s crime and immigration policies, along with the governor’s handling of the pandemic, prompted the Conservatives’ petition campaign to put the impeachment question on the ballot.
In early voting and voting by mail, Democrats returned ballots at more than double the rate of Republicans. This raised fear among Republican leaders that their voters had taken seriously the false claims of voter fraud promoted by Trump and the conservative media after Biden won the 2020 presidential election.
In response, the California Republican Party vowed to fight for the integrity of the election and posted videos showing party officials confidently mailing ballots.
Linking the impeachment effort to Trump and efforts in Texas, Georgia and other states to tighten restrictions on abortion and impose new laws that Democrats believe reduce voting rights helped Democrats win voters.
“We could see changes like what’s happening in Texas,” said Katie Van Note, 27, a dance instructor who voted in Oceanside, north of Carlsbad, and described her politics as left-wing.
The Secretary of State has until October 22 to certify the results.