California Gov. Gavin Newsom overcame a Republican-led recall attempt in a decisive victory Tuesday evening in an election that was a veritable stress test of running a Trump conservative for major office – albeit in a deep-blue state.
In total, 64% of Californians voted to keep Newsom and 36% voted to replace him with just under 70% of ballots counted– results that are nearly identical to the percent of Golden State voters who supported President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
The front-running Republican who would have likely replaced Newsom if he had been recalled was Larry Elder, a conservative talk show host and vocal supporter of the former president, as well as a proponent of the so-called “big lie” – that Trump lost the 2020 presidential election because it was rigged. There is no evidence to support that claim.
On Monday evening, President Joe Biden campaigned for Newsom and issued this warning: “Either you keep Gavin Newsom as your governor or you’ll get Donald Trump.”
His remarks underscored what’s set to become a major talking point for Democrats leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, especially given Newsom’s victory over the recall attempt – that going forward, elections aren’t just about elevating the Democratic candidate, but eradicating Trump’s brand of conservatism.
California Republicans began the recall effort in February 2020, slowly building their criticisms of his leadership, which included his handling of immigration issues, homelessness, an increase in homicides and various COVID-19 restrictions, including mandating masks and vaccines and closing schools.
Ultimately, though, Californians voted overwhelmingly to keep Newsom. And in doing so, not only did they reject a Trump conservative as his replacement, but provided the first concrete evidence that voters may not be eager to replace governors and other state leaders who enacted sweeping COVID-19 safety policies – a major Republican strategy heading into the 2022 midterms.
California has one of the country’s highest vaccination rates and currently boasts one of the lowest rates of the virus, which became a major talking point for Newsom heading into the final weeks of the Republican recall effort.
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic,” Newsom told reporters early Wednesday morning. “We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud and voter suppression. We said yes to women’s fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body, her faith, her future. We said yes to diversity.”