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Gov. Gavin Newsom losing Riverside County in recall election

Fighting to save his job, Gov. Gavin Newsom may have won the war, but he’s losing the battle in one of California’s largest counties.

Results from the Sept. 14 gubernatorial recall election posted Wednesday night, Sept. 22 showed 50.4% of those who cast recall ballots in Riverside County voting to remove Newsom. About 49.6% voted to keep him.

If the results hold, Riverside County, population 2.5 million, would be the largest county — and the only one in Southern California — to support the recall.

Republican Larry Elder is the overwhelming choice of Inland voters who picked a Newsom replacement. He has 60.6% of the vote in Riverside County and 62.65% in San Bernardino County.

No matter what, Newsom isn’t leaving office this year. More than 60% of voters statewide chose to keep the governor in Sacramento in the latest results.

This map will be updated as results come in:

But while Democrats enjoy a 2-to-1 voter registration edge over the GOP in California, a Riverside County loss would be a setback to Democrats who have made gains in the once deep-red Inland Empire. And it could inspire Inland Republicans going into the 2022 midterms.

The results “are a clear indication that voters in Riverside County are focused on the issues, not partisan politics,” Don Dix, Riverside County GOP chairman, said via text.

“The governor hasn’t provided any solutions for rising crime, the homeless crisis, high unemployment, unaffordable healthcare, traffic congestion and several other concerns that residents in Riverside County face daily. It’s time for our governor to roll-up his sleeves and get to work for the people of California, not lobbyists and special interests.”

The local results “are one of those things that have pluses and minuses,” Tisa Rodriguez, Riverside County Democratic Party chair, said in a phone interview.

“People came out and voted … with an (off-year) election, that’s hard to get people to do,” she said. “ Am I disappointed in the results? Absolutely. I believe the governor is doing a good job and I was happy to work to keep him in office.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, talks to the news media inside the men’s dormitory at the Path of Life homeless shelter in Riverside on Jan. 14, 2020. (File photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

“Yes” trailed in Riverside County’s early returns. But the gap shrank as more ballots were processed and “Yes” overtook “No” by 476 votes Monday night. By Wednesday night, “Yes” led by 5,847 votes.

Democrats make up a plurality of the county’s registered voters. But parts of the county, including Temecula, Murrieta, and Canyon Lake, remain solidly Republican, and county voters often reject statewide ballot measures backed by progressives such as a ban on cash bail.

A “Yes” vote “is more in keeping with the county’s general political complexion,” Shaun Bowler, a UC Riverside political science professor, said via email. “We are a conservative area.”

Roughly 5,000 vote-by-mail and 5,000 provisional ballots remained to be counted going into Thursday evening along with ballots postmarked on or before Election Day. It could take the county another week to count every vote, county spokeswoman Brooke Federico said.

“No” is leading by roughly 2,700 votes in San Bernardino County. Results posted Thursday afternoon showed “No” with 50.24% of county votes and “Yes” with 49.76%, with about 21,000 ballots still uncounted.

Newsom did well elsewhere in Southern California. About 52% of Orange County voters rejected the recall, with “No” leading by almost 39,000 votes with fewer than 6,000 ballots uncounted. And “No” has roughly 71% of the vote in Los Angeles County.

“Yes” is leading in half of California’s 58 counties. But most of those are rural, lightly populated counties in the north and Central Valley, and most political forecasters called the election for Newsom less than an hour after polls closed Sept. 14.

Politically, the Inland Empire isn’t the friendliest territory for Newsom, a liberal and former San Francisco mayor. While he easily won his first term in 2018, he lost Riverside County by about 2,400 votes and won San Bernardino County with just 52% of the vote.

Assuming he loses Riverside County, voter turnout will be a major factor, said Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at the University of La Verne. About 55% of the county’s 1.29 million registered voters are projected to have voted in the recall; 82% cast ballots last November, when Democratic President Joe Biden won the county.

Recall turnout mirrors 2018 turnout, Godwin said via email. The county’s results “may seem more surprising than they are” because of changes in voting patterns that led to more GOP votes being counted later, she added.

“The results may very well deter Democrats from running for office in 2022, especially in Riverside County,” Godwin said. “A lower turnout primary with a more conservative electorate could even prevent some Democrats from advancing to the general election.”

At the same time, “some Republican officials are likely to interpret (the results) as aligning with a more Trumpian ideology and opposition to pandemic restrictions,” she said. “That may lead to even more contentious politics and campaigning in 2022.”

Bowler is skeptical the recall results mean anything for the 2022 midterms in Riverside County. Three Board of Supervisors seats, sheriff and district attorney will be on next year’s ballot along with state legislative and congressional seats and statewide offices, including governor.

“The results are in line with how people voted in 2018,” Bowler said. “Let’s say these results stand. Newsom is doing about as well as he did (in 2018).”

Rodriguez and Godwin believe the ongoing round of redistricting, which will redraw lawmakers’ districts to account for population changes revealed by the 2020 Census, will have a much bigger impact on 2022.

“Democrats will have more of a dilemma for seats that are only slightly Democratic,” Godwin said. “Do they push turnout for 2022 or look ahead to 2024?”


Source: Orange County Register

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