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Newsom overwhelmingly defeats California recall attempt

Sacramento County temporary employee Ranisha Sampson extracts recall ballots at the Sacramento County Registrar's Office on Sept. 14, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters.

The attempt to throw Gov. Gavin Newsom out of office failed by a wide margin, according to vote counts released Tuesday night in California's historic recall election.

With some 9.1 million ballots counted — out of 22.3 million ballots mailed to registered voters — the "no" vote is ahead of the "yes" vote 64% to 36%, according to the California Secretary of State.

Newsom pulled to such a big early lead that the Associated Press, CNN, NBC and other networks declared within an hour of the polls closing Tuesday night that the recall had failed and Newsom had survived.

"We are enjoying an overwhelming 'no' vote tonight here in the state of California," Newsom said in a brief appearance in the courtyard of the state Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento on Tuesday. "But 'no' was not the only thing that was expressed tonight. I want to focus on what we said 'yes' to as a state. We said 'yes' to science, 'yes' to vaccines, we said 'yes' to ending this pandemic.”

"We said yes to diversity, we said yes to inclusion, we said yes to pluralism. We said yes to all those things that we hold dear as Californians, and I would argue, as Americans," the governor added.

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But there are many more votes to count. Here's why: The votes reported so far are only those ballots cast before Tuesday, from voters who sent them in by mail, left them in election drop boxes or voted early in person. After 8 p.m., election officials will begin counting ballots that were cast Tuesday. And ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted as long as they arrive within a week.

Republicans are expected to make up a larger share of those voting Tuesday at polling places, so the results may shift toward the "yes" side as those ballots are counted.

Among the candidates seeking to replace Newsom, GOP talk radio host Larry Elder was leading the pack with 47% of the vote. Democrat Kevin Paffrath was a distant second at 10%, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, was in third place at not quite 9%.

In his election night speech, Faulconer told supporters that while he initially set out to campaign for 2022, it turned into a recall campaign. He said he'd take time to figure out "the best steps here in the coming weeks to continue to be a fighter, to continue to serve our great state."

Elder indicated that he will likely run for governor next year if he does not win this time.

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"We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war," he told supporters on election night.

Elder also declared a victory, of a sort: "They are now listening in ways they never listened before. They are hearing us in ways they have never heard before. They're now going to work on problems the way they've never done before."

But even before Election Day, Elder began casting doubt on the validity of the results. He said he thought there may be "shenanigans" and that he's prepared to file lawsuits over irregularities. For days, a "Stop CA Fraud" website linked from his campaign site called for an investigation of the "twisted results" in the recall election "resulting in Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor;" those words were deleted before polls closed.

Nonetheless, Elder conceded Tuesday night and urged supporters to be "gracious in defeat."

Newsom pushed back against what he called a continuation of the "Big Lie."

"Democracy is not a football," he said. "You don't throw it around. It's more like an antique vase. You drop it and smash it into a million different pieces."

"We may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country."

Newsom's strategy to fight the recall relied on taking lessons from the only other gubernatorial recalls in modern American history: the 2003 ouster of California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the failed attempt to recall Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2012. (The governor of North Dakota was recalled a century ago, long before the modern era of political communication.)

The lesson from the Davis recall: Box out any prominent Democrats from running as a replacement and focus on telling Democrats to just vote "no." In 2003, Democrat Cruz Bustamante, the lieutenant governor, ran with the slogan "No on the recall, Yes on Bustamante."

Newsom's campaign said that gave some Democrats the belief that they could recall Davis and still have a Democratic governor.

"We weren't going to make that same mistake," said Newsom strategist Ace Smith.

The lesson from Walker beating back a recall: Play offense and define your opponent. Walker succeeded in part because he was able to cast the recall as an attack by labor unions and paint them as the villain.

Newsom's team used the same strategy, but with the opposite politics. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, they cast Republicans as the bogeyman, and repeatedly tried to tie the recall to former President Donald Trump, who is deeply unpopular in California. And when Elder emerged as the front-runner, Newsom focused on bashing his conservative stances on race, immigration, women's rights and pandemic management.

"Politics should always be choices," Smith said. "The choice in this case is not whether your governor is perfect or not, the choice is whether your governor would do a far better job than the other person who would be governor."

