California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom looked set to fend off a recall effort, US television networks said, overcoming a Republican campaign to unseat him over his liberal policies on immigration, COVID-19 and crime.
With more than 60 percent of the votes tallied, NBC, CNN and Fox News said that Newsom was set to prevail, with two thirds voting against the recall effort.
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Newsom, a first-term governor, successfully boosted support with a flurry of late campaigning.
“I’m humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote,” Newsom said in a victory speech Tuesday night in the state capital of Sacramento.
Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds, reporting from Beverly Hills, said that Californians were girding for a long night before results could be announced, but were surprised that the quick outcome of the polls.
“The result so far indicates a very sweeping victory for Gavin Newsom with many voters heavily voting ‘NO’ on the recall,” Reynolds said.
In the final days of the race, he appeared alongside President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who previously represented California as a US senator and attorney general.
By late on Tuesday, returns showed Newsom easily winning a majority to remain in office.
“It’s not even close,” Dan Morain, a former editorial page editor at the Sacramento Bee, told Al Jazeera. “They (Republicans) were selling something that the vast majority of Californians simply would not buy.”
The leading Republican candidate Larry Elder, a Black radio talk show host and supporter of former President Donald Trump, secured about 43 percent of the vote on the portion of the ballot asking who should replace Newsom if he were recalled, the New York Times reported.
Newsom was elected in a landslide in 2018.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 in the west coast state, and polls consistently showed that a strong majority of voters opposed recalling Newsom.
Democrats complain the Republican-led recall was an attempt to hijack the state’s government: seizing power in extraordinary circumstances when they could never do it in a regular ballot.
A poll by Spectrum News and IPSOS published before results were announced found two-thirds of registered voters viewed the recall as a political power grab.
“This whole recall is ridiculous,” said Jake, a 38-year-old tech industry worker, who preferred not to give his last name.
“I did the math and even if every registered voter turns out, it would cost more than $ 12 per vote,” he said.
“A lot of people could have had a breakfast with that this morning.”
The only successful California recall brought bodybuilder-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to office in 2003.
Schwarzenegger, who ended up running the state for more than seven years, was California’s last Republican chief executive.