LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The ongoing pandemic was top of mind for Californians who voted to keep Gavin Newsom as governor, exit polls found.

The recall effort gained steam at the height of Newsom’s most restrictive stay-at-home orders early on during the COVID-19 crisis – particularly when the governor was seen dining at a swanky Napa Valley restaurant against his own advice. And the candidates vying to replace Newsom campaigned on a laundry list of grievances including the state’s homeless crisis, poorly-performing schools, and businesses leaving California.

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(credit: CBS News)

But CBS News exit polls found that the coronavirus crisis was the most important issue for voters.

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Exit polls found that 45% of voters say Newsom’s COVID-19 policies were just strict enough, while 18% of voters thought the policies could go even further. Those same exit polls found 32% of voters thought Newsom’s policies were too strict.

As for students being required to wear masks in school, a policy that has been a political lightning rod across the country, California voters overwhelmingly supported such a mandate at 70%. Twenty-five percent of California’s voters opposed that mandate.

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Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder, who led the field of candidates to replace Newsom, had pledged to repeal all of the state COVID-19 mandates regarding masks, testing, and vaccines. In fact, several of the candidates promised to break from Newsom’s policies in varying ways.