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Gavin Newsom survived a California recall. Is he a lock to win another term?

Dale Kasler, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Political News

Republicans say these problems could potentially be laid at Newsom’s doorstep. Homelessness, for example, “is an issue that the governor has attached himself to,” Rexroad said. “There’s not too many people who feel California has handled homelessness really well.”

Yet that same Public Policy Institute poll said Newsom enjoys a 56% overall approval rating. Democrats say voter anger over life in California doesn’t necessarily translate into support for Republicans.

“Voters here do not view Republicans as any sort of viable alternative to Democratic rule no matter what dissatisfaction or discontent there might be,” South said.

In his first TV campaign ad, Newsom tries to turn the state’s problems to his advantage. Casually dressed, he strolls through a forested area and likens himself to redwood trees surviving wildfires — a leader steering California through difficult times. The tagline: “Courage through crisis.”

Ashford said Newsom has taken a position on homelessness that she thinks will resonate with many voters. He’s proposed the creation of a court system under which homeless Californians suffering from mental illness could be ordered into treatment for two years.

The fact that some advocates on the left are unhappy with the idea will likely help Newsom with moderates, Ashford said. She pointed to the Los Angeles mayor’s race as evidence that many voters are growing impatient about homelessness; billionaire developer Rick Caruso has been gaining traction in part by pushing for more aggressive removal of encampments.

Newsom is also trying to tackle a potentially troublesome pocketbook issue.

In his latest budget proposal, he offered $11.5 billion in tax refunds to motor vehicle owners. It’s his latest effort to break a stalemate in the Legislature on how to respond to the spike in gasoline prices — an issue that Republicans have been hammering for months. He said he has “all the confidence in the world” that he can strike a deal with lawmakers.

He’s also confident that he can use the abortion issue as a means of bashing Republicans. He used it during the recall, warning that women might lose their reproductive rights if he were replaced by abortion opponent Elder. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court appears to be on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade, Newsom has seized on the issue again.

On May 11 he proposed appropriating $40 million for reproductive health providers to offset the cost of providing care to low and moderate income residents. He has joined with legislative leaders to propose an amendment to the California Constitution “so there is no doubt as to the right to abortion in this state.”

And at a news conference outlining his revised budget, he went after Republicans again over abortion, suggesting they’re hypocrites for opposing abortion while refusing to accept gun control measures. “If you were pro-life, you’d support common-sense gun safety,” he said.

Newsom also launched an attack ad on Dahle over the issue, saying he “stands with Donald Trump” and “wants to roll back abortion rights, punishing women and doctors.”

The governor’s campaign spokesman, Nathan Click, said abortion looms as a “huge, massive” issue in this election cycle — not just in the governor’s contest but especially in hotly-contested races. “You’re really seeing it show up in Democratic enthusiasm,” he said.

While Dahle doesn’t shy away from saying he’s pro-life, the Republican candidate is trying to steer the conversation to bread-and-butter issues such as inflation.

“He’s trying to fix the economic issues that we’re facing now,” said Hector Barajas, a Republican communications consultant and spokesman for Dahle’s campaign. Barajas was dismissive of Newsom’s ad linking his candidate with Trump: “That’s all he’s got. He’s not going to talk about his record.”

 

Dahle called the $97 billion budget surplus “a shocking revelation” — and scolded Newsom for not proposing to refund a greater portion of it to “the taxpayers who generated it.” Newsom’s plan for making refunds to motor vehicle owners would cost the treasury $11.5 billion.

Republicans see gas prices — and Newsom’s inability so far to enact legislation that would soften financial impacts on drivers — as a point of vulnerability for Newsom.

“He made a promise to voters that he would provide relief and we haven’t seen the relief,” Barajas said.

In a series of ads running on social media, Dahle, a farmer from Bieber, introduces himself and his family (his wife, Megan, is a California Assemblywoman). The video shows him driving through rural California, kneeling in a farm field. He blames Democrats for all that’s wrong with California, saying, “You can’t sit on the sideline and expect this one-party system to work. It’s broken.”

That statement also is a way of acknowledging the Republican’s uphill fight in a state thoroughly dominated by Democrats.

“I’m not going to back down because somebody tells me I can’t do it,” he says. “Because you never know. People told me I couldn’t do stuff all my life, and I’ve been doing it. I think maybe just being a farmer, I can tell you if I don’t plant, I know I’m not going to harvest. But I’ve got to at least plant.”

Actually, Dahle isn’t running for his party’s nomination in June. Neither is Newsom.

Instead, they’re competing to finish first or second in the primary. Under California’s “top two” primary system, which took effect in 2011, that’s all that matters.

The system was designed to force candidates to appeal to voters across party lines. But it’s also created odd circumstances in which Republicans can’t even muster enough primary votes to qualify for the November ballot. In the 2018 general election, for instance, the two candidates for lieutenant governor were Democrats.

Dahle was endorsed by Republicans at their party convention in April and appears likely to make it to November. “I can’t name anybody else who’s got a good chance of finishing second,” Rexroad said. “Nobody else has mounted much of a campaign.”

But Dahle appears to be hopelessly outgunned. He had $474,000 in the bank as of April 23, according to campaign finance reports. Newsom had $25.6 million.

“Brian has always been upfront that this is going to be a David vs. Goliath election,” Barajas said. “He’s got a good a shot as anybody else to take down Gavin Newsom.”

That is to say, according to Democratic consultants, not much of a shot at all.

“A lot of the oxygen that was in the room in the recall got sucked out,” Ashford said, “and now the governor is very well positioned for a second term.”

©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Visit at sacbee.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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