How Newsom defeated the recall: Early leads in suburbs, overwhelming margins in big cities

Gov. Gavin Newsom smiles and speaks to reporters.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses reporters after beating back the recall attempt Thursday.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The movement to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom appears to have fizzled in large suburban Southern California regions and other “swing” counties, giving the incumbent a sizable cushion to defeat the effort to oust him, preliminary data show.

There are many ballots yet to be counted. But out of the more than 9.1 million votes tabulated as of early Wednesday, nearly 64% were in favor of keeping Newsom in office.

That overwhelming margin, which could still tighten as more ballots are processed, was fueled by lopsided victories in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County — both traditional Democratic strongholds.

California voters overwhelmingly rejected the attempt to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom before the end of his term.

Sept. 14, 2021


In L.A. County, roughly 71% of ballots counted as of Wednesday morning were opposed to the recall. In San Francisco, the proportion of voters who favored maintaining the gubernatorial status quo was just under 87%, according to early results published by the California secretary of state’s office.

That Newsom would prevail in deep blue areas is no surprise. But it seems he also performed relatively strongly in the rest of urban Southern California, according to the preliminary results.

In San Diego County, California’s second most populous, nearly 59% of votes counted so far were opposed to the recall. The margins were thinner in Orange County at 52.6%, Riverside County at 52.4% and San Bernardino County at 52%.

While “no” on the recall dominated California’s more heavily populated coastal counties, “yes” carried the day in much of the state’s rural north, along with much of the Central Valley — traditional GOP areas with much smaller populations.

The election provided California voters an opportunity to judge Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ability to lead the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, a worldwide health crisis that has shattered families and livelihoods.

Sept. 15, 2021

Though it’s still subject to change, Newsom is currently outperforming his margin in the 2018 election, when he prevailed with 62% of the vote.


The recall offered Republicans their best chance in more than a decade to take the helm of the largest state in the union.

But the effort was undercut when Newsom and the nation’s leading Democrats, aided by visits to California from President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, portrayed the campaign to oust the governor as a “life and death” battle against “Trumpism” and far-right anti-vaccine activists.

In a statement Wednesday, Biden called the outcome “a resounding win for the approach that [Newsom] and I share to beating the pandemic: strong vaccine requirements, strong steps to reopen schools safely, and strong plans to distribute real medicines — not fake treatments — to help those who get sick.”

The campaign is over. And what Gov. Gavin Newsom takes from what happened — what he does or doesn’t learn from it — will affect millions of Californians.

Sept. 15, 2021

“The fact that voters in both traditionally Democratic and traditionally Republican parts of the state rejected the recall shows that Americans are unifying behind taking these steps to get the pandemic behind us,” Biden continued.

Conservative talk show host Larry Elder led the 46 candidates to replace Newsom, but the second question on the ballot became moot after a majority of California voters decided to keep Newsom in office.

Newsom cast the rejection of the recall as a vote in support “of all those things we hold dear as Californians.” His victory, he said, was a victory for science-based COVID-19 vaccines to end the pandemic and abortion rights for women, as well as economic and racial justice.

“I’m humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote and express themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism, rejecting so much of the negativity that’s defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years,” Newsom said.

Here’s what we know after the polls closed about the attempt to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Sept. 15, 2021