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NEWSOM STAYS: Governor survives California's recall election that posed the biggest threat yet to his leadership

Business Insider logo Business Insider 4 days ago gpanetta@businessinsider.com (Grace Panetta)
Gavin Newsom holding a sign: Gov. Gavin Newsom at a campaign event with Vice President Kamala Harris on September 8 in San Leandro, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Gov. Gavin Newsom at a campaign event with Vice President Kamala Harris on September 8 in San Leandro, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Insider and Decision Desk HQ are projecting that Gov. Gavin Newsom will survive the California gubernatorial recall. Decision Desk called the race at 8:21 p.m. PT on Tuesday. Per this projected call, Newsom will remain governor of California.

Larry Elder et al. posing for the camera: Larry Elder was Newsom's most prominent challenger. Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images © Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images Larry Elder was Newsom's most prominent challenger. Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

How the recall works and what was at stake:

California is one of 19 states where voters unhappy with the direction of their state can kick their leaders to the curb before a regularly scheduled election.

Californians last recalled a governor in 2003, when voters booted Gov. Gray Davis out of office and chose the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace him. Issues including an energy crisis and rolling blackouts, a controversial car tax, and a sluggish economy following the dot-com bust dominated that election.

This time, Republican activists' efforts to recall Newsom were buoyed by disapproval of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and frustration with the administration's COVID-19 restrictions. Other issues defining the recall include the increasing unaffordability of housing in the state and extreme weather events like wildfires.


Video: Governor Newsom faces recall election in California (NBC News)

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Californians were faced with two questions on the ballot: whether to recall Newsom (a simple yes or no) and, if so, who should replace him. The first question failed to receive a simple "yes" majority for Newsom to get the boot. On the second question, the winner to replace him could have won with just a plurality and not a majority of the vote.

Forty-six candidates were in the running to replace Newsom, down from the 135 who ran to replace Davis in 2003.

The leading GOP contender to replace Newsom was the talk-radio host Larry Elder, who has a checkered personal past and long history of making controversial comments on the air. He led other replacement candidates by double-digits in FiveThirtyEight's polling averages.

Other Republicans running in the recall included former Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego and the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee, John Cox. Neither the California Republican Party nor national Republicans, however, had attempted to consolidate support around a single candidate.

The reality-TV star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, the YouTuber Kevin Paffrath, and a host of other minor candidates also ran in the recall.

Unlike in 2003, when Davis' lieutenant governor ran on the second ballot as an "insurance policy," Democrats chose not to put up a replacement candidate, instead urging their supporters to vote "no" on question one and leave question two blank.

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