National TV networks quickly projected Tuesday that Gov. Gavin Newsom will handily beat the recall, with nearly two-thirds of Californians voting to keep him in early returns, and Republican Larry Elder leading the pack of challengers.

With some 9.1 million mail ballots counted statewide — 41.4% of all registered voters — the “No” vote to recall Newsom stood at 63.9% with the “Yes” vote at 36.1%.

The CNN projection came at 8:45 p.m., less than an hour after the polls closed. Republican-leaning Fox News followed a few minutes later with the same projection.

“I’m humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote,” Newsom said in a victory speech Tuesday night in the state capital of Sacramento.

“We rejected cynicism and bigotry and chose hope and progress,” he said later on Twitter.

Larry Elder led the field of 46 candidates to potentially succeed Newsom at 46.9%, followed by Democrat Kevin Paffrath at 9.8% and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer at 8.6%.

However, far more Californians voted on the recall question than for any of the 46 candidates, and Elder’s result represents just 26% of the total vote cast so far.

Elder conceded Tuesday night, telling supporters, “Let’s be gracious in defeat. We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war.”

The results released in the hour after polls closed at 8 p.m. included mail ballots received before election day and early in-person voting. Later, results from Election Day in-person voting came in, reducing Newsom’s margin.

Every California voter was mailed a ballot, but surveys suggested many Republicans were waiting to vote in person on election day.

Lines were reported at some polling places, and both Elder and the California Democratic Party urged voters to stay in line until their vote could be cast.

Newsom’s win and the high turnout in Tuesday’s election came as a relief to national Democrats, who already were bracing for a tough fight in the 2022 elections that will decide control of Congress.

A loss in one of the party’s stronghold states would have set off alarms across the country, particularly given the leading Republican challenger was a supporter of former President Donald Trump with a track record of controversial statements about women and minorities.

Counting of late mail ballots will continue for several weeks, with certification the results expected on Oct. 22.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.