Newsom Wins Recall; Other Elections

By Jim Ellis

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

Sept. 16, 2021 — California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) easily avoided being recalled in last night’s statewide election, but the margin will likely close once all of the ballots are received and finally counted. The reported results are largely from mail ballots received well before election day. The posted turnout totals exceed 9 million voters, and this number will continue to grow.

The NO option on the recall ballot, meaning the vote individuals cast in order to keep Gov. Newsom in office, is running just under 64 percent, but under the California system of ballot signature verification it will be several weeks before we see official final totals. California also allows a long post-election period for ballots postmarked on election day to be received. It is clear, however, that Newsom will survive in office by a wide margin, but with an end-result closer margin than we see in early returns.

Though the replacement election became moot with the recall being rejected, conservative commentator Larry Elder was the clear leader, recording a tick under 47 percent of the vote. The next closest candidate was Democrat Kevin Paffrath with 10 percent. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) finished third with just under 9 percent. John Cox (R), who was one of the leading recall effort funders and the finalist against Newsom in the 2018 election, fell back to less than 4.5% of the vote. Media star Caitlin Jenner (R), who proved not to be a serious candidate, scored just 1.1% in the replacement election.

All of the replacement candidates were at a disadvantage in terms of financial resources. Though Elder raised a reported $18 million, an impressive amount in a short time frame, Gov. Newsom spent possibly as much as $80 million.

The rules for Newsom, however, were different. Because he was the recall subject, and the people were deciding the question as to whether or not he alone should remain in office, the campaign financial structure for him was that of a referendum. Therefore, he could raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and entities. The replacement candidates, because they were running in an election campaign, were bound by the state campaign finance laws that feature contribution amount limits.

It will be interesting to see whether Elder returns for the 2022 regular election. Though running in California is very difficult for any Republican, the conservative pundit now has a proven record as a vote getter – he will likely approach and possibly exceed 3 million votes when all of the ballots are tabulated – and fundraiser. No other Republican in the state can make such a claim, so another Elder candidacy could be interesting, albeit in a severe underdog role.


The latest return of former Cleveland congressman, state legislator, and mayor Dennis Kucinich (D) fell flat last night. Kucinich was again making an attempt to reclaim the citywide position he first won in 1977. Tuesday night he finished third with 17 percent of the vote, trailing the mayoral runoff qualifiers, Justin Bibb, the non-profit organization executive who attracted 25 percent of the vote, and Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley who closely outdistanced Kucinich at 19 percent. All are Democrats.

The Boston mayoral returns have been very slow in coming, and even in the next morning less than half of the precincts are reporting. It appears clear, however, that City Councilor at-large Michelle Wu, as predicted, is securing first position with approximately 36 percent, and the battle for second place is closing. City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George continues to maintain second place, but her support figure has dropped from 31 percent in the early going to 21 percent in the Wednesday morning totals.

City Councilor Andrea Campbell is third with 19 percent and Acting Mayor Kim Janey trails the leaders at 17 percent. Barring a trend change in the second half of the counting process, both Campbell and Janey will be eliminated from further competition. Janey will continue to serve as acting mayor until the new city chief executive is elected and takes office.

The mayoral runoff elections in both Cleveland and Boston will occur on Nov. 2.

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