A fading coronavirus crisis and a staggering slump in tax dollars have reshuffled California’s nascent recall election so Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom can speak out about an end to most COVID-19 restrictions and propose billions of new spending to fend off Republicans who represent him as mischievous failure.
The governor spent much of 2020 on the defensive for whip decisions in the depths of the pandemic that angered many business owners and local residents. But more recently, he seems to be stabilizing his stride with the almost certain elections looming this fall.
This week, with more than $ 100 billion in excess cash in his budget, he traversed the state to unveil a series of proposals that will make many voters smile: $ 12 billion to fight the Homelessness; audits up to $ 1,100 for millions of low and middle earners who struggled during the lockdowns; $ 2.7 billion to pay for all 4-year-olds in the state to attend kindergarten for free; and hundreds of millions to help small businesses recover from the economic downturn.
His budget, released on Friday, was riddled with initiatives favored by his progressive base, including $ 7.2 billion to repay people’s outstanding rental and utility bills and $ 300 million to forgive traffic and other fines for Lower-income residents. There was also $ 35 million to fund local universal basic income programs and money to provide Medicaid benefits to people aged 60 and over living in the country illegally.
As the virus threat subsides, the economy recovers, and Californians return to familiar routines, Republican candidates will need to highlight political differences on issues like taxes and homelessness rather than relying on continued resentment against lockdowns and the pandemic, said Tim Rosales, a veteran GOP strategist suspending the recall.
With conditions improving in the state, “it is increasingly difficult to maintain this level of … anger during the worst days of the pandemic,” he said, admitting Newsom “is on the right track with its approval ratings.”
The goal for the Newsom team isn’t just to survive the recall. They want to position the governor for an expected re-election campaign in 2022 that will begin immediately after the recall election and, more importantly, restore his name to the national discussion of potential White House candidates.
In a best-case scenario for the governor, a comeback story from the recall could even help Newsom discredit the image popularized by its GOP rivals of a cleaning lightweight.
Republican businessman John Cox ridiculed Newsom as a “handsome boy”. Former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer says the race is “real versus wrong”.
Faulconer released its own high-profile proposal on Wednesday: Ending State Income Tax for Individuals With Income Up To $ 50,000 And Households With Income Up To $ 100,000, Which Will Do With Voters In A State Where The Taxes seem relentlessly to go in one direction that might find great attraction: higher.
Newsom was voted Cox in a landslide in 2018, but its popularity declined when he joined in during the pandemic with public unrest over the closings of schools and businesses during the pandemic, the aftermath of a multi-billion dollar scandal over unemployment benefits, and the embarrassment over his decision To attend lavish visit, had struggled birthday dinner at an exclusive restaurant in November while residents are ordered to stay at home for safety reasons.
Look for the Republicans who continue to attack his image – he remains tied to the French lingerie debacle. One night at this restaurant with lobbyists and friends, he managed to reinforce a trifecta of hideous stereotypes about politicians – hypocrisy, elitism, and the whiff of inappropriate business in the back room. He later apologized for what he called a “bad mistake”.
While Newsom dominated the history of the race all week – the economy is “roaring back,” he told reporters in Los Angeles – a sudden surge in virus cases or another epic season of wildfires would test him again. And schools could also be a vulnerable flank. California has done badly on other states in bringing kids back to the classrooms, a reality Republicans repeat at every turn.
The race’s leading GOP contestants start at a disadvantage in heavily Democratic California, where registered Democrats outperform GOP voters by nearly 2 to 1. A Republican candidate hasn’t won a nationwide race since 2006 when Arnold Schwarzenegger won re-election after taking office in a recall election.
The Newsom team has worked for months to tie the recall to national Republicans and supporters and activists of former President Donald Trump, who is largely unpopular in California outside of his GOP base.
For Newsom, one of his advantages as a candidate this week was alive and well: he used the power of his office to dominate the public stage, performing in San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland and the Central Valley, among others.
Cox has now fought a bear to advertise. He criticized Newsom Friday for the spike in spending: “We should cut taxes and make California more affordable, not increase the size of our government,” he said.
Reality TV personality and former Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner has been more curious than competitive and has barely registered in recent polls. She tweeted Friday that “California should be fully open by now!”
Faulconer’s biggest challenge is getting known outside of his hometown in San Diego. He said he intends to take his campaign to communities across the state where voters are looking for “someone who actually has the experience … who can bring positive change and reform”.
Thad Kousser, a professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, said a lot will change when voters go to the polls. Will massive investment in homelessness change? Will Newsom suffer another self-inflicted wound, like his trip to the French laundry?
“At the moment the recall is not in the hands of the governor or his supporters. It’s all about the direction of the state, ”he said. “What really matters is where we are in the fall.”