California Gov. Gavin Newsom will remain in office

By Veronica Rocha, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 8:07 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021
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1:27 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

California Gov. Gavin Newsom defeated a recall effort. Here are some key takeaways.

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom defeated a GOP-backed effort to remove him from office, according to a projection from the CNN Decision Desk.

A majority of California voters rejected Tuesday’s recall effort and voted "no" on whether they want to remove Newsom from office.

In case you missed it, here's what you need to know about the special election:

Newsom will remain in office: Speaking from Sacramento, Newsom thanked Californians for rejecting the recall effort. He also addressed the divisions in the country, describing democracy like an "antique vase." "You can drop it and smash it in a million different pieces. And that's what we're capable of doing if we don't stand up to meet the moment and push back," he said.

GOP candidate Larry Elder acknowledged defeat: Elder, the leading Republican replacement and one of 46 candidate who qualified to have their name listed in the race to replace the governor, told his supports: “Let’s be gracious in defeat.” He added: “By the way, we may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war."

Newsom's re-election bid: A Newsom campaign source says the Democratic governor will wake up Wednesday morning with $24 million of cash on hand for his re-election and an “online army” of volunteers that he can reconnect with as his future unfolds.

Democrats look toward 2022 midterms: The White House and Democrats are looking at the numbers in California with confidence tonight. While President Biden didn’t put Newsom over the finish line, he and other Democrats will still bask in the glow of the Covid-19 response: Voters are responding favorably to vaccine and mask mandates – and rejecting Trumpism. With the 2022 midterm elections looming, Democrats see this as an unquestionable boost – only because losing would have been so disastrous for the party.

Read more about how the recall election unfolded here.

12:40 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Newsom will have $24 million in the bank for his re-election bid

From CNN's Maeve Reston

California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses reporters after beating back the recall attempt that aimed to remove him from office at the John L. Burton California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, on Tuesday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses reporters after beating back the recall attempt that aimed to remove him from office at the John L. Burton California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, on Tuesday. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Republicans had hoped for a resurgence in California through the recall, but it now looks like they have strengthened Gov. Gavin Newsom’s hand for 2022 – and possibly even given him a better launching pad for his potential White House ambitions.

Newsom’s "stop the recall" campaign raised more than $71 million, a stunning figure that completely overwhelmed all of his GOP rivals. A Newsom campaign source says the Democratic governor will wake up Wednesday morning with $24 million of cash on hand for his re-election and an “online army” of volunteers that he can reconnect with as his future unfolds.

The campaign says they received over 600,000 small dollar donations – which they define as less than $100 – and that 90% of those were from California. All donors that he can re-activate as he heads into his re-election campaign.

His critics point out, however, that if Newsom does run for President, we’ll still be talking about his visit to The French Laundry for many years to come.

12:40 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Newsom to Californians: "Thank you for rejecting this recall"

California Governor Gavin Newsom makes an appearance after the polls close on the recall election, at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, California, U.S., September 14, 2021.
California Governor Gavin Newsom makes an appearance after the polls close on the recall election, at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, California, U.S., September 14, 2021. (Fred Greaves/Reuters)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the divisions in the country as he reflected on his campaign efforts to defeat the gubernatorial recall, describing democracy like an "antique vase."

"You can drop it and smash it in a million different pieces. And that's what we're capable of doing if we don't stand up to meet the moment and push back," Newsom said during his remarks from Sacramento.

He continued: "I said this many, many times on the campaign trail. You know, we may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country. The big lie. The January 6th insurrection. All the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country. What's happening, the assault on fundamental rights, constitutionally protected rights of women and girls. It's a remarkable moment in our nation's history."

Newsom ended his remarks by paying homage to the late Robert Kennedy, who he described as his "political hero."

"But I'm reminded of something, I don't know, a few decades ago, someone told me when describing a difficult and challenging moment. Said the 'The world is too small, our time is too short, and our wisdom is too limited to win fleeting victories at other people's expenses.' And he went on to say 'We must all triumph together.' So in that spirit of recognizing and reconciling this moment and trying to understand what's going on not just here in the state but all across the United States of America, I just want to say this; tonight I'm humbled, grateful, but resolved in the spirit of my political hero, Robert Kennedy, to make more gentle the life of this world. Thank you all very much, and��thank you to 40 million Americans, 40 million Californians, and thank you for rejecting this recall," he said.

