Governor Gavin Newsom Survives the Recall

California's Mail-In Voters Choose to Stay the Course

Governor Gavin Newsom survived a recall, calling it a "yes" vote for science and ending the pandemic. | Credit: Office of the Governor of California

Early mail-in ballot totals show Governor Gavin Newsom defeating the recall statewide 67 percent to 33 percent, based on nearly half the precincts reporting to the California Secretary of State’s office. In Santa Barbara County, the recall was defeated in the early count, 67 percent “no” votes versus 32 percent “yes” votes, based on 97,821 ballots cast by the county’s 238,548 voters.

Among the 46 candidates vying for Newsom’s seat, Republican Larry Elder led statewide with 43.6 percent of the vote, followed by Kevin Paffrath with 10 percent. Among Santa Barbarans who chose an alternative governor, Elder was in the lead, with 41 percent of the vote, over rivals Paffrath (11 percent), who is a Democrat; former Republican mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer (7.5 percent), and 2018 contender for the governorship John Cox (6 percent).

These totals are changing by the minute as California’s 58 counties report in. The mailed ballots have until seven days after Tuesday’s election postmark to arrive in election offices, according to the Secretary of State, so clarity on the winner should be definite by this time next week, though the Associated Press called the election for Newsom shortly before 9 p.m. Election offices must verify all ballots, which can take 30 days, and the final result will be certified by October 22.

Newsom may have received a boost from visits from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for his campaign, which raised $83 million to defeat the recall compared to about $45 million raised to support it, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, money was an aggravating factor for recall voters, many of whom were Democrat or decline-to-state voters, said Santa Barbara Republican Party chair Gregory Gandrud.

Fully 20-25 percent of the people who signed petitions to recall the governor were Democrats, he claimed. They’d seen their businesses shut down because of the pandemic by the governor, some temporarily, some that never came back. “They signed the petition because they were upset,” Gandrud said. California’s active measures to prevent the spread of disease had trespassed into personal liberties as far as wearing face masks and being required to submit to a vaccine still on an emergency-use authorization, recall proponents said.

Republican activist Bobbi McGinnis criticized the governor as insensitive because “he’s out of touch. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.” McGinnis thought he lacked an understanding of what it meant to be a middle-class person trying to stay in business. If Newsom was victorious, she hoped he would pay attention to what the people wanted and reach out to talk to small business owners.

For his part, Larry Elder, widely considered the front-runner in the recall, cushioned any downfall by using the Trump playbook and announcing fraud even before the first vote was counted. The website making the allegation removed it Tuesday afternoon.

Among Democrats, a small celebration was going on at The Cruisery on State Street on Tuesday night. Local party chair Darcél Elliott thought the threat of Larry Elder had motivated Democrats to take the recall seriously. “It’s possible the gap will get closer,” she said, “but I don’t know that there are enough Republicans in the state to close it completely.”

Gavin Newsom appeared confident an hour after polls closed, making a speech thanking voters for saying “yes” to science, vaccines, ending the pandemic, and voting without fear of fraud. He stated diversity, inclusion, and a woman’s right to decide what to do with her body were on the ballot today: “All those things we hold dear as Californians and as Americans.” Newsom spoke of reconciliation yet recognizing the “big lie” of Trumpism and voter suppression going on in parts of the country. “I am humble, grateful, but resolved, in the spirit of my political hero, Robert Kennedy,” Newsom said emotionally, “to make more gentle the life of this world.”

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