Gavin Newsom’s wild ride

Governor of California, the nation’s largest state, was never exactly an obscure job. But the pandemic has garnered the office and its current occupant, Gov. Gavin Newsom, an usual degree of attention — positive and negative.

In the pandemic’s first few months, Newsom scored national accolades and high statewide approval for his aggressive handling of the virus. He was the first state leader to impose a shelter-in-place order. He also held regular video updates that, if not always easy to parse, gave the public a sense that someone was at the helm when broad confidence in federal leadership was lacking.

Newsom also transformed California governance in 2020. Never before has a California governor issued so many executive orders. Never before has a state Legislature, forced to curtail its typical schedule and shelter-in-place like the rest of us, ceded so much authority. 

That all led to a stream of COVID-related policies issued by edict out of the governor’s office. Since his first on March 12, 2020, Newsom has issued 58. They’ve closed schools and businesses, banned evictions, delayed regulations and rewritten state election law.  

Predictably, there’s been a backlash. Exhibit 1: the recall effort that is all but certain to place the governor’s political future on the ballot later this year. Exhibits 2 through 75: lawsuits. Two weeks after Newsom’s first executive order, the first lawsuits were filed challenging his administration’s right to restrict public life in the name of public safety. They’ve been coming ever since