California Gov. Newsom wins recall election; homeless, housing crises loom

Democrat garners 64% of votes; backed by over $5M in campaign donations from real estate industry

Gov. Gavin Newsom (Getty)
Gov. Gavin Newsom (Getty)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has survived a recall election, easily defeating the Republican-led effort that gained momentum in its opposition to his pandemic restrictions on businesses.

Nearly two-thirds of California voters said “no” on the ballot’s first question, which asked whether Newsom should be removed as governor. As of 4:45 a.m PT, Newsom had 64 percent of the “no” votes, or 5.8 million votes; compared to 3.2 million “yes” votes, about 35 percent, according to the New York Times. The Associated Press called the race for Newsom an hour after polls closed at 8 p.m.

The first-term Democratic governor faced 45 challengers on the ballot, including frontrunner Larry Elder, a conservative radio host who promised to slash environmental reviews to speed housing developments, and who said he would crack down on homeless encampments. Elder led all candidates on the second question — including real estate mogul John Cox — but that didn’t count given voters rejected the recall on the first question.

With the race called Tuesday night, Newsom spoke to reporters at state Democratic Headquarters in Sacramento instead of giving the customary victory speech in front of supporters, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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“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, the Times reported.

Newsom garnered strong financial support from the real estate industry during the campaign. Developers, brokers and investors poured over $5 million into campaign committees supporting Newsom. The California Association of Realtors and the California Building Industry Association also contributed.

Building Industry Association CEO Dan Dunmoyer said Newsom “made housing production a top priority.” Newsom is “the first governor who called it out: we need to build more homes,” Dunmoyer told The Real Deal in July.

Newsom has pledged to spend $12 billion over the next two years to address homelessness in California and another $7.2 billion on rental assistance, as part of a wider $100 billion economic recovery plan.

California will hold its next election for governor in November 2022. Several of the recall candidates, including former Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Democrat Kevin Paffrath, have already announced they will run for governor again in 2022.