California Recall Election
"California Republicans thought they found a unifying rallying cry in the recall attempt against Gov. Gavin Newsom," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Instead, the campaign exposed — and even worsened — some of the long-standing clashes between the establishment and grass-roots base, while leaving unsettled the question of how the party can stop its losing streak in the state."
Nearly 64 percent of Californians voted to keep Newsom (D) in office. Among the candidates that would have replaced him, the great establishment hope, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, came in third, with 8.6 percent of the vote. Conservative talk radio host Larry Elders got 47 percent, according to incomplete results on Friday.
California GOP chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson looked on the bright side, pointing to an influx of volunteers, for example. "In my career, I've learned a lot more from my losses than I have from my wins," she told the Times. "This is a great opportunity for us to build." But right now it's a house divided, with the conservatives and moderates both arguing that they have the best shot at making the California Republican Party relevant again.
The state's last Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger — who won unseated a Democrat in the last recall election — is on the moderate-or-die end, arguing that Republicans need to get in better sync with California views on climate change, health care, and the pandemic. In 2007, Schwarzenegger warned his party that "in movie terms, we are dying at the box office." On Wednesday, the Times notes, he downgraded his assessment: "It's now direct-to-video."
Aaron Park, a blogger and longtime California GOP activist, said he's tired of moderates blaming his fellow conservatives for the party's losses. "You're trying to run against a Democrat as a 'Democrat Lite,'" he said. "If people are given the choice between Budweiser and Bud Lite, people are going to drink Budweiser."