Newsom also benefited from an enormous fundraising advantage — raising five times as much money as his opponents combined. And he got help from organized labor. Unions contributed millions of dollars to his campaign and also organized a huge effort to knock on doors, make phone calls and send text messages urging voters to say "no" to the recall.

"It really was all about in-person contact and communication," said Steve Smith, a spokesperson for the California Labor Federation. "That's what we knew it would take, given the research we did early in the summer where we saw a tremendous amount of apathy and low information. TV ads alone weren't going to solve that problem."

Newsom also bet that his strict approach to the pandemic — as the first governor in the nation to require vaccines for health care workers and state employees — would pay off in a state where two-thirds of residents are vaccinated. He contrasted his approach with his GOP opponents, who said they would repeal mandates for masks and vaccines.

Exit polling from Tuesday's election reveals that the pandemic is the main issue on California voters' minds, and that more than 6 in 10 say getting vaccinated is more of a public health responsibility than it is a personal choice.

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Email Laurel Rosenhall and Sameea Kamal at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics. Read more state news from CalMatters here.

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Newsom overwhelmingly defeats California recall attempt

by / CalMatters

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 14, 2021, 9:00 pm
Updated: Wed, Sep 15, 2021, 10:45 am

The attempt to throw Gov. Gavin Newsom out of office failed by a wide margin, according to vote counts released Tuesday night in California's historic recall election.

With some 9.1 million ballots counted — out of 22.3 million ballots mailed to registered voters — the "no" vote is ahead of the "yes" vote 64% to 36%, according to the California Secretary of State.

Newsom pulled to such a big early lead that the Associated Press, CNN, NBC and other networks declared within an hour of the polls closing Tuesday night that the recall had failed and Newsom had survived.

"We are enjoying an overwhelming 'no' vote tonight here in the state of California," Newsom said in a brief appearance in the courtyard of the state Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento on Tuesday. "But 'no' was not the only thing that was expressed tonight. I want to focus on what we said 'yes' to as a state. We said 'yes' to science, 'yes' to vaccines, we said 'yes' to ending this pandemic.”

"We said yes to diversity, we said yes to inclusion, we said yes to pluralism. We said yes to all those things that we hold dear as Californians, and I would argue, as Americans," the governor added.

But there are many more votes to count. Here's why: The votes reported so far are only those ballots cast before Tuesday, from voters who sent them in by mail, left them in election drop boxes or voted early in person. After 8 p.m., election officials will begin counting ballots that were cast Tuesday. And ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted as long as they arrive within a week.

Republicans are expected to make up a larger share of those voting Tuesday at polling places, so the results may shift toward the "yes" side as those ballots are counted.

Among the candidates seeking to replace Newsom, GOP talk radio host Larry Elder was leading the pack with 47% of the vote. Democrat Kevin Paffrath was a distant second at 10%, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, was in third place at not quite 9%.

In his election night speech, Faulconer told supporters that while he initially set out to campaign for 2022, it turned into a recall campaign. He said he'd take time to figure out "the best steps here in the coming weeks to continue to be a fighter, to continue to serve our great state."

Elder indicated that he will likely run for governor next year if he does not win this time.

"We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war," he told supporters on election night.

Elder also declared a victory, of a sort: "They are now listening in ways they never listened before. They are hearing us in ways they have never heard before. They're now going to work on problems the way they've never done before."

But even before Election Day, Elder began casting doubt on the validity of the results. He said he thought there may be "shenanigans" and that he's prepared to file lawsuits over irregularities. For days, a "Stop CA Fraud" website linked from his campaign site called for an investigation of the "twisted results" in the recall election "resulting in Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor;" those words were deleted before polls closed.

Nonetheless, Elder conceded Tuesday night and urged supporters to be "gracious in defeat."

Newsom pushed back against what he called a continuation of the "Big Lie."

"Democracy is not a football," he said. "You don't throw it around. It's more like an antique vase. You drop it and smash it into a million different pieces."

"We may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country."

Newsom's strategy to fight the recall relied on taking lessons from the only other gubernatorial recalls in modern American history: the 2003 ouster of California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the failed attempt to recall Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2012. (The governor of North Dakota was recalled a century ago, long before the modern era of political communication.)

