What proposed laws are imperiled by Gov. Newsom’s rumored presidential ambitions?

SB 57 was supposed to help addicts, but critics decried legal drug dens

He’s trolling red-state Republican governors with attack ads, picking fights over the country’s most hot-button issues and calling out political “bullies” in a baseball cap to cover up his usually-coiffed hair.

Despite all the signs, Gov. Gavin Newsom insists he’s not running for president.

But a very high-profile veto message this past week quickly had both critics and some supporters asking if the proud progressive governor has suddenly started weighing how his decisions in Sacramento will go over with more moderate voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, the first stops on any presidential hopeful’s road to the White House.

Newsom vetoed SB 57, which would have allowed Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles to open supervised injection sites for drug addicts. It seemed like the kind of out-of-the-box approach to a vexing social problem that Newsom would embrace.

As San Francisco’s mayor in 2004, he made national headlines marrying gay couples when most fellow Democrats clung to the tradition that only a man and woman could tie the knot. So this past week when he rejected SB 57, critics blamed his rumored presidential ambitions – and his fear of attack ads decrying his state’s legal drug dens.

“We are incredibly disappointed and heartbroken that Governor Newsom has put his own political ambitions ahead of saving thousands of lives and vetoed this critical legislation,” Jeannette Zanipatin, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement after the veto.

With the Legislature wrapping up its latest session this week, there are dozens of bills from California’s left-leaning Democrats headed to the governor’s desk that could signal whether Newsom is concerned about his appeal to more moderate voters. Those include bills that would make it easier for felons to pass background checks and require judges to consider alternatives to jail when sentencing offenders.

None pose as big of a threat to his national aspirations as the safe injection site bill, political experts agree.

“This was definitely the biggest obstacle on the road to New Hampshire,” said veteran political analyst Dan Schnur.

Claremont McKenna College political science Professor Jack Pitney said it would be “easy to write the script for the attack ad” on SB 57. Opposition researchers would have a trove of visuals at their disposal of addicts passed out on the streets of San Francisco, where the city’s liberal voters in June overwhelmingly recalled their district attorney who’d campaigned on alternatives to jail for offenders.

With even progressives pushing back when it comes to crime and quality of life, Pitney said, Newsom has to be wary of bills that could feed a narrative that he’s soft on crime.

“Particularly when it comes to crime policy, he has to reflect on what happened to Michael Dukakis,” Pitney said.

Dukakis was the Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential nominee whom Republican George H.W. Bush clobbered in a 1988 campaign that hammered on Dukakis’ veto of a bill that would have ended prison furloughs for murderers. Bush supporters ran ads calling out a Maryland rape by furloughed Massachusetts murder convict Willie Horton.

Pitney in a column earlier this month noted similarities between Newsom and Dukakis, who had won reelection in a landslide and was lauded for pushing progressive policies while balancing budgets. Both Democrats, Pitney wrote, suffer “Blue Bubble Syndrome” from spending their political lives in comfortably blue states. Progressive crime policies applauded by social justice activists might land with a thud among voters who have shown heightened concern about declining public safety and quality of life.

To that end, SB 731, which has passed the Legislature and would expand expungement of felony arrest and conviction records so people can more easily pass background checks, “could become a political liability,” Pitney said.

“Newsom may well sign it, but with the awareness that it is politically risky,” he said.

With Newsom so comfortably ahead in the polls, there’s not much focus on his re-election campaign this November. Instead, even though Newsom has said his longtime political ally, Vice President Kamala Harris, should be next in line after President Biden, his name is front and center about running for the White House in 2024. Polls show Biden and Harris are unpopular, even among Democrats, and that Newsom would be a viable alternative should Biden and Harris bow out.

Newsom’s Republican reelection opponent, state Sen. Brian Dahle, said he was “thankful SB 57 was vetoed” and “appalled” it even made it to Newsom’s desk. But he said others are on their way, like SB 2167, which would require judges to seek alternatives to incarceration.

“I voted NO! Enough is enough,” Dahle said on Twitter.

Another crime and drug-related bill Newsom may be wary of is SB 519, which in its early language would have decriminalized possession of hallucinogenic drugs by adults 21 and older including LSD, Ecstasy, mescaline and psilocybin mushrooms. The current version of the bill would merely require a study on doing that.

“If you were worried about being Governor Psychedelic,” said Thad Kousser, a UC San Diego political science professor, “I can see the campaign poster with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.”

Bill Whalen, a Hoover Institution fellow who worked in the administration of former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and has consulted for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan, said a number of pandemic policy bills also may give Newsom pause.

Newsom ordered the first statewide stay-home order in March 2020, oversaw the most extensive school closures and some of the longest-lasting face mask mandates, and called for California to be the first state to require COVID-19 vaccines for children to attend school.

He has touted his pandemic policies as life-savers over Republican-led states that took a more hands-off approach. But at a time when most of the nation has moved on from pandemic concerns, more mandates from Sacramento may leave a bad taste among voters across the country.

“If you want to cobble together 270 electoral votes, I don’t think you want to get bogged down in a mask issue,” Whalen said.

A couple of the most controversial bills, SB 1464, to require local law enforcement to enforce mask mandates, and SB 871, to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for schoolkids, haven’t made it out of committee. But another bill, SB 866, that would let teens age 15-17 get the vaccine without their parents’ consent continues to move through the Legislature.

Click here to read the full article at The Mercury News


  1. Tired of your sh*t says

    Run run run – Nuisance. Run to a banana republic – and let us rebuild CA into a real state again.
    Oh – and please take your corrupt and demented auntie with you!!!!


  3. Stan Sexton says

    Newsom’s chance for a Presidential run will be thwarted by the fact that he is a Davos Boy, anointed the title “Young Global Leader” by Klaus Schwab in Davos in 2005. His allegiance is to “The Great Reset”. His buddy Justin Trudeau, unencumbered by a 1st and 2nd Amendment, is far ahead in implementing The New World Order. Trudeau is actually paying the press to not criticize the government. Many people have already left Canada, just like many will leave California as Newsom installs Neo-Feudalism.

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