California voters handed Gavin Newsom a second term as governor on Tuesday, choosing the incumbent over Brian Dahle, an unknown Republican state senator from Lassen County who has struggled to compete with the Democratic political heavyweight.
The race was announced by The Associated Press shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m., with Newsom’s early lead over Dahle expected to increase as more results are tallied in the coming days.
The election consolidates the success of the 55-year-old Democrat at the polls. Newsom captured the governor’s office in 2018 with the largest margin of victory in more than half a century and buried the GOP-led effort to recall him with the same advantage three years later.
After easily defeating Dahle, the socially progressive governor returns for another four years to lead a state poised to become the world’s fourth-largest economy while simultaneously experiencing record homelessness, a severe shortage of affordable housing, and rising poverty. crime.
As he voted in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday morning, the governor pledged to continue to focus on the issues plaguing the state. He thanked California voters hours later during an election night acceptance speech with his family by his side, saying he was honored to be elected for another four years.
“We have governors who won re-election tonight in other states that ban books, that ban speech, that ban abortion and here we are in California, we’re going in a completely different direction,” Newsom said. . “It is a source of deep pride and it is with this passion that I bring to this second term the resolution to do more to advance this cause of freedom and equity.”
Tuesday ended an unusually calm campaign by a governor who vigorously defended himself against the recall effort last year.
President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and American Senses Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have all stepped up in 2021 to support Newsom with appearances on the campaign trail and in ads, helping the governor’s political team choose his replacement main opponent, Larry Elder, as a Trump-aligned extremist.
This time around, Newsom did not call in any high-profile political reinforcements and he rarely acknowledged his opponent. The governor aired just one TV ad calling for Dahle’s opposition to abortion in May, days after a proposed U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade made headlines and participated in a debate against his opponent.
A 56-year-old seed and livestock farmer, Dahle served 16 years on his local board of supervisors before his election to the California Assembly in 2012 and the state Senate in 2019.
Although a seasoned politician and well-liked in Sacramento by lawmakers of both parties, Dahle faced insurmountable odds.
“I don’t want to leave this broken California to my children, your children and our grandchildren,” Dahle told Redding when declaring his intention to run in February. “I cannot sit on the sidelines and watch the corrupt one-party regime continue to poison the future of our state.”
But Dahle has failed to overcome the fundamental problems he started with nine months ago: an inability to raise enough money to get that message out and an ‘R’ next to his name on the ballot. in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by nearly 2 to 1.
Newsom brought in $24.7 million in total contributions compared to the $2.5 million Dahle raised, according to a Tuesday tally.
Sean Clegg, Newsom’s senior political strategist, said the Roe decision leak created an opportunity to focus the primary campaign on the abortion issue and contrast Dahle.
Newsom and his team changed tack after the June 7 election and tried to draw attention to Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment to explicitly protect the right to abortion. Newsom promoted the measure in his only ad in the state during the general election, which did not mention his re-election bid.
“Once you have a general election dance card and you don’t have a lot of swing voters in that election, then you start looking at what is the most effective approach for my campaign to help the entire Democratic ticket in California,” Clegg said. “Support. 1 is turnout as long as people know it’s on the ballot.
Led by Pro Tem Senate Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Democratic lawmakers voted to put the measure on the ballot this year in hopes it would entice their party’s voters to participate in the election. mid-term. Voters overwhelmingly backed Proposition 1 in early returns.
As a progressive on social issues, abortion rights is among several causes Newsom has embraced since becoming governor in a landslide victory over Republican businessman John Cox. four years ago.
Newsom leaned on historic state tax revenue to fund an expansion of Medi-Cal to cover all immigrants in 2024, the expansion of paid family leave, two years of free community college and free preschool for 4-year-olds, among other programs to strengthen the social safety net and provide more opportunities for upward mobility for people living in poverty.
But as a longtime owner of hospitality businesses, including wineries, restaurants and a San Francisco wine store, his track record wasn’t as far off as his liberal image.
Newsom convinced lawmakers to adopt a series of tough climate policies and at the same time expand operations at Diablo Canyon, reversing a deal environmental groups pushed six years ago to shut down California’s last nuclear power plant to security reasons.
Civil rights organizations have opposed the governor’s plan to provide court-ordered treatment to homeless Californians struggling with mental illness and addiction, arguing that voluntary housing and care is a more humane method and efficient.
Newsom pledged to continue to press local governments to build more housing and deliver a stronger response to the homelessness crisis during his second term. In a bit of political opportunism a week before the election, the governor called on local governments to “stick with the status quo” on plans to reduce homelessness and called for more ambitious goals.
Tent camps along sidewalks and under overpasses fueled a national image of California, one that the national and state GOP seized on in the recall election and Dahle blamed Newsom on the campaign trail. The housing crisis and rising crime seemed like a potential vulnerability for Newsom, with opinion polls showing voters unhappy with the direction the state was heading.
But political observers argue that Newsom’s re-election results and recall have been dropped since July 2021, when no other well-known Democrats chose to challenge him in the recall. The presence of a high-profile Democratic replacement on the ballot could have given disgruntled Democratic and independent voters a viable alternative to Newsom and an incentive to oust him.
Newsom and his political team ran a shadow campaign to keep all other well-known Democrats out of the 2021 recall ballot and succeeded, giving the governor an easy opportunity to compare his leadership with that of Elder. Winning the support of 61.9% of voters made him an even more formidable candidate for re-election, scaring off any potential challengers.
“I think he found his voice in the encore and didn’t look back,” Clegg said. “He found another stride.”
Newsom describes this difference as feeling a “deeper” and “more powerful sense of urgency in my drive to express myself and communicate that expression.”
After publicly tussling with President Trump during his first two years in office, the governor channeled his frustrations with the GOP on Republican governors, with particular emphasis on Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, after recall election. The governor paid for billboards in conservative states promoting abortion rights in California and ran ads in Florida criticizing the state’s GOP leaders.
His second term is set to begin with another fight with the oil industry next month when, at Newsom’s urging, lawmakers begin a special session to consider a one-off excess profits tax. The governor has repeatedly accused the oil industry of driving up prices for California consumers.
“I’m a different person and I’m finishing,” Newsom said in an interview days before the election. “And that’s just the attraction to come.” If I have the privilege of doing this work for another four years, you haven’t seen anything yet.
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