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With Newsom’s victory over recall effort secured, Orange County turns its attention to midterms

California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses reporters, after beating back the recall attempt
California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses reporters, after beating back the recall attempt that aimed to remove him from office, at the John L. Burton California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

With Tuesday’s recall election in the rear view mirror, Orange County Democrats and Republicans are turning their attention to the race that now lies ahead of them — the 2022 midterms.

Media outlets reported Tuesday night that Gov. Gavin Newsom survived the historic recall election with 63.9% of the votes reported in favor of retaining Newsom through the end of his term.

Data from the Orange County Registrar of Voters office indicates that, so far, 52.6% of county voters participating in the election were in favor of keeping Newsom in office, while 47.4% supported a recall. The leader of the race to replace Newsom was Larry Elder, a conservative talk show host who captured 57.4% of the O.C. votes in the 46-man race to replace Newsom, had he been recalled.

Not all the mail-in ballots have been counted, so Orange County’s final vote tally is not complete. County Republicans are optimistic the area may actually lean ‘yes’ on the recall when the numbers are finalized.

Larry Elder gives a fist bump to a supporter.
Larry Elder gives a fist bump to a supporter at an election day event at the Hilton Orange County on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Republican Party of Orange County Chairman Fred Whitaker said in a phone interview Wednesday he feels with trends toward late voting and the number of “yes” votes that have been gained each time new sets of voter results is announced, it’s likely that the Republican stronghold will emerge as a pro-recall county.

“We hit 57,000 doors. We had over 300,000 phone calls and 600,000 hits on our targeted social media ads,” Whitaker said. “To me, it shows we were on the absolute right track on how we mobilized the voters. Maybe some of the other counties didn’t have that going for them, but we’re going to be deploying that all into the midterm elections.”

Whitaker argued that Newsom and anti-recall supporters outspent Elder by a wide margin — a difference of millions, according to the Los Angeles Times. About $83.4 million was raised for anti-recall efforts compared to the $45.3 million raised for the campaign.

“Of course that messaging is going to have a stronger chance of getting to the disinterested or just the regular voter simply because of mass marketing,” said Whitaker, adding that he felt it pointed to more systemic issues of fundraising in California but that “lots of good things” came out of the recall election.

Cheryl Rozenberg dances with Errol Webber.
Cheryl Rozenberg dances with Errol Webber at a party for candidate Larry Elder at the Hilton Orange County on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“Our method is proven successful and I think that if we bring through the right messenger in the June primary to face Newsom one on one ... I think there are lots of good things even statewide for us, not just here in Orange County going for 2022,” he said.

The Democratic Party of Orange County isn’t planning on resting on its laurels either with their tentative victory in the “anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-worker recall,” according to Chairwoman Ada Briceño in an interview Wednesday.

Briceño said the county has made tremendous strides since 2018 in the number of its elected officials and with its voter registrations. Democrats now have a lead of nearly 65,000 registered voters over that of Republicans and Briceño said she feels the momentum is continuing to build at a speed she didn’t expect.

“Our eye is on taking back the two congressional seats that were so close and ... make some deep in-roads into the county supervisors that were so crucial especially in the middle of a pandemic,” said Briceño. “We saw what Californians think yesterday about our pandemic relief, so I think that’s very telling.

Voters line up outside to cast their ballots.
Voters line up outside to cast their ballots on whether to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom at Huntington Beach Central Library on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“We’re going to continue making in-roads at the city council and school board level as well. We’re gearing up.”

“We have our boots on the ground and especially this recall allowed us to be ... speaking to voters and really building our muscle toward 2022. We continue every day to build our capacity to fundraise, knock on doors and build our infrastructure to be prepared to run more candidates in 2022 than we ever have before,” said Briceño.

It is unclear if Elder will run again in 2022, but the candidate hinted at such a run in his concession speech at the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa by telling supporters to “stay tuned.”

“We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war,” said Elder. “We are forcing them now to pay attention to the problem of homelessness. We are forcing them ... now to pay attention to the things they should have paid attention to two years ago.”

Meanwhile in Sacramento, Newsom spoke at the California Democratic Headquarters Tuesday night, where he described his victory as one in favor of science and vaccines to end the pandemic, abortion rights, environmental, social and economic 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,” Newsom said, “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 will continue to serve the remaining year and a half of his term as governor before the next gubernatorial election in 2022.

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