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Newsom Reelected Governor of California

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Gov. Gavin Newsom gestures while speaking in a room, with officials standing behind him.
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a get-out-the-vote event in Anaheim on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022 – joined by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (center) – in support of Anaheim mayoral candidate Ashleigh Aitken (left) and congressional candidate Asif Mahmood (behind Newsom). (Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Gov. Gavin Newsom easily won reelection Tuesday night, roundly defeating his little-known Republican challenger, Brian Dahle, with The Associated Press calling the race just minutes after polls closed.

Newsom had secured more than 57% of the vote as of Thursday's count, a commanding lead reflective of a state with nearly twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.

Newsom's reelection was presaged by the overwhelming defeat of an effort to recall him last year, which was rejected by 62% of voters. In fact, despite having plenty of campaign cash, Newsom didn't even air a campaign ad for his reelection, choosing instead to put his weight behind the passage of Proposition 1 for abortion rights; against Proposition 30, a measure to tax the wealthy to fund climate goals; and to attack the conservative policies of governors in Texas and Florida.

"One thing that is settled here today is who we are as a state and what we hold dear in terms of our values," Newsom told supporters at a Proposition 1 election night party in Sacramento.

"As we turn the page on this campaign — and I hope we turn the page on this polarization in our national discourse, once the dust settles with all these national elections — we can start to reconcile those differences and all start to focus on these universal values, this journey for recognition," he said.

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Dahle, a state Senator from Lassen County, was unable to come anywhere close to matching Newsom's fundraising prowess, relying mostly on radio and television interviews across the state. His campaign was always an uphill battle, given the Democrats' huge advantage in voter registration and the fact that the last Republican to be elected governor was Arnold Schwarzenegger 16 years ago.

On Tuesday night, Newsom again drew contrasts between himself and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, saying he is "resolved to do more to advance that cause of freedom."

"We have governors that won their reelections tonight in other states that are banning books, that are banning speech, that are banning abortion, and here we are in California moving in a completely different direction," Newsom said. "That's a deep point of pride."

The constant jabs at DeSantis, Abbott and other leading Republicans has only increased speculation about Newsom’s future. Some have floated his name as a potential replacement for President Biden in 2024 or a run in 2028. Newsom, though, has repeatedly denied both, claiming he has "subzero" interest in running for president. He has insisted he backs Biden and said he wants Vice President Kamala Harris, a friend and fellow Californian, to be president.

When asked by KQED's Marisa Lagos during an October 23 debate if he would commit to serving a full four-year term if he were reelected, Newsom said yes.

But with no political threats at home, Newsom has spent the past year signing a raft of liberal legislation that could help him win over Democratic voters in a contested presidential primary — even as he broke with many progressives in the state over his recent staunch opposition to Proposition 30, which would have funded electric vehicle infrastructure.

He enacted more than a dozen laws aimed at making California a sanctuary for patients in other states seeking abortions now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. He ordered state regulators to ban the sale of most new gas-powered cars by 2035. His budgets have paid for every 4-year-old to go to kindergarten for free and will cover the health care costs of all lower-income immigrants in California who are living in the United States without legal permission.

Newsom has said repeatedly his goal is to revamp the Democratic Party’s strategy, urging others to follow his example of a more aggressive style.

“I think that he becomes one of the highest-profile Democrats in the country, given there is very likely going to be divided government in Washington, D.C., and the Democrats will be looking for any and all allies to promote their agenda,” said Matt Barreto, a UCLA political science professor. “And Gov. Newsom will have a very large platform from California to do that.”

But a potential Newsom presidential campaign would have to answer for a host of California's most stubborn problems, including an ever-expanding homeless population and an increase in violent crime that has contributed to a general sense of unease among voters. Meanwhile, soaring inflation has only increased the state's high cost of living, contributing to California's first population decline and the loss of a congressional seat.

Newsom has pledged to tackle some of those issues immediately in his second term, vowing to call a special session of the state Legislature next month to pass a new tax on oil company profits as a way to combat the state's record-high gas prices. But his next term will begin with state tax collections falling below expectations, setting up a potential round of unpopular budget cuts.

Newsom has said he will focus, in his second term, on the extremes: "extreme drought, extreme weather, extreme polarization in our body politic as it relates to preserving and protecting democracy.

"The rights revolution has been rolled back in real time in so many red states, all of those things are very consequential," Newsom said after a debate last month. "And this state has more to lose, more to gain, than any other state in the country."

This story includes reporting from The Associated Press.

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