Gavin Newsom wins reelection as California governor

California voters handed Gavin Newsom a second term as governor on Tuesday, favoring incumbent Brian Dahle, an unknown Republican state senator from Lassen County who has struggled to compete with political heavyweight Democrats.

The race was called by the Associated Press shortly after the polls closed at 8pm, with Newsom’s early lead over Dahle expected to widen as more results are tallied in the coming days.

The election cements the 55-year-old Democrat’s success at the ballot box. Newsom captured the governorship in 2018 by the widest margin in more than half a century, burying GOP-led efforts to recall him with the same advantage three years later.

After effortlessly defeating Dahle, the socially progressive governor returns for another four years to lead a state on the verge of becoming the world’s fourth-largest economy, while simultaneously tackling record homelessness, a dire lack of affordable housing and rising experienced crime.

Casting his ballot in downtown Sacramento Tuesday morning, the governor vowed to remain focused on the issues plaguing the state. He thanked California voters hours later in an acceptance speech on election night with his family by his side and said he was honored to be reelected for another four years.

“We have governors who won their re-elections tonight in other states that ban books, ban speech, ban abortion, and here in California we’re moving in a completely different direction,” Newsom said. “It is a deep point of pride and with that passion I bring to this second term a determination to do more to advance this cause of freedom and fairness.”

Tuesday ended an unusually quiet campaign by a governor who vigorously defended the recall last year.

President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders all appeared in 2021 to support Newsom with campaign and publicity appearances and to help the governor’s political team defeat his key backup opponent, Larry Elder to cast as a Trump-affiliated extremist.

This time Newsom did not call in big-name political reinforcements and he rarely acknowledged his opponent. The governor ran just one TV ad in May expressing Dahle’s opposition to abortion, days after a draft US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade made headlines, and engaged in a debate against his opponent.

Dahle, 56, served as a member of his local board of directors for 16 years before being elected to the California Convention in 2012 and to the state Senate in 2019.

Although Dahle was a veteran politician and well-liked in Sacramento by lawmakers of both parties, he faced insurmountable odds.

“I’m not willing to leave this broken California to my children, your children and our grandchildren,” Dahle said in Redding when declaring his intention to run in February. “I cannot stand by and watch as corrupt one-party rule continues to poison the future of our state.”

But Dahle failed to overcome the fundamental problems he began with nine months ago: an inability to raise enough money to get that message across and an “R” next to his name on the ballot in a state in registered Democrats are almost 2 to more registered Republicans than 1.

Newsom brought in a total of $24.7 million in donations, according to a Tuesday tally, compared to the $2.5 million Dahle raised.

Sean Clegg, Newsom’s senior policy strategist, said the leak of the Roe decision created an opportunity to focus the main campaign on abortion and contrast Dahle.

Newsom and his team changed tactics after the June 7 election, trying to draw attention to Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment expressly protecting abortion rights. Newsom advertised the measure in his only ad in the state during the general election, which made no mention of his re-election bid.

“Once you have a general election dance ticket and you don’t have a lot of swing voters in that election, start looking at the most effective approach for my campaign to help the entire Democratic ticket in California,” Klegg said. “Protect. 1 is a switchman to the extent that people know it’s on the ballot.”

Led by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Democratic lawmakers voted to put the measure on the ballot this year in hopes it would inspire voters in their party to vote in the midterm elections. Voters overwhelmingly supported Proposition 1 on early return.

A progressive on social issues, abortion rights are among the causes Newsom has devoted himself to since becoming governor in a landslide victory over Republican businessman John Cox four years ago.

Newsom drew on the state’s historic tax revenues to fund, among other things, an expansion of Medi-Cal to all immigrants in 2024, expansion of paid family leave, two years of free community college and free preschool for 4-year-olds, among other things, the social network Strengthen security and offer people living in poverty more opportunities for advancement.

But as a longtime owner of hospitality businesses, including wineries, restaurants, and a wine shop in San Francisco, his record wasn’t quite as far off as his liberal image.

Newsom convinced lawmakers to pass a stringent set of climate policies while expanding operations at Diablo Canyon and reversing an agreement environmental groups pushed for six years ago to shut down California’s last remaining nuclear plant for safety reasons.

Civil rights organizations opposed the governor’s plan to provide court-ordered treatment to homeless Californians struggling with mental illness and addiction, arguing that housing and voluntary care is a more humane and effective method.

Newsom has pledged to continue to pressure local governments to build more housing and offer a more robust response to the homeless crisis in his second term. In a bit of political opportunism, the governor a week before the election urged local governments to “settle with the status quo” with plans to reduce homelessness, and pushed for more ambitious targets.

Camps along sidewalks and under flyovers have nurtured a national image of California that the state and state GOP picked up on during the recall election and that Dahle Newsom blamed on the campaign trail. The housing crisis and rising crime seemed a potential vulnerability for Newsom, with opinion polls showing voters unhappy with the direction the state is moving.

However, political observers argue that the results of Newsom’s re-election and recall have been made up since July 2021, when no other prominent Democrat challenged him in the recall. The presence of a high-profile Democratic replacement on the ballot could have offered disaffected Democratic and independent voters a viable alternative to Newsom and an incentive to oust him.

Newsom and his political team ran a shadow campaign to keep all other well-known Democrats out of the 2021 recall and succeeded, giving the governor an easy opportunity to compare his leadership to Elder’s. Support from 61.9% of voters made him an even more impressive candidate for re-election, scaring off any potential challenger.

“I think he found his voice in the recall and didn’t look back,” Clegg said. “He found another step.”

Newsom describes this difference as feeling a “deeper sense of urgency” and “stronger in my willingness to express myself and communicate that expression.”

After publicly feuding with President Trump during his first two years in office, the governor channeled his frustration with the GOP following the recall election of Republican governors, with particular focus on Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas. The governor paid for billboards in conservative states to promote California’s abortion rights and ran ads in Florida criticizing the state’s GOP leaders.

His second term is expected to begin with another battle with the oil industry next month when lawmakers, at Newsom’s urging, launch a special session to consider an unexpected tax on excessive profits. The governor has repeatedly accused the oil industry of driving up California consumer prices.

“I’m a different person and I’m breaking up,” Newsom said in an interview days before the election. “And that’s just the upcoming attraction. If I have the privilege of doing this job for another four years, you haven’t seen anything.” Gavin Newsom wins reelection as California governor

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