NOEL KING, HOST:
California's governor, Gavin Newsom, defeated a Republican effort to recall him. It appears his handling of the COVID pandemic was the No. 1 issue for voters there. With us now, Nicole Nixon of CapRadio News in Sacramento, who's been following this story. Good morning, Nicole.
NICOLE NIXON, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: So unofficial results show that almost 2/3 of voters in California chose to keep Newsom in his job. What did the governor have to say about that outcome?
NIXON: Yeah, the governor said he was humbled by the results. And he said that by rejecting the recall, he believes Californians were also saying yes to the coronavirus vaccine, to voting rights and a bunch of other issues that came up in this election. Here he is talking to reporters last night.
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GAVIN NEWSOM: We said yes to all those things that we hold dear as Californians, and I would argue, as Americans - economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, our values, where California's made so much progress. All of those things were on the ballot.
NIXON: But the governor said he was still concerned by claims from Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, that the election would be rigged, and he's concerned that these unsubstantiated election fraud claims are still coming up.
KING: The leading Republican contender was the conservative radio host, a man named Larry Elder. What did he say about the results?
NIXON: Well, Larry Elder previously did not commit to accepting the election results. But he did do that last night. He conceded the race. He even told his supporters that they should be gracious in defeat, though some of those supporters weren't too happy to hear that. And Elder also left the door open to another potential challenge against Newsom, who's up for reelection next year.
KING: How did the pandemic play into this recall election from the beginning?
NIXON: Yeah. Well, the recall was filed in early 2020 before the pandemic, but it quickly became about that. Newsom's critics didn't like his tough business restrictions, and he took heat because schools were closed for a full year. And Republicans tried to make this recall a referendum on Gavin Newsom, but Gavin Newsom tried to make it a referendum on Trumpism. And he tied it to national fights over things like reproductive rights and voting rights, and he was able to bring in support from President Joe Biden and other national Democrats to help boost that message. And Democratic voters outnumber Republicans almost two to one in California, and the early results from this recall reflect that. So there aren't too many surprises here.
KING: Do you think Gavin Newsom will run again in 2022?
NIXON: Newsom did not talk about 2022. But it is expected he will run again, and his allies say that this victory puts him in a strong position going into next year. One thing we've been hearing from progressive voters is that some of them aren't enthralled by Newsom as a governor, and they only voted for him in the recall to avoid a Republican governor. So it'll be interesting to see if he fields a viable challenger from his left next year.
KING: Nicole Nixon of CapRadio in Sacramento. Thanks, Nicole.
NIXON: Thank you.
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