Polls open as Californians vote on Governor Newsom’s fate

Sacramento, California – After months of politicking, posturing, and prognostication, polls opened Tuesday for Californians to decide whether Gov. Gavin Newsom should be removed from office and, if so, who should replace him.

Voters cast their ballots in California's gubernatorial recall election on Tuesday. Voters are being asked two questions on their recall ballots: The first is whether Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled, and the second is who should succeed him in the event he is.
Voters cast their ballots in California's gubernatorial recall election on Tuesday. Voters are being asked two questions on their recall ballots: The first is whether Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled, and the second is who should succeed him in the event he is.  © IMAGO / UPI Photo

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder spokesman Mike Sanchez said that voting on Tuesday was off to a "good start" and about 11,000 voters had already cast ballots by 8:30 AM.

Polls opened at 7 AM.

The race has captured the attention of a deeply divided nation and, whatever the outcome, seems set to be cited as evidence of which direction the larger political winds are blowing.

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For Republicans, a successful recall would not only deal Newsom a devastating defeat, but also shatter the entrenched Democratic hegemony in Sacramento.

Democrats have decried the effort as an underhanded power grab and warned of potentially dire consequences should it succeed.

The stakes were apparent Monday, when President Joe Biden joined Newsom for a final campaign stop in Long Beach — the latest high-profile Democrat to lend political weight to the governor’s cause.

"This is not hyperbole: The eyes of the nation are on California," Biden said. "Because the decision you’re about to make isn’t just going to have a huge impact on California, it’s going to reverberate around the nation — and quite frankly, it’s not a joke, around the world."

Though 46 candidates are listed on the ballot as potential replacements, the race for weeks has been framed as essentially a head-to-head match-up between Newsom and conservative talk show host Larry Elder, the leading Republican candidate.

Elder is Newsom's front-running opponent

California Governor Gavin Newsom asked voters to vote "no" in the recall election during a speech on Monday.
California Governor Gavin Newsom asked voters to vote "no" in the recall election during a speech on Monday.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Elder is pacing the field of Newsom’s opponents with 38% of support from likely voters, according to a University of California, Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times — a double-digit lead over Democratic candidate and YouTube star Kevin Paffrath, who garnered 10%.

"I think I’ve energized the state, I’ve energized the party. ... That’s why they’re bringing in this heavy load," Elder said, referencing the national Democratic surrogates who have campaigned for Newsom.

Democrats have regularly likened Elder to former President Donald Trump, and said his ascension would undermine the state’s progressive values and imperil efforts to combat climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. Elder has said he would repeal the Newsom administration’s statewide mandates for students to wear masks in public school and vaccination requirements for health care workers and state employees.

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"We may have defeated Donald Trump, but we have not defeated Trumpism," Newsom said during Monday’s rally. "Trumpism is still on the ballot in California, and that’s why it’s so important, not just for all of us here — 40 million Americans strong in the nation’s largest and most populous state — but also to send a statement, all across the United States of America, that Trumpism has no place here, and Trumpism will be defeated all across the United States of America, because we’re better than that."

Republicans, though, have long objected to Newsom’s handling of the pandemic and his use of executive powers.

The question of succession won’t come into play unless a majority of voters decide to remove Newsom from office.

The same recent Berkeley IGS/Times poll showed that 60.1% of likely voters surveyed opposed recalling Newsom compared with 38.5% in favor of ousting him — the latest source of cautious optimism for Democrats after earlier canvasses showed a much tighter race.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the results of the race will be known Tuesday night. And, should Newsom prevail, some Republicans already have begun laying the groundwork to contest the election, despite no evidence of voter issues.

Cover photo: IMAGO / UPI Photo

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