Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was frustrated with Republicans and Democrats.
He’s sick of conservatives criticizing California and taking back rights. And he’s annoyed that his own national party isn’t fighting harder in the Kulturkampf.
If they don’t, he said, he will. He recently pushed back in a Florida TV ad. In an interview on Monday. And in a speech in Washington, DC on Wednesday, he accepted an education award on behalf of the state he governs – and fueled speculation about his potential presidential ambitions.
“This is someone who’s very proud of the state, who’s fed up with the state being pounded 24/7 by the right wing,” Newsom told the Times before heading east. “I can not stand.
“I’m not just going to sit back and watch these guys dominate this narrative.”
Accepting an education innovation award on behalf of California on Wednesday, the governor used the platform provided by the States Commission on Education to blast Red states’ efforts to ban books, pass policies dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by their opponents “-Laws are designated and set limits on education about race in public schools.
“I had no idea, no idea, that in the last 12 months alone, 1,586 books were banned in the United States,” Newsom said in his acceptance speech. “We banned 42 children’s books. Books about Mandela. Books about Cesar Chavez. Books about Rosa Parks.”
The Democratic governor contrasted the “performative policies” of Florida, Texas and other Republican states with what he called “real education reform” in California, including expanded pre-kindergartens and free meals for all schoolchildren.
“Education is under attack in the United States,” Newsom said. “And we have a duty, morally and ethically, to expose what is going on in relation to the suppression of free speech.”
Newsom also met with First Lady Jill Biden and congressional leaders during his Capitol tour, just days after he ran an ad in Florida calling out Republican leaders for attacks on liberties. The 30-second spot, posted July 4, showed images of President Trump shaking hands with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is believed to be the GOP presidential nominee, in large part because of his left-wing acrimony.
It was the first publicity salvo after elementary school in his race for a second term as governor — of a state roughly 2,500 miles from where the ad ran.
As Democrats across the country reeled in response to the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade and turn abortion law over to the states, Newsom caused a stir by urging women from conservative states to give California abortion services to visit. The state budget is providing more than $200 million to expand reproductive care.
These actions, and California’s efforts to strengthen its gun control laws in response to the Uvalde school shooting in Texas, have helped Newsom build a narrative around himself and the left-leaning state as the antithesis of conservative dogma.
“Democrats are often seen as that 98-pound political weakling who gets sanded in the face every day on the beach with Republicans. And he has an opportunity and he’s taking an opportunity to fight back,” said David McCuan, chair of the political science department at Sonoma State University.
They have also drawn criticism.
Rob Stutzman, a Republican adviser and former communications director to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said it was easier for Newsom to make national comparisons than to sell a narrative about his own governance in California.
“What are we doing against the drought?” said Stutzmann. “What are we doing about homelessness other than some photo ops and talking about how much money we’re spending? None of that really ties together as a governing narrative.”
News articles analyzing what many see as Newsom’s attempt to get his name involved in the 2024 presidential talks include rumors of unease within the national Democratic Party and among supporters of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
But ask Newsom and he insists the White House is not in his sights, nor does the opportunity for the spotlight motivate his decisions.
“I’m not trying to fill a void, I’m trying to be the guy,” Newsom told the Times. “But I won’t regret not speaking out at that moment either. I prefer to take the hits from experts. I will accept all of this. But what I cannot accept is the absence in this national debate when democracy is literally in jeopardy, when right-wing revolution is being undone in real time.”
Newsom was pointed in his criticism of the national Democratic Party, he said, perhaps too pointed. Shortly after the draft Roe decision was leaked in May, the governor held a press conference at a Planned Parenthood office in Los Angeles. He urged Americans to “wake up” who they vote for. He scolded his party for not launching a more disciplined counteroffensive to the right.
He called the reaction to his comments “extraordinary”. While he offended some, he said, many people, including some well-known officials across the country whose names he did not want to be named, came to thank him for voicing their concerns.
Newsom said he’s not talking about Biden when calling the party.
“The President of the United States has to do his job,” Newsom said. “Governors, it’s time for us to stand up. Democrats of all stripes unite, stand up, stand behind this guy, stand behind this government and stand up to this [Republicans]. We must call them. We must hold them accountable and their actions are outrageous and outrageous. Their desperate demonization is a disgrace.”
Rose Kapolczynski, a Democratic Party political adviser who was Senator Barbara Boxer’s former campaign adviser, said she doubted Newsom would cause problems for Biden. And she said it’s much easier for Newsom to be an outspoken advocate for the left.
“I think the Democrats welcome anyone who can get out there and stand up for democratic values and the democratic vision,” Kapolczynski said. “Gavin Newsom represents a blue state that is broadly supportive of his agenda and happy to have him as governor. There is no political disadvantage for Gavin Newsom to be touring the country, addressing these issues and speaking about the California model and California success stories.”
Newsom said actions by governors like DeSantis and Greg Abbott in Texas are an abomination to all that California stands for. But the more he talks, the clearer it becomes that Newsom’s feelings are deeply personal, too.
The Democratic governor said he reached his tipping point when DeSantis threatened to fine Special Olympics $27.5 million for requiring athletes to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Newsom said his mother worked with children with intellectual disabilities and he pushed his administration to hire more people with disabilities.
“I don’t like bullies,” he said, noting that the incident led to the Florida ad. “I don’t like people who hurt vulnerable people. I do not like him.”
Freddy Brewster, a Times contributor, contributed to this report from Washington.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-14/newsom-slams-red-states-over-education-policies Newsom slams red state governors on D.C. trip, stoking speculation about his future