Santa Clara County isn’t ready to fire Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Results for the gubernatorial recall election Tuesday show a large majority of Santa Clara County voters saying no to kicking Newsom out of office.
About 76% of county voters don’t want to recall the governor, while 24% cast ballots against him, according to the latest numbers released at 11 p.m. Tuesday. Of the multitude of candidates running to replace Newsom, Republican radio host Larry Elder leads with about 28% of the vote, followed by Democratic candidate Kevin Paffrath with about 20% and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer with about 8%.
Of the 1,012,905 registered voters in Santa Clara County, only 449,866 took part in the recall election.
Early numbers show voters statewide also rejected the Newsom — mirroring attitudes in Silicon Valley. According to the California Secretary of State, 65.8% of voters said no to the recall in results released Tuesday. CNN projected Newsom will remain in office a little after 8:30 p.m.
For the first time since 2003, California voters mulled whether or not to remove the governor.
Democratic leaders in Silicon Valley celebrated the victory Tuesday.
“We’re grateful to voters in Santa Clara County and throughout California for rejecting this wasteful and unnecessary Republican recall attempt,” said Bill James, chair of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party. “We’re proud of the role our volunteers played in achieving this victory, including our nearly 500 neighborhood captains, who collectively reached 100,000 voters in Santa Clara County. Voters chose science, progress, decency and leadership over fear and misinformation. Thankfully, our governor can now focus more fully on continuing to move California forward.”
Santa Clara County Republican Party chair Shane Patrick Connolly said Newsom’s victory was sealed by a low turnout in GOP voters.
“Initial indications are that only about half of Republicans voted,” Connolly said. “We’re disappointed that almost half of all registered Republicans didn’t show up to vote — if they did so because they are concerned about voter fraud they need to know Republicans had numerous poll watchers keeping an eye on the election – and if they fail to vote, the Democrats’ job gets a lot easier and we won’t have a shot to bring positive change to California.”
Connolly said California desperately needs new leadership — not Newsom’s “brand of hypocritical elitism where the rules don’t apply to him.”
“We look forward to 2022,” he said. “We will continue to talk about Newsom’s policy failures: $30 billion in unemployment fraud, rising crime, rising homelessness, failure to lead on water storage, failure to lead on fire prevention, no plan to fix education.”
The latest recall is driven by critics of Newsom’s COVID-19 restrictions, and recent polls suggested he would likely survive the vote. Leading candidates included Elder, Faulconer and businessman John Cox.
About a dozen election workers waited in the wings Tuesday, walking along the outer edges of the room and looking for any potentially confused voters—at which point they would swoop in with a clipboard full of information.
“There’s more people coming up to us saying they lost their ballot or they forgot, you know, they never got it. So where can they go?” said Evelyn Mendez, spokesperson for the registrar.
Mendez, who worked at the California Secretary of State’s Office during the 2003 recall election of then-Gov. Gray Davis, said residents still seek the traditional experience of going to the polls despite the increasing availability of mail-in voting.
“I’m not really sure if they don’t trust the mail or they don’t trust the drop boxes, but neither one of them are tampered. The boxes lock at 8 p.m. and get put away in a secure area,” she told San José Spotlight. “They go into a room only limited people have access to. I was asking if I could go in the room and they were like, ‘Absolutely not—not even you.’”
San Jose resident John Bialoglovski said he has mixed feelings about the security of remote voting. He recently began voting in person so he could physically see his vote entered into the record.
“It was just ham-fisting my way to do it faster and more efficiently in one day,” Bialoglovski told San José Spotlight.
Resident Walter Frank said he came to the registrar because his mail-in ballot was challenged, but he was able to resolve things quickly with the help of an election worker.
“They said more than likely my ballot was challenged because my signature must have changed,” he told San José Spotlight. “But the way they handled it was very professional.”
Behind the voting centers, dozens of election workers sorted through hundreds of ballots as they came in by the duffle bag—delivered by laundry cart.
Across the way, a handful of workers secluded themselves in another room to tally the physical ballots. No one else is allowed to step foot in the room as ballots pass through machines that workers informally named after characters from the Transformers movies.
There were 110 voting centers across Santa Clara County during last November’s presidential election. This year’s recall election spawned just 36 centers.
Approximately 48% of county voters submitted their ballots as of Tuesday afternoon, but Mendez said the registrar is aiming for a rate between 50-60%.
“We’re getting close. Every time we check numbers we’re like, ‘It went up! It went up!’” she said. “It was bigger than all weekend, so they’re telling us these numbers are coming in pretty big.”
Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.