LOS ANGELES– California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom held onto his governorship Tuesday, surviving only the second recall in state history after a successful effort to force a referendum on his leadership this spring.
The Associated Press called the race with about 60 percent of the vote in showing nearly 67 percent opposed to removal and just more than 33 percent in favor. The governor captured his first term two years ago with nearly 62 percent to 38 percent against businessman John Cox, who also ran as a candidate replacement.
“Tonight I’m humbled, grateful, but resolved in the spirit of my political hero, Robert Kennedy, to make more gentle, the life of this world,” Newsom said during brief remarks in Sacramento, after smearing his opponents as sexist, anti-science authoritarians hellbent on voter suppression. “We said yes to ending this pandemic… We said yes to diversity. We said yes to inclusion.”
Newsom’s triumph came to the tune of $70 million raised primarily through July and August to drown out Republican opponents on the airwaves nearly four-to-one this summer, according to a financial analysis of the race by The New York Times. Conservative radio host Larry Elder, on the other hand, who emerged as the leading candidate to replace Newsom pending an affirmative recall result, raised just more than $13 million by the end of August going into the final two-week stretch.
Newsom’s cash advantage enabled the incumbent to drop a cascade of TV and online ads in the last month of the contest, which appear to have paid off. While narrowly behind in the RealClear aggregate of polls on the election’s first binary yes/no recall question throughout nearly the entire month of August, Newsom finished the race with a nearly 15 percent lead in the surveys’ aggregate.
Although recall efforts are always underway in California, where the threshold to force statewide referendums is among the lowest in the nation, proponents of the Newsom recall garnered momentum in December after the governor was caught violating his own coronavirus restrictions one month prior. Photos published showed Newsom enjoying indoor dining at a three-star Michelin restaurant in Napa Valley’s wine country just after he prohibited congregations of more than three households before Thanksgiving.
The dinner party, held at the prestigious French Laundry where prices run up to $350 a plate, featured no masks and no social distancing, in honor of a well-known lobbyist’s birthday.
EXCLUSIVE: We've obtained photos of Governor Gavin Newsom at the Napa dinner party he's in hot water over. The photos call into question just how outdoors the dinner was. A witness who took photos tells us his group was so loud, the sliding doors had to be closed. 10pm on @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/gtOVEwa864
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) November 18, 2020
The recall challenge came on the momentum of hostility against some of the harshest COVID restrictions imposed in the country, but ultimately failed after Democrats energized voters in the state where they’ve long possessed supermajorities in the legislature. Democrats outnumber Republicans in California 2-1. Other issues propelling the recall effort included intermittent blackouts provoked by a blind push for renewable energy and economic decline.
While pro-recall voters may be feeling defeated, strategists on the ground in California say the war is just beginning.
“I think our biggest concern right now is what will happen to the morale that the Newsom recall effort has ignited,” Chairman of the Conservative Party of California Jon Matthews told The Federalist. “…There been a great insurgence of activity out here in California, particularly LA County, in terms of people thinking, ‘Oh, we do have a voice. We can do something.'”
Major candidates vying for replacement included former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, State Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, former Rep. Doug Ose, and gold medal transgender Olympian Caitlyn Jenner.
“As long [Elder] stays in the race and he’s got a year to build this case for California and he has a very good chance of upsetting Newsom in the race next year,” Matthews said.