California Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday defeated a recall aimed at kicking him out of office early.
Newsom bolted to a quick victory boosted by healthy turnout.
He cast it as a win for science, women’s rights and other liberal issues, and it ensures that the nation’s most populous state will remain in Democrat control as a laboratory for progressive policies.
“‘No’ is not the only thing that was expressed tonight,” Newsom said. “I want to focus on what we said ‘yes’ to as a state: We said yes to science, we said yes to [COVID-19] vaccines, we said yes to ending this pandemic.”
With about 60 percent of ballots counted, “no” on the question of whether to recall Newsom was ahead by a two-to-one margin.
That lead was built on votes cast by mail and in advance of Tuesday’s in-person balloting, with a strong showing by Democrats.
While likely to shrink somewhat in the days ahead as votes cast at polling places are counted, Newsom’s lead could not be overcome.
Republican talk radio host Larry Elder almost certainly would have replaced Newsom had the recall succeeded.
The recall turned on Newsom’s approach to the pandemic, including mask and vaccine mandates, and Democrats cheered the outcome as evidence that voters approve of their approach.
“Let’s be gracious in defeat. We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war,” Elder said, later adding that the recall has forced Democrats to focus on issues such as homelessness and California’s high cost of living.
“Democracy is not a football, you don’t throw it around. It’s more like — I don’t know — an antique vase,” Newsom said after his win. “You can drop it, smash it into a million different pieces — and that’s what we’re capable of doing if we don’t stand up to meet the moment and push back.”
California voters were asked two questions: Should Newsom be recalled, and, if so, who should replace him?
Only a handful of the 46 names on the replacement ballot had public recognition, but most failed to gain traction with voters.
Elder entered the race just three months ago and quickly rose to the top of the pack, allowing Newsom to turn the campaign into a choice between the two men, rather than a referendum on his performance.
The security of the election was questioned by attorney Harmeet Dhillon.
“There will be a lot of questions and potentially litigation after this election about this sloppy-at-best treatment of people’s ballots and their right to vote,” Dhillon said. “We have to document problems, and we have to litigate those problems.”
The criticism has focused on the wide use of mail-in ballots, which have been automatically sent to all active registered voters for state elections since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Woodland Hills neighborhood, some people who showed up to vote were told they had already voted.
“Whether there is an innocent explanation for that or not, rumors spread like wildfires based on facts. Those facts are there are errors in voting in Los Angeles County. People see that online and decide it’s not worth it to vote,” Dhillon said.
The Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office said the error was caused by some settings on computers used to check in voters before issuing ballots.
The office said those affected were allowed to cast provisional ballots, which act as placeholders until voter eligibility is determined.
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