California Gov. Gavin Newsom became Tuesday only the second governor in U.S. history to beat back a recall, surviving the campaign to oust him over his novel coronavirus pandemic shutdowns and the state’s myriad economic, environmental and social woes.
Early results in the special election showed that the recall question against the Democratic governor had gone down to defeat, according to projections by CNN, NBC News and the Associated Press.
With 58% of the vote counted, consisting of absentee and early ballots, 68% of the voters had voted “No” on the recall, effectively saying Mr. Newsom should stay in the governor’s mansion.
In brief remarks from Sacramento, Mr. Newsom said that he was “humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote and expressed themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division.”
“We said yes to science, we said yes to ending this pandemic, we said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression, we said yes to women’s fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body,” said Mr. Newsom. “We said yes to diversity, we said yes to inclusion, we said yes to pluralism, we said yes to all those things that we hold dear as Californians.”
Mr. Newsom, who was elected in 2018 with 62% of the vote, outspent his competition by about 5 to 1, raising more than $70 million to defeat the 46 candidates who sought to supplant him if the recall question succeeded.
Leading the list of challengers was Republican Larry Elder, the longtime Los Angeles radio host who led the field of candidates after jumping into the race in July.
Supporters gathered more than 2 million signatures from Californians to place the recall question on the ballot, spurred by frustration over Mr. Newsom’s tough pandemic restrictions and allegations of hypocrisy after the governor broke his own rules by appearing at a private party last year at the upscale French Laundry restaurant.
Mr. Newsom framed the effort as a Republican recall, even though about a third of those who signed the recall petitions were not Republicans, and brought in top Democrats to support him, including President Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris.
About 44% of the 22 million mail-in ballots had been returned as of Tuesday night, according to Political Data Inc.’s ballot tracker.
Mr. Newsom avoided the fate of former California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, who was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The recall candidates blamed Mr. Newsom for failing to address rising crime, homelessness, wildfires and businesses fleeing the state, while Democrats framed the election as a referendum on former President Trump.
“We may have defeated Trump but Trumpism is not dead in this country,” said Mr. Newsom.
Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison said the recall’s failure had national implications, calling it “a win for the bold agenda put forth by President Biden, Governor Newsom and Democrats in Congress.”
“The #CaliforniaRecallElection was not close,” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat. “The largest state in America, with the fifth largest economy in the world, voted to crush Trumpism. Congratulations to @GavinNewsom! California will continue to move forward under his leadership.”