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California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), a longtime ally to the LGBTQ community, has survived a recall election that sought to strip him of his office.
Results from Tuesday’s vote showed a blowout among initial returns — largely from mail-in ballots sent in by registered voters — with voters choosing to keep Newsom in office by a nearly 2-1 margin, with 67% of estimated ballots counted as of press time. Shortly before midnight, less than an hour after polls closed, the Associated Press announced it was calling the election in Newsom’s favor, based on projections that recall supporters would not be able to gain enough same-day election votes to overcome the “no” side’s more than 2.5 million-vote edge.
After the vote was called, Newsom celebrated his victory and promised to continue moving forward with the political agenda he campaigned on when first elected in 2018.
“No is not the only thing that was expressed tonight,” Newsom said in remarks. “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 ending this pandemic.
“I’m humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Americans who exercised their fundamental right to vote and expressed themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism, by rejecting so much of the negativity that’s defined our politics in this country,” he added.
The recall election, which could end up costing the state more than $300 million, was a primarily Republican-led effort, after conservatives targeted Newsom for his handling of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including shutdowns and mask mandates, and his flouting of those restrictions to attend a lobbyist’s maskless birthday dinner at the French Laundry, a fancy Napa Valley restaurant.
For a time, a number of high-profile potential challengers, primarily Republicans, either considered or announced plans to run in the recall campaign, with trans former Olympian and reality star Caitlyn Jenner, conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer jumping into the race, while former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell had his name bandied about as a potential challenger but ultimately decided not to run.
However, according to preliminary exit polls, Republican talking points failed to sway voters. Newsom’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic — the chief issue that led to his being recalled in the first place — helped propel him to victory, with the pandemic ranking as the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds, but just 3 in 10 voters saying Newsom’s pandemic-related policies were too strict. Additionally, 69% of voters said they supported the state’s mask mandates for students in schools, and about two-thirds said the state’s situation as it relates to the pandemic was either improving or staying the same, reports Yahoo! News.
In the days leading up to the election, Newsom was joined on the campaign trail by fellow Democrats President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who urged voters to choose “no” on the recall and portrayed Republican Larry Elder, the leading candidate to replace Newsom if he had been recalled, as an ideological ally of former President Donald Trump.
Newsom, who has a record of supporting the expansion of LGBTQ rights in California, has long been viewed as an ally to LGBTQ advocates. Earlier this month, State Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), the chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, created a profile on the gay dating app Grindr to encourage members of the LGBTQ community to vote “no” on the recall.
Equality California, the state’s top LGBTQ rights organization, celebrated Newsom’s victory in a statement released shortly after The AP’s call.
“Last night, President Biden delivered a message to California. He told us that the eyes of the nation — and indeed the world — were upon us. Let tonight’s results be a clear response: Trumpism has no place in our politics, in California, in our world,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur said in a statement.
“Tonight, we have defeated the anti-LGBTQ+, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant, anti-science and anti-worker Republican Recall. We have affirmed our California values and our support for Gavin Newsom, the most pro-equality governor in California history, and his tireless efforts to build a California for all.
“LGBTQ+ Californians — 12% of registered voters in the Golden State — and our pro-equality allies played a decisive role in this resounding victory,” added Chavez Zbur. “We stood with Governor Newsom because he has always stood with us — no matter the personal or political consequences. He has signed groundbreaking legislation to support the health and well-being of transgender Californians; expanded access to life-saving HIV prevention medications; enacted new gun safety measures and police reforms; created more housing for people experiencing homelessness than any governor in history — and put a stop to California’s racist, anti-LGBTQ+ death penalty.
“He is working every day against difficult odds to keep our families safe, protect families from eviction and provide billions of dollars in relief to working families and small businesses.
“To be clear, California has big challenges ahead of us. We need to beat this pandemic, rebuild our economy, safeguard reproductive freedom, solve our homelessness crisis, save our planet from climate change and create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people,” Chavez Zbur concluded. “Governor Newsom is up for the task, and so are we. Let’s get back to work.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated.
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