Newsom stays in office: How Democrats pulled it off, and what happens next

California Gov. Gavin Newsom smiles onstage at a rally against a backdrop reading "Stop the Republican recall"
California Gov. Gavin Newsom at a rally in Long Beach on Sept. 13.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Sept. 15. I’m Justin Ray.

He is safe.

The state of California overwhelmingly voted to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office. The election provided California voters an opportunity to judge Newsom’s ability to lead the state through the pandemic, as well as his time in office before COVID-19 upended our lives. It offered Republicans their best chance in years to take the helm of the most populous state in the union.

National television networks called the election for Newsom shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Conservative talk show host Larry Elder won the most votes out of the 46 candidates vying to succeed Newsom.

“We rejected cynicism and bigotry and chose hope and progress. Thank you, California,” Newsom said on social media shortly after 9 P.M.

Election day — aside from the firing of one poll worker — appeared to be uneventful. You can see an interactive map of how everyone voted here. Below is an overview of the Democrats’ winning strategy as well as what happens next.

How Democrats won

The Democrats’ risky strategic moves ahead of Tuesday appear to have paid off. For instance, they told voters to leave blank the second ballot question, which asked whom they would select as governor if the recall was approved. As noted by The Times’ Seema Mehta, offering no other candidates helped the party frame the recall as solely a Republican power grab, and it allowed them to tell voters that if they didn’t vote for Newsom, they would get a Republican. This was a potentially perilous bet, because if Newsom had been recalled, the state would likely be led by a Republican.

Democrats also made some expected moves. They raised tens of millions of dollars, and the party’s top names stumped for Newsom. Some have painted this as a sign of desperation. However, Mehta offered another explanation: the party’s biggest figures (namely President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris) may have wanted some of the positive media coverage from a resounding victory draw attention from criticism of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.


What happens next: 3 things to look out for

Portion of the California Gubernatorial Recall Election ballot.
(Los Angeles Times)
  • The biggest question after the recall election is: How will Newsom serve the rest of his term? He may interpret his resounding defeat of the effort to oust him as approval of his liberal policies, or he may be humbled by the fact that Democrats had to spend tens of millions of dollars to ensure he retained his seat.
  • Conservative talk show host Larry Elder was the most popular challenger of the pack of 46 recall hopefuls. His most enthusiastic followers have said they hope he will run again against Newsom next year. Asked about a 2022 run, Elder told a radio station on Tuesday: “I have now become a political force here in California in general and particularly within the Republican Party. And I’m not going to leave the stage.”
  • Sadly, there is also a possibility of claims of voter fraud. There are multiple verification processes to prevent fraudulent voting, and there is no evidence of cheating, but some Republicans have signaled they may baselessly challenge the results. Elder himself wouldn’t commit to accepting the results of the election ahead of the vote. He even released an online form to report fraud, which people could use to claim they had “detected fraud” in the results of the California recall election, “resulting in Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor.” The form went live on Monday — before the election took place.

Here are more important takeaways from yesterday’s election.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California.

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California’s coronavirus transmission rates are dropping, a hopeful sign amid a summer surge fueled by the Delta variant, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state’s coronavirus transmission level has fallen from “high” to “substantial,” the second-highest tier as defined by the CDC. California is now one of only three states — along with Connecticut and Vermont — that have fallen into this category, as have the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Los Angeles Times



A crew member on Netflix’s Kevin Hart film is ‘fighting for his life’ after a fall. A 38-year old crew member sustained critical injuries after a fall during the construction of the set for the Netflix film “Me Time,” which stars Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg. Just after 7 a.m. Tuesday, callers to 911 said a crew member had fallen through a hole in an elevated platform, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. When paramedics arrived at the soundstage at Netflix’s Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood, the unidentified crew member was receiving CPR from emergency medical technicians at the scene. Los Angeles Times

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Photos from the recall election. We don’t yet know how many people voted on election day, but political analysts have been expecting over 13 million ballots to be cast. The gubernatorial recall election created some interesting images across Los Angeles, such as sanitization at the polls, a cop voting in uniform, and parents making their voices heard with kids in tow. Take a look at our gallery. Los Angeles Times

Toddler plays as mother votes
19-month-old Chloe Kalili plays with pen and paper as her mother, Sarah Kalili, works on her provisional ballot.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)


A former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy is awaiting sentencing for rape, molestation and other charges related to years of sexual assaults committed against at least two minors, according to court records. Earle D. Yamamoto worked for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department between 2016 and 2019, records show. He was convicted of 16 criminal counts by a San Diego Superior Court jury late last month and is in custody at the Vista Detention Facility. He could face decades in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 6. Troy Owens, who served as Yamamoto’s criminal defense attorney, did not respond to a request for comment about the case. San Diego Union-Tribune

Actress Tanya Fear was found after being reported missing last week. The Los Angeles Police Department is not releasing any additional information at this time, according to CBS. Her manager, Alex Cole, said Fear was found safe by officers on Monday. “We understand she is not physically harmed, but as a precaution, is being assessed at a local hospital,” Cole said in a statement to NBC News. CBS News


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Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco says he will not enforce any vaccine mandates for Sheriff’s Department employees. Describing himself as “the last line of defense from tyrannical government overreach,” Bianco doubled down on statements he made during an episode of the department’s podcast, “RSO Roundup,” in which he said he believes vaccines are a personal choice. “The government has no ability and no authority to mandate your health choices,” Bianco said in a statement. Los Angeles Times

A group of disc golfers are credited with putting out a fire at a Modesto park. The group of seven were finishing a round at East La Loma Park when they spotted a fire in the brush on a hillside. They jumped into action by calling 911 and then rushed down the hillside into the creek to retrieve water to put out the flames. (If you don’t know what disc golf is, basically you throw a disc into a chain net. You can see a photo here.) Modesto Parks, Recreation, & Neighborhoods


Sonoma Academy will provide graduates and students of the Santa Rosa school who have experienced abuse by any staff member with reimbursement for therapy costs. The offer, capped at $20,000 per person and paid from the new Sonoma Academy Therapy Fund, comes after a group of seven female graduates spoke out this summer about what they described as a years-long record of inappropriate behavior and misconduct by a longtime teacher. Sonoma Academy is partnering with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, to help students and alumni access mental health resources. Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at


Los Angeles: How is pink lemonade pink? 80. San Diego: Am I allowed to ask that? Is that a dumb question? 75. San Francisco: I mean, there aren’t pink lemons. 67. San Jose: Wait, are there pink lemons? Sunny, 81. Fresno: I’m starting to question everything. 98. Sacramento: It’s a lemonspiracy! 90.


Today’s California memory is from Sally Currie:


In 1957, shortly after moving to California from Massachusetts, my husband I went camping in Sequoia National Park. At supper time a cinnamon black bear came around and my mate threw logs at him. We learned from the ranger that his name was “Obstreperous.” Being new to camping, we laid our sleeping bags on the ground and turned in for the night. We were too dumb to turn our bags so the wind was at our feet so a cold wind kept us awake. About 4 a.m. I heard a snuffling and felt a nudge near my head and then a pawing on my bag. I roused and said to my husband, “Oh oh, Rig, the bear.” Fortunately, I had no food with me and the bear decided to just walk on by and not over me! Close call!

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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