Los Angeles Times

Newsom’s rivals face uphill climb

Governor easily beats top four Republican­s who ran to replace him, survey says.

- By Phil Willon

Poll says governor would beat the four top Republican­s who ran in recall election.

SACRAMENTO — After overwhelmi­ngly rejecting an effort to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom in Tuesday’s recall election, California voters appear ready to sign him up for a second term in 2022.

Newsom would easily beat any of the four top Republican­s who were in the running to replace him, including the GOP candidate who fared best, conservati­ve talk show host Larry Elder, according to a newly released UC Berkeley Institute of Government­al Studies poll cosponsore­d by the Los Angeles Times.

The poll found that 52% of registered voters said they would support Newsom in a head-to-head matchup with Elder, while 30% would back the Republican. The remainder said they were undecided.

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who finished second among Republican­s on Tuesday, didn’t do

any better. Pitted against the governor, Faulconer was favored by 27% of registered voters compared with the 49% who supported Newsom. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed were undecided.

Republican John Cox, whom Newsom beat handily in the 2018 gubernator­ial election, and Assemblyma­n Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) both trailed Newsom by roughly a 2-1 margin in a oneto-one matchup, the poll showed.

One of the most telling findings in the poll, which were gathered between Aug. 30 and Sept. 6, was that Elder has by far the most support among registered Republican voters, a strong indication that he would be the strongest GOP candidate in the 2022 gubernator­ial election, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll.

In the head-to-head matchups against Newsom, Elder’s support among Republican voters outpaced all the other GOP candidates by roughly 10%, the poll found. Elder led by almost the exact same margin among those who voted for former President Trump in the 2020 presidenti­al election.

“That still does tell the tale of where California Republican­s are,” DiCamillo said. “They’re more likely to support Elder than any of the others.”

In Tuesday’s election, more than 63% of California voters opposed recalling Newsom from office while 36% favored removing him. That margin could narrow since late-arriving ballots are still being counted and the official tally will not be certified for weeks.

While visiting an elementary school classroom in Oakland on Wednesday, Newsom said he hoped the results will allow California­ns of all political persuasion­s to come together.

“For me, coming out of this recall, I want to turn the page and express respect and a deep sense of responsibi­lity not just to those that voted ‘no’ on this recall but those that voted ‘yes’ — they matter,” Newsom said. “I care, and I want them to know I’m going to do my best to have their backs as well.”

The divide among California Republican­s over how best to move forward and make electoral gains in Sacramento and Congress in 2022 shows no signs of being remedied.

That reality was evident at a post-election event Wednesday sponsored by the Sacramento Press Club, where representa­tives for Elder and Faulconer clashed.

Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party and a Faulconer supporter, blamed Elder for tanking the recall effort against Newsom. Polls showed the governor was in serious jeopardy of being removed from office as late as July, before Elder become the GOP front-runner, mostly because Republican­s were energized and many Democratic and independen­t voters appeared indifferen­t.

Newsom and his political allies rallied the Democratic base, however, with an onslaught of attacks against Elder, hammering him for his opposition to abortion rights, support for offshore oil drilling and for his political allegiance to former President Trump, an immensely unpopular figure in California. Newsom also went after Elder for vowing to repeal the state’s mask and vaccinatio­n mandates in a state where both policies have strong support.

“Larry Elder entered the race when the Republican base was already active [and] managed to very successful­ly activate the Democratic base,” Nehring said during the virtual press club event. “He kept on saying things that just didn’t make any sense if you actually wanted to become governor.”

If Elder runs for governor in 2022 and faces off with Newsom in the November general election, it could be disastrous for Republican­s, Nehring said. He said it would be a repeat of 2018, when Cox’s “dismal failure” of a campaign hurt GOP candidates in tight races down the ballot.

“People are going to look at the result of this election, where Larry Elder became the face of the of the recall side, and wonder, is that the person who I want at the top of the ticket in 2022 when we have congressio­nal races and such that are at stake,” Nehring said.

Jeff Corless, Elder’s campaign manager, brushed aside Nehring’s attacks. Elder, he said, showed he was the only Republican candidate in the recall campaign capable of uniting the GOP in California — Elder has received more than 2.4 million votes. Among the replacemen­t candidates on the recall ballot, Elder currently has 47% of the vote, compared with 8.6% for Faulconer, 4.4% for Cox and 3.2% for Kiley.

“Obviously his message resonated with millions of voters,” Corless said. “He has a personal story of starting with nothing, having nothing growing up in South Central Los Angeles, and achieving the American dream. That resonates with a lot of people who are facing struggles all over the state. I think he changed the conversati­on.”

More than 40% of the 9.2 million California­ns who voted in the recall skipped the second question on the ballot, the one in which they were asked to chose one of the 46 replacemen­t candidates.

If more people had picked a candidate, Faulconer’s percentage of the vote may have increased. While a fiscal conservati­ve, Faulconer is considered a moderate-to-liberal on pivotal social issues such as the environmen­t, abortion and immigratio­n.

That may have made him an appealing backup choice to Democrats and independen­ts, even if they voted against recalling Newsom.

But throughout the campaign, Newsom and his political allies worked feverishly to persuade their supporters to vote “no” on the recall and to skip voting for any of the replacemen­t candidates.

“It had the effect of really hurting the candidate on the Republican side that had the best potential future, and that’s the Faulconer campaign,” said Paul Mitchell, vice president of Polling Data Inc., a for-profit research company that consults with Democratic campaigns and tracked the ballots cast in the recall.

 ?? Wally Skalij Los Angeles Times ?? GOV. NEWSOM at a campaign event Monday at Long Beach City College. Having survived the recall, Newsom had a message for those who voted “yes”: “I’m going to do my best to have their backs as well.”
Wally Skalij Los Angeles Times GOV. NEWSOM at a campaign event Monday at Long Beach City College. Having survived the recall, Newsom had a message for those who voted “yes”: “I’m going to do my best to have their backs as well.”

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