12:36 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Newsom urges unity for younger generation: "We owe our kids a deeper sense of respect"

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

While delivering remarks in Sacramento Tuesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke about setting an example of unity for children, rather than teaching divisiveness.

“I just think of our kids watching all of this. Nightly news, day in and day out, and I just wonder — I’ve got four young kids, oldest about to turn 12 this weekend — and what they’re growing up to. In a world, we’re so divided. These kids increasingly fearful, isolated, disconnected. And we’re teaching them that. And it doesn’t have to be that way,” Newsom said.

“I think we owe our kids a deeper sense of respect, and all of us as adults, [have] a responsibility to disregard this false separateness. We’re so much more in common as a state and a nation than we give ourselves credit for,” he said.

The governor thanked Californians for "rejecting so much of the negativity that has defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years."

He later tweeted that Californians "rejected cynicism and bigotry and chose hope and progress."

12:25 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Newsom: "I want to focus on what we said yes to as a state"

California Gov. Gavin Newsom thanked voters for rejecting the recall and for reaffirming his policy and values platform during remarks from the state's capitol.

"An overwhelmingly no vote tonight here in the state of California. That was expressed tonight. I want to focus on what we said yes to as a state," Newsom said.

Newsom continued: "We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people's right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression. We said yes to women's fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body and her fate and future. We said yes to diversity. We said yes to inclusion. We said yes to pluralism. We said yes to all those things that he we hold dear as Californians and I would argue as Americans. Economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice. Our values, where California's made so much progress. All of those things were on the ballot this evening."

Watch Gov. Newsom's remarks:

12:11 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

CNN's Kasie Hunt on recall election vote margin: "Democrats are still really engaged"

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Moments after CNN projected that Democrat Gavin Newsom defeated the recall effort and will remain the governor of California, CNN’s Kasie Hunt described what she sees as sustained Democratic participation following the 2020 presidential election.

“The margin that we’re seeing early in the night is huge for Gavin Newsom. It’s bigger than, you know, many people expected, certainly than many of my sources expected it to be,” Hunt said.

“I think that shows you that Democrats are still really engaged or that you can engage them. They haven’t tuned out of the news after four years of Donald Trump. They are still afraid of that kind of governance coming back, of living that way again. And there is a way to activate that instinct,” she said. 

Hunt added that Democrats have not demonstrated complacency following a victory in the 2020 presidential election.

“Sometimes, when you win elections, your voters sit back. They say, ‘Everything’s fine. Nothing to worry about. I don’t need to get engaged. I don’t need to get to the polls.’ That didn’t happen here tonight,” Hunt said.

1:10 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

NOW: Newsom speaks after defeating recall effort

California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is delivering remarks now from Sacramento, California.

CNN projected that the governor will remain in office after a majority of voters voted "no" in Tuesday’s recall election.

"I am humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians who exercised their fundamental right to vote, and expressed themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism, by rejecting so much of the negativity that's defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years," Newsom said.

12:16 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Van Jones: Newsom was "humbled" by recall experience

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

CNN's Van Jones responded to California voters' decision to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office, saying the progressive leader of the nation's most populous state was likely "humbled" by the near miss.

"I think he's been humbled by this experience," said Jones, speaking just moments after CNN projected that Newsom would survive the Republican lead recall effort. "Your successes give you your confidence. Your step backs give you your character."

Jones said Newsom "was looking down the barrel of his career being over, and he had to find something in himself, and you saw that in him."

"He found a deeper passion," Jones added.

11:51 p.m. ET, September 14, 2021

Democrats turn to California to build confidence in the uphill 2022 midterm election climb

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

The White House and Democrats are looking at the numbers in California with confidence tonight.

While President Biden didn’t put Newsom over the finish line, he and other Democrats will still bask in the glow of the Covid-19 response: Voters are responding favorably to vaccine and mask mandates – and rejecting Trumpism. 

With the 2022 midterm elections looming, Democrats see this as an unquestionable boost – only because losing would have been so disastrous for the party.

From the White House to the party committees, officials are enthusiastic tonight – even though it’s unclear what effect it will have on House and Senate races – if any.

One top Democratic official offered this caveat to CNN: “It’s more of a warning sign for them than anything for us. But we’ll take it.”