California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) decidedly beat a Republican-led recall effort to remove him from office less than three years into his first term. Newsom claimed victory with about 65% of the vote.
The GOP led the charge to remove Newsom because of his COVID-19 policies, including school closures, business restrictions, and mask and vaccine mandates.
The governor faced over 40 opponents in the historic recall election, but his most prominent challenger was rightwing radio host Larry Elder, who Newsom described as “more extreme than Trump.”
“I don’t drink coffee, I drink tea, and when I become governor, assuming there are still mandates for vaccines and mandates for face masks, they will be repealed before I have my first cup of tea,” Elder said at a rally last month.
However, despite frustrations toward Newsom’s COVID-19 measures, California voters indicated they don’t want a dramatic change in their status quo.
“Larry Elder handed [Democrats] so many gifts on a platter. He is literally the antithesis of most California voters,” said Dana Williamson, adviser to former Gov. Jerry Brown.
Newsom’s victory effectively preserves his political career and secures his ability to vie for reelection in 2022. If successful, some believe it could lead to a presidential bid.
“Now he wins this, he wins again in 2022, and now we’re all on to 2024 and beyond, and he becomes a viable presidential candidate,” said Jack Citrin, a political science professor at UC Berkeley. “Every crisis is also an opportunity.”
Newsom’s victory comes as the Golden State faces significant challenges, including homelessness, a housing shortage, and devastating wildfires.
Meanwhile, Democrats already started to push for changes to the state’s recall process to make mounting the challenge more difficult in the future.
“I think the recall process has been weaponized,” Newsom said Wednesday.
The expensive election could cost California up to $300 million.
Photo by Gage Skidmore; licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.