The lesson from the Davis recall: Box out any prominent Democrats from running as a replacement and focus on telling Democrats to just vote "no." In 2003, Democrat Cruz Bustamante, the lieutenant governor, ran with the slogan "No on the recall, Yes on Bustamante."

Newsom's campaign said that gave some Democrats the belief that they could recall Davis and still have a Democratic governor.

"We weren't going to make that same mistake," said Newsom strategist Ace Smith.

The lesson from Walker beating back a recall: Play offense and define your opponent. Walker succeeded in part because he was able to cast the recall as an attack by labor unions and paint them as the villain.

Newsom's team used the same strategy, but with the opposite politics. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, they cast Republicans as the bogeyman, and repeatedly tried to tie the recall to former President Donald Trump, who is deeply unpopular in California. And when Elder emerged as the front-runner, Newsom focused on bashing his conservative stances on race, immigration, women's rights and pandemic management.

"Politics should always be choices," Smith said. "The choice in this case is not whether your governor is perfect or not, the choice is whether your governor would do a far better job than the other person who would be governor."

Newsom also benefited from an enormous fundraising advantage — raising five times as much money as his opponents combined. And he got help from organized labor. Unions contributed millions of dollars to his campaign and also organized a huge effort to knock on doors, make phone calls and send text messages urging voters to say "no" to the recall.

"It really was all about in-person contact and communication," said Steve Smith, a spokesperson for the California Labor Federation. "That's what we knew it would take, given the research we did early in the summer where we saw a tremendous amount of apathy and low information. TV ads alone weren't going to solve that problem."

Newsom also bet that his strict approach to the pandemic — as the first governor in the nation to require vaccines for health care workers and state employees — would pay off in a state where two-thirds of residents are vaccinated. He contrasted his approach with his GOP opponents, who said they would repeal mandates for masks and vaccines.

Exit polling from Tuesday's election reveals that the pandemic is the main issue on California voters' minds, and that more than 6 in 10 say getting vaccinated is more of a public health responsibility than it is a personal choice.

Email Laurel Rosenhall and Sameea Kamal at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively.

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics.

Comments

Janice Selznick
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2021 at 6:52 am
Janice Selznick, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 6:52 am

A super wonderful result for the rotted-out one-party state.

I grieve for you California!


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 15, 2021 at 8:23 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 8:23 am

I love California. Wonderful place to live. I mean, if someone hates it so much they say it's rotting, there are other states such as Oklahoma they might prefer? Winning by 2/3 to 1/3 is better than 'staving off' headline writer. was that to scare up some click bait?

I guess this is a major difference between the recent red and blue teams, is that Newsom (and others) promised to accept the results of a democratic election if they lose, while the other team, makes up lies about fraud and whines like they're Jebus alone in Gethsemane I tell you what...


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2021 at 8:58 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 8:58 am

The problem is that it became a "Republican Recall" rather than a Newsom recall.

All those national politicians called in - sorry flew in - to make Newsom's case belittled all those Democrats who had signed the petition fearing for the future of their business, worried about crime, worried about children's education, worried about not being able to have power in their homes and worried about poor forest management near their homes, have all been ignored in this by the great man.

How much money was spent on fighting this, all the tv ads and the cost of flying AF1 shows that all Newsom can do with a problem is to throw money at it to make himself look good?

I would be much more impressed if instead of saying how wonderful the Californian public think of how he is doing, he said more along the lines of I hear you, I will look at how I can make things better starting today. Only of course he won't. He now has a mandate to keep on doing all that he has been doing as a stepping stone for a future run for the presidency.

