by Matthew Rodriguez, Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor

Gov. Gavin Newsom survived the Republican-led recall effort last Tuesday as Californians resoundingly said “no” to ending the governor’s term early. 

The vote posed an opportunity for Republican lawmakers to seize the most powerful position in the nation’s most populous state — something that has not happened in over a decade. The Democratic party rallied behind Newsom as U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited California to drum up support for the first-term governor.

As the ballots began to be tallied, it was clear that Newsom would not be recalled. In the early returns, about 70% of Californians voted “no.” As more ballots streamed in from the polls, Newsom maintained the lead with over 60% of Californians supporting the governor. It took less than an hour for every major news organization to call the race for Newsom. 

Following the announcement of his victory, Newsom addressed his supporters and the media in Sacramento, stating that he was “humbled” and “grateful” for the overwhelming support from Californians. 

“We are enjoying an overwhelmingly ‘no’ vote tonight here in the state of California,” he said. “No was not the only thing that was expressed tonight. I want to focus on what we said yes to as a state. We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression. We said yes to women’s fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body, her fate and her future . . . We said yes to all those things that we hold dear as Californians and I would argue as Americans — economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice.” 

Californians had two questions on their ballots: should Newsom be recalled? If so, who should replace him? Conservative talk show host Larry Elder led the 46 would-be replacements for Newsom, receiving 40% of the early vote with Democrat — and Ventura resident — Kevin Paffrath and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, trailing behind. 

Democrats framed the recall campaign as a battle against “Trumpism” and the far-right who are against mask mandates and anti-vaccine. Elder, who had vowed to repeal the state’s mask and vaccination mandates, also opposed abortion rights and supported offshore oil drilling. 

Although every major news outlet had called the election for Newsom, Elder and his campaign were not quick to concede.

“Let’s be gracious in defeat,” Elder said two hours after the polls closed. “We may have lost the battle but we are going to win the war.”

Elder also teased a possible run for California’s gubernatorial election in 2022, telling the audience to “stay tuned”. 

Former President Trump and Elder both denounced the election results, claiming it had been rigged, a similar tactic the former president implemented following his loss to Biden in November. Newsom refuted that claim and criticized the two Republicans.

“This election fraud stuff is a crock; it’s shameful. And when I say that, I mean that,” Newsom said. 

Other candidates like Faulconer conceded quickly and also claimed the recall effort showed that Californians “are ready for a change at the top.” 

Newsom is the second California governor to face a recall election. The first was Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, who lost the recall election and was replaced by California’s last Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 2003.