Michael R. By Blood and Kathleen Roane
Long Beach, Calif. (AP) — After a campaign that bare divisions in America’s most populous state, Californians had to decide Tuesday whether to keep Governor Gavin Newsom at his job or move the state in a more conservative direction.
Newsom was leading the polls, but took nothing, campaigning aggressively and bringing in National Democratic figures to urge voters to recall.
He received a final push late Monday from President Joe Biden, who warned that the contest could shape the country’s direction on the fight to slow the pandemic, reproductive rights and climate change. The result is also likely to influence the 2022 mid-term elections, when the Congress will regain control. The party that controls the White House has historically lost seats in the midterm.
Biden, who defeated Republican President Donald Trump less than a year ago, said the issues defining the 2020 race have been resurrected in California, with potentially disastrous consequences if Newsom is toppled on Tuesday. The election is removed.
Speaking to hundreds of enthusiastic supporters during a Twilight rally in the coastal city of Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, Biden referred to the leading Republican nominee, conservative talk show host Larry Elder, as a “clone” of Trump.
“Can you imagine that he is the governor of this state?” Biden asked, as the crowd chanted “No, no!” replied with the slogan of
“You can’t let that happen. A lot is at stake,” the president said.
“The eyes of the nation are on California,” he warned. The recall vote is “going to resonate across the country and … around the world.”
Elder, who aspires to become California’s first black governor, staged his capstone rally in nearby Orange County, where he urged supporters to reach out to friends and neighbors to vote. The GOP will need a heroic Election Day poll to catch Democrats who are turning in large numbers of mail ballots. Of California’s 22 million voters, about 8.6 million have already cast mail-in ballots.
“Make sure your friends vote, vote, vote, and try and vote for 10 more friends and hit every call, every call, knock on every door, if we vote we’ll do this Going to win the cheese said the Elder from a hotel ballroom in Costa Mesa.
US House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called the election an opportunity to change course in a state where Democrats hold a nearly 2-to-1 advantage among registered voters.
McCarthy cited homelessness, rising crime and the closure of national parks from wildfires, which he said was due to “forest mismanagement”.
“And you want to reward him?” McCarthy said Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.” “This is an opportunity to change course.”
Newsom is the fourth governor in US history and the second governor in California to face a recall. In 2003, Californians ousted Democratic Governor Gray Davis and replaced Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. The “Terminator” actor won re-election in 2006, the last time a GOP candidate had won statewide office in California.
The recall was fueled largely by anger over Newsom’s actions during the pandemic, which included enforcing the nation’s first statewide shutdown order. Critics said he was heavy-handed, closing businesses and keeping children out of classes for longer than necessary. Newsom said his actions saved lives.
California voters have just two questions on Tuesday’s ballot: Should Newsom stay in office? And if not, who will replace him? There are 46 replacement candidates to choose from. If voters hold Newsom, the results of the second question are irrelevant.
Beyond Elder, other prominent Republicans in the race include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner, Assemblyman Kevin Kelly, former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner and businessman John Cox. The most famous Democrat is Kevin Pfarth, a financial advisor who has a large number of followers on YouTube.
How California’s vote could determine how aggressively Democrats have campaigned on COVID-19 restrictions, which many Republicans have decried as unnecessary and excessive burden.
Biden was the last on a major list of Democrats to appear in the contest, either in person or in commercials, that included Vice President Kamala Harris, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former President Barack Obama.
Newsom’s ouster would be a surprise rebuke in California, where the Democratic Party controls every statewide office and dominates the Legislature and congressional delegations. Less than three years ago, he was elected in a landslide.
Biden’s visit in the waning hours of the race was intended as a last-ditch effort to inspire the state’s more than 10 million Democratic voters. Newsom’s advisers expressed confidence that the governor would refrain from attempting to oust him more than a year before the end of his first term. The campaign had 25,000 volunteers on the streets over the weekend and has sent 31 million text messages to voters.
“There is no scenario where we lose tomorrow,” said Newsom strategist Sean Clegg.
While Newsom has sought to nationalize the race, Republicans have consistently criticized them for high taxes, an uncontrollable homelessness crisis, soaring crime rates and housing prices that are out of reach for many in the working class.
“There’s no front I can think of where this guy has done a good job – not in schools, not on homelessness, the way he closed this state down,” Elder said on Monday.
In recent days, Elder suggested that the results of the recall election may be skewed by unspecified “shenanigans,” echoing Trump’s baseless claims of voting fraud with Biden in his 2020 race.
No corroborative evidence of widespread fraud has been found. Elder’s campaign website links to a “Stop CA Fraud” site where people can sign a petition calling for a special legislative session to investigate the “twisted results” before any results are announced.
Asked to provide evidence of any suspicious voting activity, Elder’s spokeswoman Ying Ma said the campaign wants “every fair vote to be counted” and “whatever the shenanigans are on her way to becoming the next governor.” Won’t stand.”
Ronne reported from Sacramento. Associated Press Writer Alexandra Jaffe contributed from Long Beach.
This story has been corrected; The “Stop CA Fraud” petition calls for a special legislative session, not a special election.
Join AP’s recall coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/california-recall