Cares about California? No. Cares about Gavin's political career. Yes.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 15, 2021 at 9:19 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 9:19 am

nonsense. You think only California had big problems because of COVID or they handled these problems so much worse than other states, you simply did not travel to other states within the past year. I have. Newsom did relatively well. Cons just used the Covid to blame Newsom for trying harder and doing better than a red team governor would have done. But cannot do, because only one-third of Californias are on the red team. I think the kids say 'duh'.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Sep 15, 2021 at 9:43 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 9:43 am

I never expected Newsom to lose his job. In another state, probably, but California is deep blue. Larry Elder is the gift that Newsom needed. Once he was the frontrunner, the polls went from evenly split to favoring Newsom. The real surprise was the number of Republicans who voted for Newsom. I expected Independents to be evenly split, and they were. I also expected not all Democrats would vote for Newsom, and that was correct. I didn't expect 26% of Republicans to vote for Newsom. Not all votes are counted, but 26%? Watching Newsom sweat was entertaining. Maybe he'll wake up and do a better job. He's not the right man for the job, but we get who we vote for. Life goes on.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 15, 2021 at 9:53 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 9:53 am

Thanks, Jennifer for adult response, and...

if some sour miscreant Trumpist asks you to sign a recall of the recall, please think for a second before you do it.


Janice Selznick
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2021 at 10:38 am
Janice Selznick, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 10:38 am
John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 15, 2021 at 11:10 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 11:10 am

Strongly disagree with the mail in bugaboo excuse. to wit: Mr. Donald J. Trump voted by mail. I know, he also got the vaccine, so it's very much a do as I say not what I do situation with the red team... Pitiful, really.

In fact, I would argue the opposite about mail in ballots. What's more safe than mail in ballots? What fraud? I suspect red team people are really NOT more confident about non-fraud simply by hanging out in long lines in the dark on the night of the election like people did before computers were invented. What red team people are really saying is that they are not smart enough to understand how to fill out and return a mail in ballot. The blue team do not have this concern, being more educated, you see.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2021 at 11:28 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 11:28 am

[Portion removed.] Very predictably Newsom won in a landslide. To all of the people that supported the recall, the recall is over and you will respect your Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. Also, stop with “election fraud” nonsense. What a waste of time and taxpayer money! If you don’t like the Democratic run state of California you are free to move to Texas, Arkansas, or any other Republican state. [Portion removed.] This total failure of a recall may also eventually propel Newsom into the Presidency at some point in the future. Spoiler alert: That’s what Gavin’s being groomed for everyone! A special thank you to Larry Elder for being the best thing to happen to California in an ironic way of course. Gavin now has the freedom to get back to work and guide the state and speak freely. Finally, dinner is on Gavin tomorrow night at the French Laundry to celebrate this victory!

[Portion removed.]


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2021 at 11:45 am
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 11:45 am

Newsom didn't survive because he has he has been a decent governor. He has not been. His response to Covid was weak, vacillating, and inconsistent at first, and he looked HORRIBLE on TV pushing his flip-flop cowardly Covid agenda, putting politics ahead of public health. He finally "saved" himself when he got off of TV and kept his mouth shut. Newsom wasn't a "winner", he was a survivor because no powerful Democrat was listed to replace him, and because the Republican replacement candidates were far, far worse and frightening than Newsom. Elder??? Cox??? Really? Neo-fascist Wolves in wolves clothing.

Also, he is where he is today because he is a pandering creature of identity and special interest politics, just like Gray Davis. He openly courted support from every identity politics org and every special interest org that he could get to support him, presumably because they would gain access to his good will and political influence should he survive.

I saw a poll this morning on TV news that asked voters "Do you support Newsom for re-election in 20022"? The response was 52% "Yes" and 48% "Time for someone else". Given the near tie, that means that a significant fraction of Democratic voters are sick of Newsom and want him out the proper way --- by losing the next primary election.

My standing: Former moderate Republican now an Independent with Libertarian tendencies. I can't align myself with either political Party because I find their policies repugnant to what I believe --- tolerance, moderation, and exhibiting common sense on both social and economic issues. No Alt-Left, no Alt-Right.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Sep 15, 2021 at 12:01 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 12:01 pm

I repeatedly posted that I wanted Newsom to lose his job. I never said he would. I'm well aware of the political leaning in this state. As far as your opinions, I consider the source. The far left and the far right are extremists, and our decent candidates didn't stand a chance. As a moderate Independent, I don't align myself with either political party. A lot of people don't, and that's a good thing.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 15, 2021 at 1:23 pm
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 1:23 pm

To the extent that Newsom is pandering the 2/3 majority, isn't that democracy in action, Mr. H? What would you call the opposite, advocating policies in favor or the 1/3? no seriously, I'd like to know why such extreme un-pandering behavior would be preferable? Governor Newsom is a democratically elected public servant. He sometimes reads up on issues, listens to new evidence, and changes policy. This is reasonable behavior. He did it as Mayor in SF and some people said 'boo' or 'foul' and I wondered more about his critics at that time too.
and Mr. Voice, yes, those people are annoying but on behalf of my friends in Austin, please don't tell them to move to Texas...


