Less than an hour after polling stations closed, AP declared Gavin Newsom the winner of the California referendum. With 60 percent of the vote counted, the results are clear enough, according to the news agency, to allow the Democratic governor to remain in office.
With 60 percent of the vote counted, a majority appears to support the governor: 66.79 percent of voters – more than 5.4 million people – answered “no” to the question of whether Newsom should be impeached. That reports the AP news agency.
Some 33.21 percent of voters in this “recall election” – almost 2.7 million people – does want to replace Newsom.
Newsom claimed victory in a speech after AP’s projection.
Newsom was elected governor of California in 2018 with 62 percent of the vote. His mandate normally ran until January 2023, but that could be brought to an early end with the referendum. A provision in the California constitution allows disaffected voters to organize such a “recall election” to replace their governor. They need the signatures of at least 12 percent of the voters in the last election. In this case, that corresponds to about 1.5 million signatures.
That threshold was easily passed by a combination of often ultra-conservative Republicans and other citizens who are disenchanted with the strict corona restrictions that Newsom issued to contain the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on their daily lives and the economy.
The Californians were presented with two questions on Tuesday. The first was whether Gavin Newsom should step down as governor. If more than 50 percent answered “No,” then the 53-year-old Democrat could just finish the last 18 months of his mandate. If the majority said “Yes”, then the second question came into play: “Who should replace him?” Whoever received the most votes of the 46 candidates – mostly Republicans – would then become the new governor. Newson himself has no right to run as a candidate. And the Democratic party has refused to name an official candidate, so as not to disrupt the pro-Newsom campaign.
Ultra Conservative Radio Star
The favorite among the candidates was Larry Elder, an ultra-conservative radio star. “He is a clone of (former US president, ed.) Donald Trump. Can you imagine him becoming governor?” said current US President Joe Biden Monday evening in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles. Biden was in California to support the Democratic governor. “The eyes of the nation are on California and the decision you are about to make,” President Biden said. “It will have a huge impact on California and will spread across the country. And, this is no joke, in the whole world.”
“Detour to power”
California is the most populous state (about 40 million) in the United States. It is also the fifth largest economic player worldwide. The state on the American west coast is known as a Democratic bastion. “It’s virtually impossible for a Republican to win a classic election and become governor,” said Jim Newton, a California politics specialist at the University of Los Angeles. “This referendum is a detour to power.” Newton also pointed out that with the referendum it was possible that “49 percent of Californians vote for Newsom and he lose to someone who only gets 18 or 19 percent.”