SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—About 80% of the roughly 75,000 Santa Cruz County voters who cast their ballots in Tuesday’s Gubernatorial Recall Election voted to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office, joining a loud statewide rebuke of what the governor called a “Republican power grab.”
Though results across the state are still unofficial, several national news agencies felt comfortable with calling the election in favor of Newsom some 20 to 30 minutes after initial vote counts were available. As of Thursday afternoon, 63.8% of the roughly 9.2 million California voters already accounted for voted to keep Newsom in power until his term expires in 2022.
Newsom, who won his first term in 2018 in a similar landslide but has been widely criticized for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and homelessness situation, said that Tuesday’s result was a victory for science, voting rights and women’s rights, among other things.
“We said ‘yes’ to all those things that we hold dear as Californians and, I would argue, as Americans,” Newsom told reporters late Tuesday. “Economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, our values where California has made so much progress. All of those things were on the ballot this evening.”
Newsom, the 53-year-old former Lieutenant Governor and Mayor of San Francisco, faced only the second gubernatorial recall in the state’s history. Former Gov. Gray Davis remains the lone California governor to be removed from power in a recall election. He was replaced by movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.
Much like that election, the 46 candidates that sought to gain control of the executive branch of California’s government in Tuesday’s election were a mishmash of political figures, reality television stars and little-known, everyday Californians.
Radio show host Larry Elder emerged as the leading Republican candidate in the weeks leading up to the election. He had received roughly 46% of the vote for the second question on the ballot that asked which candidate should replace Newsom if the recall was successful.
On Monday former President Donald Trump, one of Elder’s supporters, said in a statement that the election would be “rigged,” but Elder late Tuesday conceded to Newsom and told his supporters to be “gracious in defeat.”
“We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war,” he said during his concession speech.
The California Department of Finance estimated the recall will ultimately cost the state roughly $276 million.
Committees opposing the recall raised $72.7 million and Newsom’s campaign committee raised another $10.5 million, which was more than just two other recall candidates, including Elder.
In the weeks leading up to the election, several national Democratic figures—including former President Barack Obama and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders—appeared on TV ads asking Californians to oppose the recall, and in the days before the polls closed President Joe Biden visited California to show support for the embattled governor.
Santa Cruz County Republican Central Committee Chair Kristen Collishaw said that despite this wide outreach effort millions of Californians gave Newsom a vote of “no confidence.”
“Democrats shouldn’t celebrate the fact that California is stuck with rising crime, out-of-control homelessness, an education system that is failing our children, a huge affordability problem, the highest state & gas taxes in the nation, and so much more,” she wrote in a statement. “The upside is that there are many people waking up to the fact that unless something changes in Sacramento, there is little hope of fixing the failed policies of Democratic leadership throughout California.”
Pajaro Valley Cesar Chavez Democratic Club co-Chair Celeste Gutierrez said that, historically, recall elections have been used by conservatives as an attempt to “undermine our democracy.”
“As Californians we’re able to see past the scare tactics and said yes to science, yes to having covid measures, yes to expanding our social safety net and yes to democracy,” she wrote in a text message. “We appreciate everyone who supported the anti-recall campaign and continue to work tirelessly to support democratic ideals.”