Newsom, Jenner address California recall election integrity as voters hit the polls
LOS ANGELES — Some of the key players in the California recall election made final pitches Tuesday as voters went to the polls.
Voters were first deciding whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. Then they were able to vote on a replacement from a field of mostly GOP candidates. Polls have shown the recall effort struggling and talk-show host Larry Elder leading among Republicans by a large margin.
Newsom and GOP candidate Caitlyn Jenner both addressed conspiracy theories about election irregularities. Some right-wing activists — as well as Elder — began sowing unfounded doubts about the integrity of the vote. In some ways, the moves are an extension of the conspiracy theories and false claims that started when Donald Trump lost the presidency to Joe Biden.
Elder, who had made no public appearance Tuesday by early evening, has refused to answer whether he will accept the election results if the recall effort fails. He recently added a section to his campaign website called “stop fraud” where voters can report irregularities.
Here is what the candidates had to say:
—GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM
Newsom gave an eleventh-hour stump speech to rally supporters Tuesday at a San Francisco union hall, encouraging them to reach out and get people to the polls to vote no on the effort to recall him.
“We can’t allow the economy, not just our public health, to be impacted by a wrong decision tonight at 8 o’clock,” he told the cheering crowd, with his wife and daughter standing by his side. “So what are we going to do? We will turn out and vote no on this recall.”
Newsom addressed questions from reporters about claims that the election results could be falsified.
“This election fraud stuff is a crock; it’s shameful. And when I say that, I mean that,” he said. “Guys like me come and go. We’re a dime a dozen, politicians. Quite literally a dime a dozen. It’s about our institutions. It’s about this nation. It’s about trust and confidence.”
He called out politicians and other figures he blames for peddling “the Big Lie.”
Republican candidate John Cox made a campaign stop Tuesday morning in Long Beach to “make it clear that this race isn’t just about the national political scene. ... This is about the quality of life for Californians.”
The location choice was a nod to Monday evening’s rally at Long Beach City College, where President Joe Biden stumped for Newsom and painted the recall as an election with national ramifications. Cox touted his credentials as a businessman — and criticized “politicians and media celebrities,” who have run the state in recent years, he said — as evidence that he can fix California’s problems.
As Cox spoke, a man driving by shouted, “You’ve got my vote!” A person biking on the beach boardwalk later called out, “Vote for Larry Elder!”
Cox acknowledged that front-runner Elder had “shaken up the race quite a bit.” With a double-digit lead, Elder far outpaces Cox, who is backed by 4% of likely voters, according to the latest University of California, Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.
“The important thing is that we vote yes on the recall ... doesn’t matter if people select Larry or myself,” Cox said. “I’m hoping I have a chance, but yeah, the more important thing is to vote yes on the recall.”
As people lined up to vote Tuesday at Beverly Hills City Hall, a celebrity candidate arrived with a small entourage and a ballot in her hand.
After consulting with a poll worker, Jenner disposed of the ballot so she could vote in person.
Afterward, she threw her arms in the air, evoking the moment she won the 1976 Olympic decathlon.
As the reality television star and most prominent transgender political candidate in history weaved her way to the door, voters pulled her aside to ask for selfies and tell her they loved her.
Outside City Hall, the Republican candidate told the assembled media that if Newsom prevails, it will be the end of the state as she knows it.
Reporters repeatedly asked her about Elder’s claims of election fraud. Jenner sidestepped questions about whether that was appropriate and said anyone was better than Newsom.
“Larry Elder is running his campaign the way Larry Elder is running his campaign,” she said.
“I believe in the system. I believe in the state of California. I believe in our electoral system. I think it’s important that citizens of this state get together and make sure there’s integrity in our voting laws.”
Recall candidate and state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican, voted Tuesday, with a dozen supporters and campaign staff on hand as he brought his ballot into a mostly empty polling site at St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Roseville.
The lawmaker said he is optimistic, despite recent polling suggesting Newsom has a sizable lead in halting the recall effort.
“Gavin Newsom has trotted out Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Barack Obama” and others, Kiley said, calling such moves a “sign of desperation.”
“At the end of the day, despite every attempt by our corrupt political class to take power away from the people, the people are still sovereign in this state, and the idea of ‘we the people’ still means something,” Kiley said.
Asked what his next step would be should the recall effort fail, Kiley said he wasn’t thinking that far ahead.
“I’m not making any decisions about even what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow morning,” he said. “We have been focused like a laser on getting out every vote in favor of the recall.”