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Fresno Democrats Rejoice Over Recall Defeat

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Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) addresses recall opponents at a recall election watch party on Tuesday. (GV Wire/David Taub)
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It was a chill mood at Full Circle Brewery in downtown Fresno on Tuesday night. The Fresno County Democrats gathered for a watch party, even though there were no televisions set up.

Chairman Ruben Zarate occasionally announced results, but Gov. Gavin Newsom’s survival seemed like a foregone conclusion. The revelers instead sipped their beers and enjoyed La Jacka tacos.

Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula ( D-Fresno) attended the party with his mother, party activist Amy Arambula. He said the Democrats’ ability to organize led to victory, which stood at 64% opposed to the recall as of Wednesday morning.

“When we organize, when we mobilize and empower voters, our democracy is stronger. It’s important for people to participate and have their voice be heard. I’m encouraged by the results we’re seeing today of the amount of people who have turned out during a special election,” Arambula said. “That has not always been the case for our state. And so I hope what we’ve learned through this election is the power of our vote and how important it is for you to participate.”

The preliminary numbers released Tuesday night showed Fresno County voting “no” on the recall. As of Wednesday morning, the results flipped, with “yes” leading by about 600 votes.

Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias (left) chats with Kingsburg City Councilwoman Jewel Hurtado at a recall watch party (GV Wire/David Taub)

The Tipping Point?

Michael Evans, a former local and state Democratic party executive, worked on the No on Recall campaign. He said when people realized what was at stake, they opposed the recall.

“I think people were slow to realize just how impactful this was. And within the last four to five weeks of the campaign, there was much greater public awareness of what was actually going on, that this was a Republican effort to win an election in a way they couldn’t otherwise,” Evans said.

The emergence of Larry Elder as the replacement frontrunner also played a factor.

“His entering the race did sort of raise the possibility of a frightening outcome. And so that certainly did bring more attention to a negative response if the recall were to succeed,” Evans said.

Congressman Jim Costa (right) chats with friends at a recall watch party (GV Wire/David Taub)

The Republican Future

The local Republican Party watched results at Cool Hand Luke’s restaurant in Fresno. Party chairman Fred Vanderhoof said he was “very disappointed” in the result.

“We’re always outvoted by the L.A. basin and Bay Area. So it’s pretty hard to overcome those,” Vanderhoof said.

Vanderhoof still found a silver lining.

“It’s also energized a lot of people who haven’t been and active in politics before. So that’s encouraging,” Vanderhoof said. He is encouraged by the increasing Hispanic membership in the GOP.

“It bodes well when you got a lot of Hispanics involved. So we’re looking forward to that,” Vanderhoof said.

As far as the 2022 governor’s race, Vanderhoof won’t call Elder the frontrunner. Perhaps, Vanderhoof said, another big name will jump into the race.

He cited the performance of Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, as a possible future congressional candidate.

“Even though he didn’t do well in the recall, he’s certainly got his name there,” Vanderhof said.

Recall Reform?

Even before the 8 p.m. close of the election, members of the state Legislature were calling for changes to the recall process — everything from increasing the percentage of signatures needed to trigger an election, to eliminating the replacement election.

Arambula said any reforms need to benefit taxpayers.

“I do think it is imperative for the Legislature to make sure that the process works for all of our communities. This recall election was extremely expensive and wants to make sure that the taxpayers are getting their dollars worth and due diligence out of this election. So I hope that as we’re talking about reforms, we are making sure how the taxpayers are not ultimately responsible for elections like this,” Arambula said.

The latest estimate of the taxpayer cost for the recall is $276 million. But California Secretary of State Shirley Weber said it likely will be higher.

Fresno City Councilmembers Nelson Esparza (left) and Tyler Maxwell at the Fresno Democrats recall watch party. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email