Local conservatives were licking their wounds on Wednesday after a rout in the statewide gubernatorial recall vote, though pleased by a successful showing in the Mother Lode.
"I think we need to do a better job of reaching out and influencing our adjacent counties and maybe providing a more concerted effort toward engaging with Sacramento," said Tom Crosby, vice chairman and spokesperson for the Tuolumne County Republican Central Committee. "I have to believe that we're just not being heard, and/or understood."
Less than an hour after the polls closed on Tuesday night, most media agencies had already called the result a decisive victory for first-term Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the vote to recall Newsom stood at 3,298,988, or 36.1%, to 5,841,689 “no” votes, or 63.9%, according to the California Secretary of State’s website.
Local Democrats, alternatively, were reveling in the win, characterizing turnout in the Mother Lode as expected, but ultimately inconsequential to the will of the state.
"We obviously were excited by the turnout yesterday both locally and statewide,” said Kara Bechtle, chairwoman of Tuolumne County Democratic Central Committee. “I think this shows Democrats are still engaged, still focused after the 2020 election. There wasn't any expectation that the governor would win Tuolumne last night, but there was definitely a hope that we could turn out as many voters as we did."
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 14,849, or about 60.97% of the total 24,355 ballots that had been counted as of about 2:25 p.m. on Wednesday
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 voting 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 62.26% 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 30% of voters who cast a ballot did not select any replacement candidate.
Tuolumne County has consistently voted for Republican candidates in federal and gubernatorial elections going back decades.
Debi Bautista, Tuolumne County clerk and auditor-controller, said there could be between 200 and 500 ballots still left to process. There remained a couple hundred conditional ballots, a few remaining ballots that were still unprocessed and challenge ballots that may be missing a signature.
Bautista said she was also contacted by Shasta County notifying her that emergency workers and firefighters registered in Tuolumne County would have their ballots shipped to Tuolumne County to be counted.
"There's different areas we can get more ballots in," she said. "It's depending on what tomorrow’s mail looks like."
Rebecca Turner, Calaveras County registrar of voters, said they planned to post another update by Friday, with roughly 4,000 vote-by-mail ballots still to be counted.
"These ballots were picked up from the drop boxes yesterday and received through the mail today and yesterday," she said in an email.
Turner’s office will continue counting ballots received in the mail through Sept. 21 if they are postmarked by Sept. 14. Ballots that were not signed or where signatures did not match will be sent letters and voters have until Sept. 29 to cure.
There were still millions of ballots to be tabulated statewide as of Wednesday, but Newsom's lead is considered insurmountable.
Newsom took to Twitter about 9:20 p.m. on Tuesday 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.”
Later on Tuesday night, Newsom simply posted on Twitter, "Now, let's get back to work."
Newsom posted on Wednesday, "It's a good day to be a Californian," with a sun emoji. He was photographed by reporters on Wednesday, masked, at a school in Oakland.
Biden also posted a photo Wednesday on Instagram from his appearance with Newsom in Long Beach on the eve of the recall vote.
"The vote is a resounding win for the approach that he and I share to beating the pandemic: strong vaccine requirements, steps to reopen schools safely and plans to help those who get sick," Biden said in the photo’s caption.
Crosby characterized the tenor of the campaign cycle preceding the election as "disappointing to many" because it was geared toward partisan recollections of former President Trump's administration and not policy debates.
"I think I heard pretty universally that people wanted to see this as a different approach to policy and solving problems," he said. "A lot of folks would like to see a lowering of the rhetoric."
Crosby referenced a map from the Orange County Register, which colored counties in gold who voted in support of the recall.
"If you just make a path down the middle of the gold, this is the Sierras. This represents rural vs. urban, suburban communities," he said. "It really looks like two Californias here... Our state government is not engaging and listening to and trying to understand the differences and needs of the urban communities and the rural communities at the peril of all Californians."
Bechtle ultimately characterized the election as a result of grassroots organizing statewide to defend the governor's position, which he will hold at least until the next gubernatorial election in 2022.
"I think the results were about what we expected,” she said. “We were happy to see the turnout we did with the amount of no votes in Tuolumne. We need thoughtful, measured leadership, we don't need reactionary campaigning."
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at email@example.com or (209) 588-4526.