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Politics & Policy

California voters reject recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom

California voters decisively rejected a recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, with the Associated Press declaring Newsom the winner shortly after polls closed on Tuesday. 

Final numbers will change as mail-in ballots are tallied in the coming days, but initial returns showed 64% of voters rejecting a recall. That was enough to declare Newsom the winner less than an hour after polls closed at 8PM. 

“We rejected cynicism and bigotry and chose hope and progress,” said Newsom in a statement late Tuesday evening. 

San Franciscans voted overwhelmingly to retain Newsom, who was mayor of San Francisco between 2004 and 2011. 

53% of San Francisco’s 502,000 registered voters cast a ballot in the recall election, and initial results posted by the Department of Elections showed 87% of voters in the city rejecting Newsom’s recall. 

The ballot posed two questions: Should Newsom be recalled, and who should replace him? Ballots listed 46 replacement candidates, with conservative radio host Larry Elder consistently leading in polls heading into the Sept. 14 election. 

In San Francisco, Kevin Paffrath, a YouTube host and Democrat, was the top replacement candidate with 21% of votes on the second question. Other leading vote getters were Elder (20%) and Kevin Faulconer, a Republican former mayor of San Diego (11%). However, the results showed that many left the second question blank: Of 267,000 total ballots counted on Tuesday evening, only 95,600 chose a replacement candidate.  

Newsom’s victory means that he will keep his seat until at least November 2022, when he faces a re-election contest. Newsom took office in January 2019, following stints as lieutenant governor and as San Francisco mayor. 

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s election, local and national Democrats rallied around Newsom and urged voters to reject what would have been a consequential changing of the guard in one of the nation’s bluest states. 

In an interview with Here/Say this week, Mayor London Breed underscored the significance of the recall race for San Francisco’s housing efforts. 

She pointed to Project Roomkey, an effort spearheaded by Newsom to acquire underused hotels and motels for homeless rehousing. 

“Project Roomkey has helped us to purchase two additional hotels, and we plan to purchase four more…we’re talking about hundreds of units just of affordable housing,” said Breed. “There is so much at stake.”  

Annie Gaus can be reached at