SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom cruised to an easy victory in Tuesday’s primary, advancing to the November general election where he will be an overwhelming favorite to win a second term barely a year after surviving a recall attempt.
Newsom ranked 59% according to early returns on Tuesday. The state Republican Party’s endorsed candidate, little-known state Sen. Brian Dahle, was far behind with 18%. Dahle, if he keeps second, will be facing Newsom in November.
The Democratic incumbent Alex Padilla in the U.S. Senate race had an easy time making it to the November runoff. Newsom appointed him to the seat last year, after Kamala Harris quit to become vice-president.
Padilla was on the ballot twice — once to complete the final few months of Harris’ term and another in a race for a full six-year term that begins in January.
Early voting totals indicated that Mark Meuser, a Republican attorney, was second in both the Republican and Democratic races. Meuser’s work with the right-leaning Dhillon Law Group has included 22 lawsuits against Newsom claiming he overstepped his authority in imposing coronavirus restrictions.
Turnout in the nation’s most populous state was light despite significant frustration by voters over record-high gas prices, rising crime and a homelessness crisis in cities large and small. However, Democrats will likely maintain their grip on the Legislature and state offices despite these problems.
Newsom looked like he was on the verge of being reelected one year ago when more than 1.7 millions people signed petitions to remove him. Dozens of Republicans lined up to challenge him in the 2021 recall election, eager to take down the Democratic governor of the nation’s most populous state ahead of the 2022 midterms.
Newsom won the recall so decisively that no major challenger from last year was able to stop him being reelected.
“This is almost the definition of a noncompetitive race,” said Jessica Levinson, a political commentator and election law professor at Loyola Marymount University.
Freed from the political pressure that typically accompanies governors during an election year, Newsom has sought to further establish California as the anchor of the nation’s left wing. Newsom has pledged to make California an abortion sanctuary should Roe v. Wade be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. And he has pushed for a new law that would let private citizens enforce a ban on some assault weapons – similar to how Texas allows the public to sue people to enforce that state’s ban on most abortions.
Dahle, a farmer from the sparsely populated northeast corner of the state that borders Oregon and Nevada, has joined his Republican colleagues in blaming Newsom for the state’s record high gas prices, which hit a record high of $6.37 per gallon on Tuesday. He and other lawmakers – including some Democrats – have called on Newsom to temporarily suspend California’s gas tax, which at 51.1 cents per gallon is the second highest in the nation.
Newsom turned down that offer in favor of plans to send $800 to those who have cars and $750m to allow people to ride free on transit services for the next three months.
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