Republicans in California suffered a crushing defeat in their attempt to oust Governor Newsom in a recall election. After a knock-down, drag-out fight, voters in the Golden State overwhelmingly agreed to keep Newsom in office.
The Republican recall election effort, launched months ago, cost nearly $300 million. It all started with an infamous dinner at The French Laundry last November. Newsom was photographed breaking his own quarantine rules by hosting an indoor party with friends and lobbyists. Since then, GOP officials barnstormed the state gathering signatures to launch a vote to take Newsom’s job.
The recall election was the second in the state’s history and the first in nearly 20 years. It required voters to answer two questions: should the governor be recalled and, if so, who should replace him?
Lead Republican contender falters as disparaging comments come to light
Larry Elder, a right-wing talk-radio host, became the top choice to replace Newsom if the governor was recalled. Elder, a staunch supporter of Trump and anti-vax conspiracy theorist, finished first among the field of replacement candidates.
Toward the end of the campaign, Elder came under fire for disparaging comments he made about women.
In a 1996 ad for his show, Elder says: “Glass ceiling? Ha! What glass ceiling? Women, women exaggerate the problem of sexism.”
Decades later in another episode of his show, Elder made disturbing comments about the Women’s March following the election of Donald Trump.
“When you look at all these women that have marched, something like 2 million women, Donald Trump has probably gotten more obese woman off the couch and in the streets, working out, than Michelle Obama did in eight years,” he said.
Elder barely even received two million votes out of ten million cast.
Several other candidates, including former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, called on Elder to step out of the race.
“Elder’s backwards positions harm women’s rights and the livelihoods of California families,” Faulconer said, according to Politico. “Elder’s lack of judgement and character flaws threaten the success and credibility of this historic recall movement — Californians will not vote to recall one dysfunctional Governor if it means replacing him with another.”
Loss does little to bolster Republican prospects nationally
In all, Republicans spent $45 million in ads attempting to win the recall. Most of the leading GOP candidates pledged to end COVID mitigation strategies and further voter suppression tactics.
Many also denied the impacts of climate change, even as the state struggles with record drought and wildfires.
The overwhelming defeat sheds light on what next year’s mid-term election could bring. Two main takeaways are clear from the night’s results:
1) The Republican party is the party of Donald Trump.
Republicans in that state voted in droves for the most extreme and unelectable candidates, rather than the moderates. Elder, the fringe candidate who has never held office, received five times as many votes as the former mayor of San Diego.
Elder is an outspoken supporter of the former president. The radio host has even frequently encouraged his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Faulconer, on the other hand, has been an outspoken critic.
2) The far-right base is not growing
The recall election was the definition of a referendum on Governor Newsom. Republicans called for the election, petitioned for the election and spent tens of millions to win the election. And still, Governor Newsom not only won, but he performed better than he did in 2018 when he was first elected.
Three years ago, Newsom received just over 61% of the vote in a year that was incredibly strong for California Democrats. Last night, he bested that number with even more Californians voting to keep him in office.
It is unclear whether Gavin Newsom will learn from his mistakes between now and re-election next year.
However, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans seem unlikely to take a lesson from the loss. Twice-impeached, one-term President Donald Trump already claims this election was rigged.
Of course, it wasn’t.