California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Friday urged voters to take next month’s recall election seriously or else risk grave consequences for the Democratic Party on both a state and a national level.
Addressing supporters at a campaign stop in San Francisco, Newsom took direct aim at conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder, who promoted vaccine conspiracies and touted the endorsement of an accused Jan. 6 rioter at the U.S. Capitol.
“He’s to the right of Donald Trump. That’s what’s at stake in this election,” Newsom said, ticking off the litany of far-right views held by Elder, including on abortion, climate, gun control, the minimum wage and COVID-19 health restrictions.
“Larry Elder is running away with this other side,” the governor warned, noting that he is currently leading a field of more than 40 challengers vying to become the state’s next governor.
Newsom also hinted that a Republican gubernatorial win in the deep blue state could have a far bigger impact than just on local issues. It could cost the Democratic caucus its razor-thin Senate majority, with major consequences for voting rights, the Supreme Court and more, in the event that 88-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) retires or is unable to serve out the rest of her term.
“Who would he have appointed to replace Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate? How would that have impacted the future of this country?” Newsom said of Elder, referring to his appointment of Alex Padilla to replace Harris in the Senate after she became vice president earlier this year.
Newsom is touring the state for his “Vote NO” weekend of events, including stops in San Diego and Los Angeles. The governor is trying to drum up Democratic enthusiasm in the off-year recall after several polls found recall opponents more engaged and likely to vote in the Sept. 14 election.
Recall supporters must win 51% of the vote in order to trigger Newsom’s ouster, a tall order in a state where registered Democrats vastly outnumber registered Republicans. But it could happen in a low-turnout scenario. Democrats are hoping that mail-in ballots, which started rolling out this week, will save Newsom.
“We talk about turnout? This is about turning it in,” Newsom said of mail-in ballots on Friday. “The election ends the week of September 14. It begins this week.”
The governor also urged Californians to ignore the second question on the ballot, which asks voters who should replace him. Although no major Democratic candidates are in the running, leaving the question blank could increase the chance of an extreme Republican taking office if recall supporters succeed in winning a majority of the vote on the first question.
“Just vote no. You don’t have to touch the other part. It’s irrelevant. Don’t even touch it. This is about to be the easiest ballot you ever had to fill out,” Newsom said.
In a sign of how seriously Democrats are taking the recall, President Joe Biden and Harris are planning to take an “active role” in the next month to help Newsom stay in office, including the possibility of in-person events, work on social media and get-out-the-vote support, a source familiar with their planning told HuffPost on Thursday.