President Joe Biden congratulated California Gov. Gavin Newsom on his victory over a Republican-led attempt to recall the Democratic governor, describing the result as a “resounding win” for pandemic safety measures such as vaccine mandates.
“This vote is a resounding win for the approach that he and I share to beating the pandemic: strong vaccine requirements, strong steps to reopen schools safely, and strong plans to distribute real medicines—not fake treatments—to help those who get sick,” Biden said in a statement issued Wednesday. “The fact that voters in both traditionally Democratic and traditionally Republican parts of the state rejected the recall shows that Americans are unifying behind taking these steps to get the pandemic behind us.”
Californians voted Tuesday to keep Newsom in office, overcoming a lengthy and expensive effort to remove him roughly a year before his term is set to expire. Though some early polls indicated Newsom was in real danger of losing his job, more recent polls showed him easily prevailing. He also received a boost as high-profile Democrats rallied behind him — and as controversial statements made by the leading GOP challenger, Larry Elder, came to light.
“The decision you’re about to make … it’s going to reverberate around the nation,” Biden told a crowd in Long Beach, California, on Monday evening during a last-minute campaign stop on behalf of Newsom. “All of you know that last year I got to run against the real Donald Trump. This year, the leading Republican running for governor is the closest thing to a Trump clone that I’ve ever seen in your state.”
Biden was referring to Elder, a conservative radio host who was the runaway favorite to replace Newsom if the recall effort succeeded. Elder pledged to roll back many of the coronavirus mitigation policies that Newsom has put in place, including vaccine mandates and mask rules. Elder also drew ire for his statements attacking reproductive rights as well as comments he made downplaying the threat of climate change.
Newsom, who was elected in 2018, faced potential recalls from the very earliest days of his governorship, but none were successful until the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the United States in March 2020. Newsom’s decision to impose strict measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, such as closing schools and some businesses, earned him praise from most Californians but were opposed by many conservatives across the state. Coupled with public missteps, such as the governor’s infamous dinner at The French Laundry, a high-priced restaurant in the Napa Valley, amid tight pandemic restrictions imposed across the state, those actions gave recall proponents the momentum they needed to get the recall on the ballot, especially after they received a four-month extension to collect signatures due to the pandemic.