Ozymandias
Registered user
another community
on Sep 15, 2021 at 1:31 pm
Ozymandias, another community
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 1:31 pm

In politics failure isn't a fireable offense, as Gavin Newsom will tell you.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Sep 15, 2021 at 1:37 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 1:37 pm

I don't believe for a minute that most Republicans believe that voter fraud is that serious. I think it's a manipulative political ploy to get under the skin of left leaning voters, and they're succeeding. The left and the right will always be the Hatfield's and McCoy's, and those of us in the middle don't let politics control us. We try to laugh off both sides, but it's not easy.


Steve Dabrowski
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2021 at 2:05 pm
Steve Dabrowski, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 2:05 pm
Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2021 at 2:30 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 2:30 pm

I completely echo the sentiments of William Hitchens in what he surmised above.

I will now watch and wait until the arrogance in our governor stops celebrating his survival thinking the general population all thinks he is doing a wonderful job and turns instead to destroying business once again with vaccine passports and other protocols to show how he is "fighting" this further.

I am tired of seeing him being congratulated by all those big party names on commercials and sound bites. He is not showing any compassion whatsoever for those whose businesses are destroyed and whose education has been messed up. He cares not a bit about how messed up California education is when compared to other states. He cares not about the problems of crime, immigration, homelessness, and all the other things the recall was about which are not Covid related. He cares little about Californians, only himself and his political safety as he eyes the presidency.

Perhaps now he will be quiet and get on with dealing some of the real issues that he has been ignoring. I think that is wishful thinking.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 15, 2021 at 3:08 pm
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 3:08 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2021 at 4:36 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 4:36 pm
Ozymandias
Registered user
another community
on Sep 15, 2021 at 5:16 pm
Ozymandias, another community
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 5:16 pm
Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2021 at 8:21 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2021 at 8:21 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


Mirriam LaPorte
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2021 at 12:52 pm
Mirriam LaPorte, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2021 at 12:52 pm

Hopefully Gavin Newsom will not view this recent victory as a stepping stone to the White House.

Both Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom would make substandard presidential candidates.

Andrew Cuomo is OUT as a respectable individual and potential candidate.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2021 at 10:06 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2021 at 10:06 pm

LOL on the residentialists that voted against the recall:

SB9 and SB10 were just signed by Newsom.

Gotcha.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 17, 2021 at 6:04 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 6:04 am

Ms. LaPorte asserts that the US people are so very demanding of the qualities of experience and character required for president, huh? That's why a reality TV star with a stupid catch phrase who does not even believe in most votes wins, or that rich people should pay taxes, got in...

(I know, I know, post probably removed.)


Anna Delacroix
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 17, 2021 at 8:48 am
Anna Delacroix, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 8:48 am

Governor Newsome could have avoided both the recall and Covid-19 debacle had he appointed himself to replace Senator Harris following the 2020 presidential election.

Then he could have further promoted himself as a potential 2024 presidential candidate via the added national exposure.

He didn't use his thinking cap.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 17, 2021 at 10:11 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 10:11 am

Yes, that makes sense, Ms. Delacroix, but what if he wanted to be governor?

Don't we have to admit though that Trump was right about one thing? When, in this primarily internet-oriented information age, he said 'fake news', there was accuracy to that. For example, right now, a full 3 days after the traditional media announced that the recall attempt lost almost 2/3 to 1/3, the MSN homepage is still trying to scare up some click-bait fear with the headline: "Should Newsom stay or go?/Californians weigh governor's fate in recall election." Because what happens when the internet gets something wrong? Do they even say 'oops'?


Anna Delacroix
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 17, 2021 at 10:42 am
Anna Delacroix, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 10:42 am

We are stuck with Newsom and he is stuck with us...that is the 'real news'.


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