Sacramento The Democratic governor of the US state of California, Gavin Newsom, is predicted to have successfully fended off attempts by his opponents to force him out of office prematurely. In a special vote on Tuesday, a clear majority of voters in the West Coast state voted to keep Newsom as governor, according to predictions from CNN, ABC and NBC on Wednesday night (local time).
A group of Republicans had initiated the voting against Newsom and collected more than the necessary 1.5 million signatures. California is a Democratic stronghold. If Newsom had lost his post prematurely and had been replaced by a Republican, it would have been a sensation – and a disaster for the Democrats.
The 53-year-old Newsom was criticized by the conservative side, among other things, for his liberal immigration policy and strict corona regulations. Several dozen opposing candidates ran to replace him as governor – none of them, however, a political heavyweight. The field of challengers was led by the arch-conservative radio host Larry Elder, a supporter of ex-US President Donald Trump.
High-ranking Democrats up to US President Joe Biden had used their political weight to support Newsom in the election campaign. A defeat of the governor in the most populous and politically important US state would have had far-reaching consequences for Biden’s administration.
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The broadcaster CNN reported on Wednesday night (local time) that after counting more than 60 percent of the votes, more than 66 percent of voters would have voted against Newsom’s early deselection.
Attempt to deselect took off in connection with Corona
Newsom himself appeared about an hour after polling stations closed to announce his victory. He thanked the voters for repelling the attempt to vote out. Much was at stake, said the governor. With their vote, the voters clearly spoke out in favor of science, vaccinations, the fight against the corona pandemic, diversity, pluralism and fundamental rights.
The Democrat has been the state governor since early 2019. He was elected to office for four years in 2018. His regular term ends in January 2023.
A group of Republicans had collected more than the necessary 1.5 million signatures months ago to initiate the voting against him. Conservatives railed against, among other things, Newsom’s liberal immigration policy, blaming him for the homeless crisis in the state and high housing costs.
However, the attempt to vote out really picked up speed in connection with the corona pandemic – especially when the Democrat ordered a strict lockdown, but visited an expensive restaurant with friends. Newsom apologized for the misstep, but his opponents used it for their campaign.
In August, the polls had looked tricky for Newsom. Shortly before election day, however, polls had predicted a clear victory for the Democrats. California is traditionally a “blue” state and has voted clearly democratic in recent years. Defeat there, of all places, would have been particularly painful for the Democratic Party.
Election results are rare
In some US states there is the option to vote a governor out early. It is extremely rare that a governor actually has to face such a procedure. There are more attempts to initiate a voting procedure, but in most cases there is no vote because the hurdles are high. Newsom is only the fourth governor in US history to face such a “recall” election.
It is even more rare for a governor to be driven out of office in this way. This has only happened twice in US history – once in California: In 2003, Republican and film star Arnold Schwarzenegger made the leap to governorship of the West Coast state with a “recall”. Schwarzenegger later won re-election and was in office until 2011. Since then, there has been no Republican governor in California.
The state in the western United States has great political and economic weight. With around 40 million inhabitants, it is the most populous state in the United States. In isolation, California is the fifth largest economy in the world.
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