LOS ANGELES (AP) – Republicans, vastly outnumbered by Democrats in California, needed a large turnout in this week’s recall elections to have any chance of removing the governor. Gavin Newsom from the office. It did not happen.
About 9.2 million votes were counted on Tuesday and an estimated 2.9 million still remain to be counted. That suggests the overall turnout was around 55%, roughly the average for a California midterm election and well below the 80% who voted in the 2020 presidential race.
Last year, then-President Donald Trump received more votes than any Republican presidential candidate in state history, more than 6 million, but was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden, who raised more than 11 million.
Early polls in the impeachment contest suggested Republicans were highly motivated to eliminate Newsom in the rare late-summer election. The party represents only 24% of registered voters, so the Republican Party needed enthusiastic participation and strong performance from conservative independents to achieve the majority of votes necessary to overthrow Newsom.
Instead, Newsom appears to be heading for 64% support.
“Republicans would have needed such a dramatic turnout differential to advance this election that it was basically impossible with the lay of the land,” said Jessica Trounstine, chair of the political science department at the University of California, Merced.
This year, if the trends continue as ballots that arrive later in the mail are counted, support for the revocation would end with about 4.5 million votes, or about 37% of the total. In 2018, Republican John Cox got about 4.7 million votes, or 38%, in his big loss to Newsom, indicating that Republican voters were no more excited now than they were then.
Heading into Tuesday’s election, Northern California’s Placer County is the kind of place where pro-withdrawal forces would have expected strong support. Democrats have a nearly 2-to-1 record advantage statewide, but Republicans have a 10-point advantage in Placer.
In the 2018 election, Placer’s turnout was around 75% and Cox outscored Newsom by 18 percentage points. Turnout in the recall appears to be targeting about 52%, and support for toppling Newsom only held a two-point lead as the votes continue to pour in.
In the former Republican stronghold of Orange County, an epicenter of resistance to Newsom’s COVID-19 restrictions that helped fuel the impeachment effort, voters rejected his removal by about 4 percentage points, they showed incomplete statements.
Kern County had a 55% turnout in 2018 and scored a 10-point victory for Trump in 2020. The recall turnout appeared to be below 50%, and those in favor of eliminating Newsom were leading by a wide margin. It was a similar situation in Madera County, which, like Kern, is part of the vast agricultural region of California’s Central Valley that leans toward the Republican Party. Madera’s share had a trend 10 points lower than in 2018.
Cox, who was among the candidates running to replace Newsom had the impeachment succeeded, said he had no explanation for the regularity of Republican and Conservative voters. He said he was dismayed that more retirement supporters weren’t going to the polls in droves, pointing to the state’s rampant homeless crisis, rising crime rates and high housing costs.
“It’s inexplicable to me,” Cox said.
“They’ve either given up or got used to it,” he speculated, suggesting that Election Day misery years for California Republicans played a role in the performance of the Republican Party.