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Regional Interests

Newsom: Recall Pushed By ‘Extreme Right Wingers’ Must Be Defeated

Only days after a recall campaign aimed at Gov. Gavin Newsom passed its highest hurdle yet toward making the ballot, California Democrats used their annual party convention to rally grassroots activists around fighting what many described as a Republican power grab.

In a pre-recorded speech for the convention, held virtually, Newsom spent most of his three-minute remarks reminding Democrats of all the COVID-19 problems California inherited from the Trump Administration and the steps he took to protect the state from the deadly pandemic.

Donald Trump did everything in his power to ignore the real realities of COVID-19, California,” Newsom said. “We took a completely different path, one paved by data, health and science.”

Newsom, who critics say in fact let politics, not data, drive his pandemic-related decisions to reopen the economy and schools, pushed back against his critics who he claimed are trying to reverse progressive California’s policies.

“National Republicans and extreme right-wingers, they’re not sitting back,” he said. “They’re throwing everything they can at their recall power grab, all in hopes — all in hopes — of rolling back all the important progress we have made together. And we can’t let them win. If we place our faith over fear, perseverance and optimism over hate and division, the power that’s in our hands.”

Newsom was followed by Vice President Kamala Harris, who culminated the afternoon of speakers by recalling how she and Newsom both were elected to offices in California in 2003, calling him “our friend and governor.”

“I’ve seen firsthand what a leader he is and how he really does put his heart into his work on behalf of the people of California, and President Joe Biden and I support him one hundred percent, Harris said, telling the convention that “because of your hard work, we’re going to keep Governor Gavin Newsom in Sacramento and help Democrats everywhere win in 2022.”

Harris, who never said the word “Republican,” touted the Biden Administration’s $2 trillion “American Jobs Program,” stressing the importance of investing in access to affordable broadband, clean drinking water, clean energy and what she called “the care infrastructure” which includes affordable childcare.

Earlier Saturday former Gov. Jerry Brown appeared in a short, folksy video shot at his ranch in Colusa County. Without mentioning Newsom, Brown said, “yeah, we got rid of Trump but we still got lots of problems.”

The Newsom recall is expected to be one of the highest-profile political events in this off political year, and it’s already attracting international media attention based in part on the entry of transgender reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner into the race to replace Newsom.

The governor is also using the recall to raise large sums of money to fight it. The campaigns for and against the recall are not subject to campaign contribution limits, and Newsom is taking full advantage of that, accepting donations as large as $250,000.

The election, expected to occur later this year, likely in November, will be just the second time in state history that voters will determine whether a sitting governor should be booted out before a regularly scheduled election. Gov. Gray Davis, who lost his recall and was replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the first in 2003.

Participants at the convention included the party’s most active members, and conventions like this are considered one of the best ways to build momentum and excitement among party members. The lack of in-person interaction makes that goal a bit more elusive as caucuses gather in virtual chatrooms to chew over issues and organizing strategies.

Pre-recorded speeches from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Harris,  Newsom and other party luminaries simply lacked the excitement of live speeches, with no standing ovations, chanting or unscripted moments. The only live reaction came from online viewers adding their comments in the chat.

Former Party Chair John Burton, known for his obscenity-laden comments didn’t disappoint, urging delegates to defeat the recall and “teach Republicans that they can’t fuck with us.”

Unlike past years’ Democratic conventions, this one did not feature a controversial and divisive run for party chair. Recent chair races have led to bitter divisions between the party’s most liberal members and those that hew more toward the center. Current chair Rusty Hicks, who took over the party in 2019 when the previous chair Eric Bauman resigned in a scandal, had solid support from labor and other key elements of the Democratic Party and did not face a serious challenge.

He easily defeated former State Schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin by better than two to one to win another term as party chair.

In addition to focusing on the recall, speakers urged Democrats to get vaccinated, while also touting steps Newsom and the Legislature have taken to help small businesses and entrepreneurs struggling to stay afloat.  Other touchstone issues included combatting gun violence,  climate change, hate crimes against the Asian community and racism within the criminal justice system.

Recorded videos sprinkled throughout the convention live stream included many featuring frontline workers, small business owners and others thanking Newsom for supporting them during the pandemic, an apparent effort to undermine Republican messages blaming Newsom for failure to lead during the health crisis.

As California emerges from the pandemic — the state now has one of the very lowest COVID-19 rates in the nation — look for party activists and politicians to also emerge from Zoom and head to the streets for what is likely to be a very nasty recall campaign later this year.

Copyright 2021 KQED