Gavin Newsom wins California's governor's race, John Cox concedes

Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will be the governor of the deep blue state of California, winning a decisive victory Tuesday night against Republican John Cox.

Cox conceded the race around 9:30 p.m. as Newsom continued to widen his lead as vote-counting continued. The San Diego businessman said he was proud of the campaign and the message he conveyed.

"We highlighted the incredible struggle that the people of this state have had for years under the people that are running this state," Cox told supporters in San Diego. "We identified the needs of these people. They can't afford housing, the can't afford gasoline, they can't afford the basics of life."

He vowed that the Republican Party is not going away in California.

"Our path to success is going to be based upon delivering the quality of life that people need so desperately," Cox said. "... I'm not going anywhere. I love this state and I'm going to stay involved."

Despite being the overwhelming favorite in the race, Newsom told the Los Angeles Times earlier he wasn't taking anything for granted.

"I'm anxious, always, because there's a lot at stake. I don't want to experience what we experienced in 2016," Newsom told the newspaper in a reference to Donald Trump's election.

On Tuesday night in downtown Los Angeles, however, he looked to the future.

"This victory is really your victory, because of you, the future belongs to California," he said at the Exchange LA nightclub.

Taking aim at President Donald Trump without mentioning him by name, Newsom said, "It's time to roll the credits on the politics of chaos and the politics of cruelty."

Both candidates maintained a heavy campaign schedule to the end, traveling up and down the state in the final days before the election.

A final pre-election poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies showed Newsom leading Cox by 58 to 40 percent among likely California voters.

If the votes ultimately tracked polling results, Newsom's win was due in part to strong support among non-partisan voters, who now outnumber Republicans statewide, as well as from Latino voters.

Newsom built his political career in San Francisco, where he was elected mayor in 2004. He drew national attention when, roughly a month after his swearing in, he directed the city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of state law.

From 1996 to 2004, Newsom served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where he championed a policy initiative dubbed "Care Not Cash," slashing cash benefits for homeless individuals in favor of housing and services.

Newsom has proposed a goal of building 3.5 million new homes by 2025 through an expansion of the low-income housing tax credit program and other incentives. Another of his top priorities is universal healthcare for Californians and he has expressed support for Senate Bill 562 that aims to create a single-payer system, although Newsom has also raised concerns about the hurdles for passage and funding.

Newsom has promised to oppose the Trump administration's immigration policies and gun control -- setting himself in stark opposition to Cox -- and has called for universal preschool and two years of free community college as part of a push to distinguish himself as more progressive than Brown.

Cox efforts to characterize the state's high poverty rate, underperforming schools and lack of affordable housing as problems that happened "on Gavin Newsom's watch" did not win the day.

Cox had also focused on repealing Brown's $52 billion gas tax increase, which he calls a regressive tax, urging voters to support Proposition 6, which also looks likely to be defeated tonight.

After distancing himself from Trump early on in his primary campaign, Cox picked up the president's endorsement before the June 5th primary. The San Diego-based businessman has since echoed some of Trump's themes on the campaign trail, including his plan to "clean out the barn" in Sacramento as Trump promised to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C. Cox has taken a hard line on immigration -- including supporting construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and ending "sanctuary state" policies -- though he said he was against separating children from their parents at the border.

Newsom will now pivot from campaigning to governing as he picks his cabinet and readies his team.