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California Recall: Newsom Well Positioned As Elder Cries Foul

Patch logo Patch 9/13/2021 Paige Austin
Gavin Newsom wearing a suit and tie: California Gov. Gavin Newsom is photographed during a TV interview before a rally against the California gubernatorial recall election on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Sun Valley, Calif. © AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu California Gov. Gavin Newsom is photographed during a TV interview before a rally against the California gubernatorial recall election on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Sun Valley, Calif.

CALIFORNIA — Heading into the final day of the recall election, the slate of 46 challengers looking to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom faced powerful headwinds.

Nearly 8 million people have already voted, and the majority of the returned ballots are from registered Democrats. By the final week of voting, Democrats had a 28 percentage point advantage in pre-election day ballots returned, according to Political Data Inc.

A likely victory by the governor has recall opponents crying foul. Less than two months after a major poll appeared to show Newsom losing, his sudden rise in the polls prompted Republicans such as former President Donald Trump and leading recall candidate Larry Elder to claim election fraud over the weekend.

With no major Democratic candidates running in the recall, the high turnout among Democrats would seem to bode well for the governor. But if recent election trends hold up, Republican voters are more likely to vote in person on election day than Democrats. It’s that election day turnout that has Newsom campaigning with President Joe Biden Monday while his challengers crisscross the state to turn out their supporters.

Republican candidate Assemblyman Kevin Kiley was scheduled on Monday to speak to supporters outside Manuel Arts High School in Los Angeles, where he once taught English. Republican candidates John Cox and Elder both spent the weekend campaigning in San Diego County, the state’s second largest county and a once-reliable Republican stronghold.

Elder, a conservative radio host and the leading Republican challenger in the polls, spent his final weekend on the campaign trail with actress Rose McGowan, who claimed Newsom’s wife urged her not to report sexual assault allegations against disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein. A spokeswoman for Jennifer Siebel Newsom called the allegation a fabrication.

Larry Elder holding a sign: Republican conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder with former actress and activist Rose McGowan hold a news conference at the Luxe Hotel Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. Elder is running to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election. McGowan, who is known for her role in the "Scream" movie franchise, was one of the earliest of dozens of women to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, making her a major figure in the #MeToo movement. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) © Provided by Patch Republican conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder with former actress and activist Rose McGowan hold a news conference at the Luxe Hotel Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. Elder is running to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election. McGowan, who is known for her role in the "Scream" movie franchise, was one of the earliest of dozens of women to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, making her a major figure in the #MeToo movement. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Biden was scheduled to campaign with the governor in Long Beach Monday night for the campaign's final rally against the recall effort.

Newsom heads into the homestretch with momentum on his side. Midsummer polling had voters nearly evenly split on whether to recall the governor, but polls began skewing dramatically in his favor in August just as voters began casting ballots by mail.

According to an averaging of major polls by FiveThirtyEight, 41.6 percent of likely voters want to recall Newsom, compared to 56.2 percent who want to keep him in office.

Newsom’s major weakness earlier in the summer stemmed from an apparent enthusiasm gap between his base and recall supporters who reported being more motivated to vote. Since then, ballots were mailed to every registered voter, and Democrats returned those ballots at much higher rates, driving especially high turnout for an odd-year, single-issue election day.

Political Data Inc., a data firm that works with progressives, recently reported that 7,799,192 ballots have already been returned, with 52 percent coming from registered Democrats, compared to 25 percent from registered Republicans and 23 percent from no-party voters.


Video: Harris backs Newsom in California recall (USA TODAY)

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A Berkeley IGS poll released Friday showed Newsom in an even stronger position as the recall election winds up. The poll had 60 percent of likely voters preferring to keep Newsom in office and 38.5 percent wanting to recall him.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by huge margins, high voter turnout would seem to favor Newsom.

Fred Smoller, an associate professor of political science at Chapman University, predicted that turnout will be higher than 50 percent of registered voters, which would be another sign that the enthusiasm gap between Democratic and Republican voters evaporated in the final month of the campaign.

Last week, after early voting centers opened around the state, pollsters looked for ballots from registered Republicans to come pouring in, Smoller said.

“Today was the day we were looking for that Republican surge. Well, they didn't show up,” he said on Wednesday. “Newsom will win. The recall will fail, and Newsom will have vote-by-mail to thank.”

Smoller also called the emergence of Elder as the Republican front-runner a gift to the governor, energizing Newsom’s base to get out and vote.

“Larry Elder is a Trump man," Smoller said. "He is not aligned with the people of California on abortion, minimum wage, climate change or on masks. He is a hard-right candidate in a state that is liberal.”

Newsom spent the waning days of his campaign playing Elder as his foil and framing the election as a matter of life and death, thanks to Elder’s pledge to eliminate mask and vaccine mandates. He also highlighted comments Elder made suggesting slave owners would deserve reparations for the loss of their property and that female voters are less informed than men.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Newsom said Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The consequences of this race are profound and pronounced. The xenophobia, the nativism, the hatred, the rank racism that is behind this.”

For his part, Elder has no qualms about being cast as Newsom’s foil. It helped propel him to the top of the crowded field of recall candidates.

Though the Berkeley IGS poll showed Newsom poised to beat the recall, Elder held a commanding lead among the replacement candidates, with support from 38.5 percent of voters who planned to cast a ballot for a replacement candidate. According to the poll, a third of likely voters said they won’t vote for a replacement to Newsom.

Among the voters likely to choose a replacement candidate, Kevin Paffrath came in second, with 10 percent support, followed by former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, with 8 percent, the Berkeley IGS poll found. Cox and Kiley both came in at 4 percent.

Decrying what he described as a double standard in the media coverage of the campaign, Elder predicted Newsom’s support was being overstated.

"If Gavin Newsom thinks that flying in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — not exactly the most admired government officials at the present time — will make him look better, that's all you need to know about how oblivious and detached Newsom is from a large majority of Californians," he said.

Though he predicted victory while campaigning in Los Angeles over the weekend, Elder appeared ready to contest a loss.

His campaign launched a website asking voters to sign a petition contesting the election results.

“Join us in this fight as you are able, primarily by signing our petition demanding a special session of the California legislature to investigate and ameliorate the twisted results of this 2021 Recall Election of Governor Gavin Newsom,” the website said. “Statistical analyses used to detect fraud in elections held in 3rd-world nations (such as Russia, Venezuela, and Iran) have detected fraud in California resulting in Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor.”

Patch Staffer Kat Schuster contributed to this report.

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