Californians are flocking to polling stations to decide the fate of Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday in what marks just the second effort to decide an elected governor’s mid-term fate in state history.
Newsom is fighting for his political survival against a crowded field of Republican candidates led by Larry Elder, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump. Newsom and Democrats more broadly have attempted to emphasize Elder’s unwavering support for Trump in the state where the former president was dealt a whopping 30-point defeat.
Ballots ask voters two questions: first, if Newsom should be recalled from office, and second, who should replace him. The second question only comes in to play if over half of voters say he should be removed.
Should voters approve Newsom’s removal, whichever of his opponents receives the most votes in the second question would become California’s next governor.
Every California governor since 1960 has been the subject of a recall attempt, but only two have gathered enough signatures to make it to the ballot box. The other was when former governor, and internationally-recognized movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger defeated incumbent Jerry Brown in 2003.
Schwarzenegger remained in office through 2011, and maintains the mantle of the state’s last Republican governor. The minority white state has increasingly trended Democratic in recent decades with minority groups continuing to grow in size, and Latinos now making up California’s largest ethnic group.
US President Joe Biden has come out strongly in Newsom’s support, and on Monday visited Long Beach, just outside of Los Angeles, to rally support for the embattled leader. He maintained a vote to recall Newsom would be a vote for Trump and his ideology.
“This is not hyperbole — the eyes of the nation are on California. 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 — not a joke — around the world,” said Biden. “This year, the leading Republican running for governor is the closest thing to a Trump clone that I’ve ever seen in your state.”
Elder has pledged to roll back California’s environmental regulations, and nix Newsom’s universal mask mandate for public schools, vaccination mandates for state workers, and other efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Polling stations will close at 8 p.m. local time (0300 GMT), and state counties can begin releasing results at that time.