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Regional Interests

With Less Than a Week Left in the Recall Election, Kamala Harris Campaigns in the Bay Area For Gavin

Vice President Kamala Harris returned to her native Bay Area to make the case for Governor Gavin Newsom to keep his job less than a week before voting ends in the Sept. 14 recall election.

Speaking at a campaign event outside the IBEW-NECA Joint Apprenticeship Training Center in San Leandro, Harris painted the recall effort against Newsom as a referendum not just on the governor’s agenda but on progressive values writ large.

“You have to understand that this recall campaign is about California and it’s about a whole lot more. They’re thinking that if they can get this done in California, they can go around the country and do this,” Harris said.

Before Harris spoke, a crowd of mostly union members sweltered in the hot sun as they heard from a long line of elected officials, union leaders and Democratic boosters. Many attendees waved signs reading “Reject the Republican Recall.”

The audience seemed most energized when speakers called out Texas and its recent restrictive abortion law — and when speakers including the governor railed against Republican opposition to mask and vaccine mandates.

One of the rally attendees was Brenda Okoli, a 67 year old Oakland resident who works as an in-home care worker. She said she came out because she believes Newsom has worked hard to keep the state safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and always supported workers rights.

“That man literally saved thousands of lives by shutting down the way that he did,” Okoli said, referring to the governor’s early and aggressive pandemic response. “He has done so much for the state of California.”

Okoli wasn’t the only one praising Newsom’s decisiveness on pandemic precautions — an issue the other side has also used to fire up its base.

Harris, who has known Newsom since their days as local elected officials in San Francisco, noted that Newsom  was among the first governors to lock down in spring of 2020; he has also instituted some of the nation’s strictest mask and vaccine mandates.

Recall proponents have used those issues to drum up anger at Newsom and remain enraged that the governor dined with a group of friends at a high end restaurant during last winter’s COVID-19 surge, even as he urged Californians to stay home.

But Harris said the governor “led with courage.”

“I want us to remember those early days. Let’s remember the course of it. We were all scared. We didn’t know what was happening, but we needed leaders to have courage, to take a stand and make decisions,” she said.

“It took one person — who is Gavin Newsom — to make hard decisions. In a moment of crisis that was unpredictable, he led.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a No on the Recall campaign event with California Gov. Gavin Newsom at union training facility on September 08, 2021 in San Leandro. With six days to go until the California recall election, Gov. Gavin Newsom is ramping up campaign efforts across the state. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Newsom has also been campaigning on his COVID-19 record, noting Thursday that the leading Republican candidate, talk show radio host Larry Elder, has promised to roll back most of the governor’s mask and vaccine mandates if elected.

“Eat your heart out, Texas and Florida — we’ve had better health outcomes and better economic outcomes during this pandemic,” he said. “Larry Elder wants to walk us on that same COVID cliff as Texas and Florida, and Tennessee, and Alabama and Georgia.”

On other policy issues, the vice president in particular took aim at Texas, where a restrictive new abortion law took effect last week banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Harris attacked Texas Governor Greg Abbott for comments he made defending the law and claiming that it won’t force victims of rape to give birth.

“The words that he spoke were the words that were to arrogantly dismiss concerns about rape survivors. And to speak those words that were empty, words that were false, words that were fueled with not only arrogance but bravado — that is not who we want in our leaders.”

“We want in our leaders, someone like Gavin Newsom,” Harris added, “who always speaks the truth on behalf of all the people.”

She warned that the election could have far reaching political and policy consequences across the nation.

“What’s happening in Texas, what’s happening in Georgia, what’s happening around our country with these policies that are about attacking women’s rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, worker’s rights,” she said. “We will show them you’re not going to get this done. Not here, never.”

With the election less than a week out, Newsom’s campaign team was projecting confidence that they will be able to turn out their base in this overwhelmingly Democratic state.

Campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said they’ve worked for months to inform Democratic voters of the recall process, after their internal polling in January showed just 30% of Democrats were informed and engaged — compared to 70% of Republicans.

Nine months later, Rodriguez boasted, the Newsom campaign has developed “perhaps the most robust field operation program that the state has actually ever seen.”

Public polling shows that field game may be working: a PPIC survey out last week showed 58% of likely voters opposing the recall, with 39% supporting it. The poll showed increasing engagement from Newsom’s Democratic base.

Newsom campaign political director Courtni Pugh said volunteers have knocked on more than two million doors and are continuing to make tens of thousands of contacts with voters each week through election day.

Copyright 2021 KQED