Gov. Newsom keeps his seat after a majority of California voters reject the recall

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Left: California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during a campaign rally against his recall election at the IBEW-NECA Joint Apprenticeship Training Center in San Leandro, California, September 8. Right: Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder speaks to supporters during an Asian Rally for Yes Recall at the Asian Garden Mall in Little Saigon, Westminster, California, on September 4. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images; Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images

The attempt to recall Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom has failed, according to a call by the Associated Press, allowing the governor to stay in office until at least 2023.

Tuesday ends a campaign against Newsom that began more than a year ago before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S.

The governor's victory serves to vindicate his leadership of the state through COVID-19, but he won't be off the campaign trail for long. He'll have to run for re-election next year if he wants to keep his seat after his term ends.

Counties must finish counting ballots and certify their results by Oct. 14. The California secretary of state will certify the results on Oct. 22.

Tuesday's vote brings the campaign that began at the beginning of 2020 to a close. The petition was one of six that had been circulated by the governor's opponents to remove him since he took office in January 2019.

Getting the vote to the ballot took an unlikely synchronization of political fortune and Newsom's own missteps. Last year, a judge gave the recall campaign an additional four months to collect signatures, citing the difficulties in distributing petitions during the pandemic. Later that day, Newsom dined at the upscale French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley, ignoring his own guidance to avoid gatherings as the spread of the coronavirus picked up.

The dinner became the enduring symbol of the recall campaign and fodder for the most convincing attack against the governor: that he failed to practice what he preached.

Instead of waiting for the 2022 gubernatorial election, thousands of the governor's detractors signed petitions to put Newsom's fate on the ballot this year.

The resurgence of the virus also allowed Newsom to draw his clearest contrast between the candidates hoping to replace him, most notably conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder.

Newsom announced in late July vaccine mandates for California state employees, health care workers and school staff, along with a mask requirement for school children — orders that Elder promised to revoke on day one if elected.

Elder's dominance of the replacement candidate field also presented Newsom's campaign with the foil it had been searching for. Early attempts to compare the recall campaign to voter suppression efforts in Republican states or the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol fell flat.

But Elder's emergence as the clear favorite on the second question of who should replace Newsom if he was recalled allowed Newsom to turn the race from a referendum to a choice, and the governor spent the final days of the campaign slamming Elder's conservative positions on climate policy, abortion and the minimum wage.