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California Republicans send latest sacrifice to Gavin Newsom

SF Gate logo SF Gate 6/8/2022 Alec Regimbal, SFGATE
FILE - State Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, March 30, 2022. © Rich Pedroncelli, AP

FILE - State Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, March 30, 2022.

After clearing California's primary election alongside Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Sen. Brian Dahle is now the latest Republican being sent to the figurative sacrificial alter — a statewide general election contest in deep-blue California against a Democratic incumbent.

Unofficial primary results show that Newsom and Dahle earned more votes than any of the other 24 candidates for governor in Tuesday’s election, which means they’ll compete head-to-head in November. As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, Newsom had 61% of the vote, while Dahle had 15%. 

Tuesday’s results mean Newsom is all-but-assured to win re-election in November. It's true that 2022 is expected to be a watershed year for Republicans, but this is still California — a liberal stronghold where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. Besides, there's precedent for California Democrats prevailing in statewide races even while national political winds favor Republicans.  

In 2010, Democratic candidate Jerry Brown more than survived that year’s national “red wave," defeating Republican Meg Whitman by nearly 13 percentage points. California has only become more blue in the 12 years since then.


Video: Breaking down primary results from California and six other states (NBC News)

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The only thing that seems like it could put Newsom’s re-election chances in danger would be a scandal (or scandals) in the coming months. And we’re not talking about a French Laundry-type scandal — we’re talking about an earth-shattering, that-man-should-never-hold-public-office-again-in-his-life-type scandal. That's how safe Newsom is against a Republican. 

Things possibly could have been different had independent candidate Michael Shellenberger cleared the primary. Some analysts thought the popular author from Berkeley had at least some semblance of a chance at unseating Newsom in November, but he finished had just 3% of the vote on Tuesday night. 

Newsom and his team clearly thought that a primary victory by Dahle — a farmer and small-business owner from Bieber — would give the governor the best chance at securing a second term. In an ad released last month, which premiered two days after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showed the body plans to overturn Roe v. Wade, Newsom took aim at Dahle for his stance on abortion.

“With reproductive freedom under attack, who can California women count on to defend our rights?” the ad’s narrator says. “GOP-endorsed Sen. Brian Dahle stands with Donald Trump. Dahle wants to roll back abortion rights, punishing women and doctors.”

The ad was a clear attempt by Newsom to boost Dahle’s name recognition with voters in an attempt to help him clear the crowded primary field. A group supporting Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta in his statewide race did something similar.

At the time, it was unclear whether Newsom’s ploy would help him get the result he wanted, but Tuesday’s results show that it probably did. Regardless of how Dahle ended up coming in second in this year's primary, Newsom gets to coast to re-election in November now.

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