California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has survived a recall election challenge, as a majority of voters chose not to remove him from office.
As of Wednesday morning at 7:30 am Pacific Time, the “No” vote had received 63.9 percent of the electorate’s backing, with 36.1 percent choosing “Yes” on the ballot. Although about a third of ballots have yet to be counted, and the difference between the two options could tighten in the coming days, the margin is too wide to be overcome, The Associated Press reported.
On Tuesday evening, reacting to news of his evading a recall attempt, Newsom suggested the result was an endorsement of his actions in office so far — particularly the regulations his administration has put in place to contain the spread of coronavirus in California.
“‘No’ is not the only thing that was expressed tonight. I want to focus on what we said ‘yes’ to as a state: We said yes to science, we said yes to vaccines, we said yes to ending this pandemic,” Newsom said in his victory speech.
Republican candidate Larry Elder, who was viewed as Newsom’s main rival, conceded his election loss later in the evening. It was initially unclear whether Elder would do so, as he had made numerous baseless claims of fraud before Election Day and refused to say earlier this week whether he’d accept the outcome if the recall was unsuccessful.
“Let’s be gracious in defeat. We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war,” Elder told his supporters.
Despite his concession, the damage may have already been done. Supporters of Elder and other Republicans have repeatedly expressed — without evidence and before the results were even in — that the election was fraudulent.
Indeed, Elder’s campaign launched a website on Monday that sought to cast doubts on the election’s outcome, falsely alleging that a statistical analysis of the results of the recall (which hadn’t yet been tabulated because Election Day was on Tuesday) somehow proved fraud had occurred. On that same site, the campaign requested supporters sign a petition demanding the state legislature open an investigation to “ameliorate the twisted results” of the race.
Former President Donald Trump, who errantly claimed that fraud was behind his re-election loss to President Joe Biden last year, inserted himself into the discussion of fraud in the California recall contest earlier this month, stating in an interview with Newsmax that Democrats had “rigged” the election — again, without providing a single bit of evidence to prove his baseless allegations.
“The one thing they’re good at is rigging elections, so I predict it’s a rigged election, let’s see how it turns out,” Trump suggested last week.
Polling shows that the vast majority of Californians disagree. A PPIC Statewide Survey conducted late last month found that 56 percent of likely voters had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the state’s elections, while only 24 percent said they had “very little” or no confidence at all in them. However, among Republican respondents, a plurality (49 percent) said they did not trust California’s election systems to produce the accurate outcome.
The willingness of these voters to doubt the state’s ability to conduct a fair race, coupled with Republicans promoting baseless suspicion, will likely mean millions of conservative Californians will wrongly view Newsom as an illegitimate governor.