Gov. Gavin Newsom declared victory in California’s gubernatorial recall election on Tuesday, despite a majority of Mother Lode voters wanting the opposite result.
Preliminary statewide results showed the “no” vote against recalling Newsom leading with a healthy 66.8% to 33.2% in favor of removing him from office before the end of his first term that lasts through next year.
There were still millions of ballots to be tabulated as of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, but Associated Press and other major media outlets were calling a decisive win for the Democratic governor based on the nearly 10 million votes that had already been counted at the time.
Newsom took to Twitter about 9:20 p.m. to declare victory in the special election, which is estimated to cost state taxpayers roughly $276 million. He and Democratic Party operatives have cast the attempt to remove him as a “Republican power grab.”
“Tonight, California voted NO on the recall and YES to… Science. Women’s rights. Immigrant rights. The minimum wage. The environment. Our future,” he tweeted. “We rejected cynicism and bigotry and chose hope and progress. Thank you. California.”
If the decision was only up to voters in the Mother Lode, the outcome would have been much different.
The “yes” votes were leading in Tuolumne County with 12,877, or about 59% of the total 21,836 ballots that had been counted as of about 8:10 p.m. Tuesday, which doesn’t include ballots left at certain drop-off boxes, cast in-person at vote centers, or received in the mail through Sept. 21.
Calaveras County had a similar result with 9,826 voting “yes” to recall Newsom out of 16,734 ballots counted, nearly 59%.
Percentage-wise, both counties’ results were nearly identical to the 2020 presidential election in which former President Donald Trump received nearly 61% of the vote in Calaveras County and 58% in Tuolumne County, compared with nearly 37% in Calaveras County and 39% in Tuolumne County for President Joe Biden.
Larry Elder, a conservative radio talk show host, would have become the first Black governor of the Golden State if voters in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties had their way.
Elder received nearly 61% of the vote in Tuolumne County and 59% in Calaveras County on the ballot’s second question, in a field of 46 candidates that did not include Newsom. In both counties, about 32% of voters who cast a ballot did not select any replacement candidate.
Gisele Schreyer, 59 of La Grange, visited a vote center at the Jamestown Community Hall earlier in the day wearing an American flag emblazoned t-shirt that said "I stand for the flag… I kneel for the cross."
Schreyer, who is African-American, said she moved to California from Florida and said one of the many ills plaguing California was homelessness. A registered independent who moved to La Grange two years ago, she voted to recall Newsom and for Elder to replace him.
"This state was like coming to a foreign country," she said. "I had never seen tent cities before."
Tuolumne County has consistently voted for Republican candidates in federal and gubernatorial elections going back decades.
Data regarding the party affiliation of voters who casted ballots was unavailable before the release of results Tuesday night, though the non-scientific sampling of voters contacted by The Union Democrat indicated that trend would continue.
Debbie Shoemaker, 61, of Sonora, said at the Sonora elections office that she voted for the recall and for Elder.
"I keep asking my liberal friends what Newsom has done, and no one answers me," she said. "I don't feel that he cares for the people in California, especially Northern California. I feel he ignores us up here."
However, there were still a few voters bucking the local trends who revealed the cultural gulf between voters on the left regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, which is considered a primary motivator why recall advocates achieved the rare feat of garnering enough public support to call a recall in the first place.
Carey Burke, 64, of Sonora, said at a drop box at the Tuolumne County Library he voted “No” because he appreciated that Newsom “is keeping us safe.”
“It is so easy to wear a mask," he said. "President Trump could have recommended masks instead of calling it a Democratic hoax, and it would have cut the deaths by half.”
Two people separately contacted by The Union Democrat at the Jamestown vote center, a man and a woman, said they voted against the recall. They declined to share their name, citing a fear of judgement or reprisal in the community.
There were about 15 voters at the Sonora elections office between 9:15 a.m. and 10 a.m., with most not wanting to share their thoughts on the recall or how they voted. Between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., about the same amount of people visited the vote center in Jamestown with varying levels of engagement.
"No!" yelled one man in Sonora, who raised his open palm ahead of his face as he left the building.
Chris Standers, 57, of Sonora, declined to share his party affiliation or how he voted.
"Just to vote," he responded, when asked about his primary motivation to participate in the recall election. "It seems pretty straightforward."