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California governor Newsom defeats Republican recall effort


California governor Newsom defeats Republican recall effort
California governor Gavin Newsom speaks after the polls closed on the recall election at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento - Reuters picture

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SACRAMENTO – California governor Gavin Newsom handily beat back a Republican campaign to oust him from office on Tuesday, sending a decisive message that voters in the deeply Democratic state supported his policies for tackling COVID-19, immigration and crime.

Newsom, who won his first term three years ago by a landslide, again claimed a resounding victory in the special recall election, which meant he will remain in office through his term ending in January 2023 and see his chances significantly bolstered in next year’s regularly scheduled election.

With 58 per cent of precincts reporting late on Tuesday, Newsom was ahead by 32 percentage points, with 66 per cent of voters saying he should stay in office and 34 per cent saying he should be removed.

“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 in the state capital of Sacramento.

His win and the high turn-out in Tuesday’s election came as a relief to national Democrats, who already were bracing for a tough fight in the elections next year that will decide control of Congress.

A loss in one of the party’s strong-hold states would have set off alarms across the country, particularly given the leading Republican challenger was a supporter of former United States president Donald Trump with a track record of controversial statements about women and minorities.

Newsom and Democratic leaders, including U.S. president Joe Biden characterised the recall effort, heavily supported by state and national Republican groups, as part of a broader Republican agenda to oust Democrats from power and expand conservative restrictions on voting, civil rights and abortion.

“Economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, our values where California has made so much progress, all of those things were on the ballot this evening,” Newsom said in his speech.

His decisive win holds lessons for national Democrats, who will be fighting next year to keep majorities in Congress and seats in governor’s mansions.