California voters, who have endured raging wildfires, a historic drought and an ongoing pandemic, will decide Tuesday whether they want to remove from office Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s led the nation’s most populous state for the past two-and-a-half years.
Polls are set to close in a little over an hour at 8 p.m. PT (11 p.m. ET).
In order to hold onto his job, Newsom — first elected in 2018 — needs a majority of voters to have voted “no” on the first ballot question about whether they want to oust him. Newsom’s operation has largely been a turnout, rather than a persuasion, campaign.
With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans in the state by nearly 2 to 1, his biggest hurdle has been getting them engaged in an off-year election amid the disruptions of the pandemic.
There were good signs for Newsom on that front in recent days, with Democrats casting pre-election ballots at a higher rate than their registration in the state, but Republicans have been counting on their voters showing up on Election Day to vote in person.
Only if a majority votes “yes” to remove Newsom does the second ballot come into play, determining who will serve as California’s governor through the end of Newsom’s term in January 2023. Voters have been asked to choose from a list of 46 candidates who qualified to have their name listed in the race to replace Newsom.
Why the race also matters on the national level: National Democrats are closely watching this race — the first major political contest since Democrats took full control of Washington last year — as a test of the party’s messaging on the pandemic ahead of next year’s midterms.
“The eyes of the nation are on California,” President Joe Biden said when rallying for Newsom in Long Beach on Monday.