LONG BEACH, California
After a campaign that exposed divisions in America’s most populous state, Californians were to decide on Tuesday whether to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office or steer the state in a more conservative direction.
Newsom led the polls but took nothing for granted, campaigning aggressively and calling on national Democratic figures to urge voters to reject the recall.
It received a final push Monday night from President Joe Biden, who warned the competition could shape the country’s direction on the pandemic, reproductive rights and the battle to slow climate change. The results are also likely to influence the 2022 midterm elections, when control of Congress will once again be on the line. The party that controls the White House historically loses midterm seats.
Biden, who defeated Republican President Donald Trump less than a year ago, said the issues that defined the 2020 race have been resurrected in California, with potentially disastrous results if Newsom is impeached in an election that end Tuesday.
Addressing hundreds of jubilant supporters at a twilight rally in the coastal city of Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, Biden called the top Republican candidate, conservative talk show host Larry Elder, Trump’s “clone”.
“Can you imagine him being governor of this state?” Biden asked, as the crowd responded with shouts of “No, no!” “
“You can’t let this happen. There is too much at stake, ”said the president.
“The eyes of the nation are on California,” he warned. The recall vote “will reverberate across the country and… around the world”.
Elder, seeking to become California’s first black governor, held his closing rally in neighboring Orange County, where he urged his supporters to contact friends and neighbors to vote. The GOP will need a heroic election day turnout to catch the Democrats, who have mailed out greater numbers. Nearly 8.6 million of California’s 22 million voters have already voted by mail.
“Make sure your friends vote, vote, vote and try to get 10 other friends to vote and answer every call, make every call, knock on every door, we’re going to win this thing if we vote,” Elder said. from a hotel ballroom in Costa Mesa.
U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, called the election an opportunity to change course in a state where Democrats hold a nearly 2-to-1 advantage among voters registered.
McCarthy cited homelessness, increased crime and the closure of national parks caused by forest fires, which he said were due to “mismanagement of forests”.
“And you want to reward that?” McCarthy said Tuesday on Fox News Channel “Fox and Friends.” This is an opportunity to change course.
Newsom is the fourth governor in U.S. history and the second in California to face a recall. In 2003, Californians removed Democratic Governor Gray Davis and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. The “Terminator” actor was re-elected in 2006, the last time a GOP candidate won a statewide job in California.
This recall was fueled in large part by anger over Newsom’s actions during the pandemic, which included the imposition of the statewide first order shutdown. Critics have said he has a heavy hand, shutting down businesses and keeping children out of classrooms longer than necessary. Newsom said his actions saved lives.
California voters have just two questions in Tuesday’s poll: Should Newsom stay in power? And if not, who should replace it? You have the choice between 46 replacement candidates. If voters keep Newsom, the results on the second question are irrelevant.
Beyond Elder, other prominent Republicans in the race include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Assembly Member Kevin Kiley, former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner and businessman John Cox. The best-known Democrat is Kevin Paffrath, a highly regarded financial advisor on YouTube.
How the California votes could determine the aggressiveness of the Democrats’ campaign on COVID-19 restrictions that many Republicans have decried as unnecessary and too onerous.
Biden was the latest among a sizable list of Democrats to make appearances in the contest in person or in advertisements, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former President Barack Obama.
Newsom’s ouster would be a mind-boggling blame in California, where the Democratic Party controls all state offices and dominates the legislature and congressional delegation. Less than three years ago, he was elected during a landslide.
Biden’s visit in the closing hours of the race was intended as a last-ditch effort to motivate the state’s more than 10 million Democratic voters. Newsom advisers have expressed growing confidence that the governor will survive the effort to oust him more than a year before the end of his first term. The campaign brought 25,000 volunteers to the streets over the weekend and sent 31 million text messages to voters.
“There is no scenario where we lose tomorrow,” Newsom quarterback Sean Clegg said.
As Newsom sought to nationalize the race, Republicans criticized him relentlessly for high taxes, an unchecked homelessness crisis, rising crime rates and housing prices that are out of reach for many. members of the working class.
“There is no front I can think of where this man has done a good job – not on schools, not on the homeless, not in the way he closed this state,” Elder said Monday.
In recent days, Elder has suggested that recall election results could be skewed by unspecified “shenanigans”, echoing Trump’s baseless allegations of voter fraud in his 2020 run with Biden.
There has been no confirmed evidence of widespread fraud. Elder’s campaign website is linked to a “Stop CA Fraud” site where people can sign a petition demanding a special legislative session to investigate the “twisted results” long before the results are announced.
When asked to provide evidence of any suspicious election activity, Elder spokeswoman Ying Ma said the campaign wanted “every appropriate vote to be counted” and that “whatever shenanigans exist , that will not prevent him from becoming the next governor ”.
Ronayne reported from Sacramento. Associated Press writer Alexandra Jaffe contributed from Long Beach.
This story has been corrected; the “Stop CA Fraud” petition calls for a special legislative session, not a special election.