The California Secretary of State estimated in July that the recall election would cost somewhere in the ballpark of $276 million. So, what did taxpayers get for the exorbitantly large bill? Well, they got the same governor in the end. But they were also treated to incessant robocalls and a Kodiak bear that immediately come to mind ahead of the 46 mostly unknown challengers hoping to boot Gov. Gavin Newsom from his Sacramento digs.
Some of the more noteworthy opponents included former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, a YouTuber, a former San Diego mayor, John Cox — who lost to Newsom in 2018 and uses said Kodiak bear as a campaign prop — and, of course, Larry Elder, a conservative Black Republican radio talkshow host who supports Donald Trump and vowed to rescind state vaccine and mask mandates by breakfast on day one if elected. Elder was by far the front runner on the opposition end.
In order for Newsom to keep his job, he’d need at least 50 percent of voters to reject the recall wholesale. If he failed to clear the majority bar, the job of governing the nation’s most populous state would go to whomever got the most votes on the other side of the ballot. With 46 people running to replace Newsom, it is possible that the next governor could have been elected with the support of very few voters, relatively speaking.
However, that is not the way things worked out.
Despite election exhaustion after the 2020 presidential race, the state’s voters managed to not only show up in support of the incumbent governor, but they showed up in numbers vast enough to call the race in under an hour.
California voters are big fans of casting votes by mail, using drop boxes or early voting and election offices were already aware of that, meaning the state was prepared to report totals minutes after polls closed. As a result, we knew very quickly that Newsom had survived the recall effort, as did he.
Because several outlets had already called the race, the governor made a brief acceptance speech mere minutes before the clock ticked to 9 p.m. — the polls closed at 8 p.m.
In his speech, Newsom said:
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. 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, her fate and future. We said yes to diversity. We said yes to inclusion. We said yes to pluralism.. … I’m humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercise their fundamental right to vote, and express themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism.”
In a disheartening mark of the new political era, election ‘rigging’ allegations were lobbed around days before polls closed, and, if the 2020 presidential election is any indication, those claims will likely dominate headlines for weeks or months to come.
Elder, the Fox News favorite, wasted no time claiming he lost based on election fraud, days before he actually lost the election. Perhaps not surprisingly, former President Donald Trump chimed in with his celebrity leverage, echoing claims he made in his own failed bid for a second term, that mail-in ballots are fraught with corruption and fraud, saying:
“[I]t all doesn’t matter because the California Election is totally Rigged.”
Accusations aside, Newsom was declared still governor with about 67 percent of California voter support before 9:30 p.m.
Jerold Chinn of SFBay contributed to this report.