Governor of California
Perhaps you’ve heard of this guy? Gavin Newsom has been generating headlines — and sparking speculation about his presidential ambitions — for nearly two decades. He came to widespread prominence in 2004 when, as the mayor of San Francisco, he briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the courts stepped in. Newsom has been chasing history and occupying the cutting edge of liberal politics ever since.
Elected governor in 2018, his first term in office has been dominated by his frequent public battles with former President Donald Trump, and then the coronavirus pandemic. His aggressive leadership, including issuing the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020, initially earned him national plaudits. But after an ill-timed dinner at the French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley, where he flouted his own COVID rules about mixing households, his pandemic response also became a rallying point for frustrated conservatives, who mounted an unsuccessful recall attempt against Newsom last year.
Newsom has kept many Democratic supporters satisfied with symbolically significant steps including a death penalty moratorium and diverse appointees to the state’s highest offices. But he disappointed progressives by backing away from his commitment to establish a single-payer health care system in California, one of his major campaign priorities. There is also growing frustration among the public that his promises to turbocharge housing production and address pervasive homelessness have yet to yield noticeable results.
Governor of California
Has overseen massive budget surpluses that allowed him to expand anti-poverty programs, transitional kindergarten and health care access for undocumented immigrants
Signed executive orders to ban future fracking and phase out gas-powered cars, but has also come under criticism from environmentalists for not supporting more stringent efforts to establish buffer zones around oil wells and end drilling.
Has taken liberal positions on criminal justice issues, including signing a bill to raise standards for police use of force and moving to close two state prisons
Lieutenant Governor of California
First bid for governor was cut short when Jerry Brown jumped into the race, so Newsom ran to be the state’s second-in-command instead.
Though the position gave him little to do other than vote against tuition increases on the governing boards of California’s public universities — Newsom famously dissed Sacramento as “just so dull” while on the set of his short-lived Current TV talk show — it did provide a platform from which to launch another gubernatorial campaign
Mayor of San Francisco
Launched his career through connections with San Francisco’s business and political elite, including family friend Gordon Getty, an investor in Newsom’s successful PlumpJack line of wineries, restaurants, hotels and retail stores
Was appointed to the Parking and Traffic Commission and then the Board of Supervisors by then-Mayor Willie Brown, whom Newsom eventually succeed as mayor
Reduced welfare checks for homeless people in exchange for housing, expanded health care subsidies for uninsured residents and signed the nation’s first mandatory composting law
The California way means rejecting old binaries and finding new solutions to big problems.
(There are so many we made a game out of it.)
Here’s where Gavin Newsom, applicant for governor, stands on some of the biggest questions facing California. Answers are from written answers his campaign provided:
Californians are increasingly concerned about crime, though the numbers paint a more complicated picture. Many Republicans are seeking to pounce, blaming voter-approved Proposition 47, which eight years ago lowered some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. While more Democrats are talking tough, they’re not proposing a return to longer prison sentences.
“1. Bolstering local law enforcement response to stop and apprehend criminals 2. Ensuring prosecutors are holding perpetrators accountable 3. Getting guns and drugs off our streets.”
“Our plan will create a new statewide gun buyback program, working with local law enforcement to provide matching grants and safe-disposal opportunities to get guns off our streets… My administration is working with the California Legislature to propose a nation-leading law that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes or sells unlawful assault weapons, as well as ‘ghost guns,’ ghost gun kits or their component parts.”
California’s affordable housing crisis only deepened during the pandemic, as average home prices surged even further out of reach for many families. Homelessness likely worsened as well, prompting Gov. Newsom to propose forcing more homeless and mentally ill people into treatment. The Legislature twice extended a statewide eviction moratorium, but the final protections for renters ended on March 31. Lawmakers also tried to pump up housing supply by allowing duplexes on single-family lots, but cities are pushing back. Some also say the California Environmental Quality Act is stopping housing production.
“We have done more in the past three years than ever before in California history to invest in housing construction and cut government red tape blocking construction. The budget I signed last year invested a historic $10.3 billion – by far the most ever invested in housing – into a comprehensive housing affordability strategy, while also implementing new laws and accountability measures. This year, I proposed a $2 billion investment to boost housing production and preserve affordable housing across the state.”
“The next phase of our approach is creating the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court — a new framework to get people with mental health and substance use disorders the support and care they need. … CARE Court includes accountability for everyone – on the individual and on local governments – with court orders for services.”
Even though the economy is rebounding from COVID, California still has among the nation’s highest jobless rates and hasn’t recovered all the jobs lost. The pandemic also highlighted how much the state relies on the wealthy for tax revenues that are fueling record budget surpluses — and raised again the issue of whether the tax system needs an overhaul.
“Make California the first state in the nation to offer universal access to healthcare coverage. … Doubling down on plans to achieve free, universal pre-K, add thousands of child care slots… Create more housing California desperately needs, with billions in new grants and tax credits. Invest in small businesses, waiving fees and providing hundreds of millions in grants and tax breaks to small businesses.”
“California has made major strides to expand services and supports for young children and their families by promoting and expanding quality, comprehensive programs and services for young children, including universal transitional kindergarten. We are employing a two-generation strategy — investing in parents so they can invest more in their children.”
On Jan. 31, the Legislature — despite its Democratic supermajority — again rebuffed a bid by progressives for a single-payer system funded and run by state government. Instead, the state is moving to expand eligibility for Medi-Cal, though the proposal would leave out many. And California is still sorting out how to deal with COVID, though regarding it more as a predictable threat.
“California was the first state to provide premium relief for middle-class families who buy on the health care exchange, and this year California could become the first state to reach universal access to health care. We have taken on the pharmaceutical industry and are using our market power to drive down the cost of life saving medications like insulin.”
“California is using proven tools – rooted in science and data – that have been honed over the past two years. We’re keeping our guard up with a focus on continued readiness, awareness, and flexibility to adapt to the evolving pandemic.”
California is stuck in a drought, with few signs the emergency will improve any time soon — or that voluntary measures will be enough. The state is also struggling to reach its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also advancing environmental justice for communities with dirty air and water.
“We all must do more to adjust and adapt. That’s why I called on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the Water Board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties, which will drive water use savings at this critical time.”
“California will continue to lead the world in turning our climate resolve into real action…bolstering the clean energy economy and creating new jobs, decreasing reliance on fossil fuels, building more prosperous and sustainable communities for all, and protecting Californians from the extreme effects of climate change.”
Public school enrollment has plummeted during COVID, the achievement gap for students of color has stubbornly persisted and the state is facing a severe teacher shortage. There are renewed debates whether more charter schools are a solution and whether the state’s extra investment in schools with poorer students is paying off.
“After decades of bitter fights between both sides, I brought charter and traditional schools together to pass a framework for both sides to work collaboratively in service of their communities and neighborhoods. The reforms I signed into law ensure that students have qualified teachers in all classrooms and ensure California education dollars are spent wisely.”
While California boasts the best and biggest public university systems in the nation, they’re in turmoil. The University of California is facing a student housing crunch at the same time it is under intense pressure to increase the number of in-state students. UC Berkeley needed intervention by lawmakers to avoid an enrollment cap. Meanwhile, the California State University just had its chancellor forced out and is struggling to improve access, including enough student housing.
“My priority has been expanding access for students across our higher education system, with a focus on expanding enrollment for in-state residents and community-college transfers at the UC System. Since taking office, California has increased enrollment of nearly 5,000 full-time equivalent students within the UC system and nearly 10,000 full-time equivalent students within the California State University system.”