THE BUZZ — NEWSOM’S CRIME PROBLEM: Gov. Gavin Newsom is walking a careful line on law and order.
A surge in violent crime and viral videos of brazen retail theft are putting pressure on Newsom and big-city mayors. While documented lawbreaking remains below its historic peaks, the trajectory has fueled anxiety and anger among Californians, and it has given fodder to conservatives who argue Democrats and progressive prosecutors have undermined public safety by steadily diminishing criminal penalties. National Republicans, the California Republican Party, legislative leaders and Newsom’s recall opponents have hammered that theme.
Hence the uniformed officers flanking Newsom yesterday as he touted efforts to deter retail crime. Newsom touted money to fund an organized retail theft task force re-established by a bill he signed in 2019, and he talked up major money for a violence prevention program. Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson lauded billions for mental and behavioral health as an investment in addressing the “underlying causes of criminal activity.”
Newsom offered some tough talk while still embracing California’s progressive criminal justice arc. “We’ve all seen the images of people rushing in” to rob retailers, Newsom said, and he vowed there is “no free ride” for those who “smash a window.” He conceded that gun violence is surging, although he framed that as a non-California-specific problem by noting violent crime is up in many parts of the country. Perhaps most surprisingly, he encouraged prosecutors to use sentencing enhancements — effectively breaking with his ally, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, who has battled his own deputy prosecutors over a controversial effort to repeal enhancements.
But Newsom also said he is not backing away from an agenda of reducing incarceration and stringent penalties. “We’re not going back to the way things were in the ’80s and ’90s,” he said, and “not going to back off on our commitment to reform” that has “proven successful in this state.” That’s not surprising given that Newsom has signed reformist legislation and endorsed various criminal justice ballot measures including Proposition 47, which limited property crime penalties; he championed cannabis legalization in part as a blow for criminal justice. He elevated Gascon by making him San Francisco’s police chief and endorsing his watershed 2020 campaign. You probably remember him halting executions.
THAT’S A NARROW NEEDLE TO THREAD: Newsom isn’t going to abandon his commitment to criminal justice reform, both as a matter of personal belief and given how it has become the prevailing philosophy in his Democratic base. California voters decisively rejected Proposition 20, law enforcement’s 2020 bid to roll back or tighten up prior voter-passed sentencing and parole reforms. Newsom’s recall defense has gotten $1.1 million from reform backer trio George Soros, Elizabeth Simons and Mark Heising.
But law and order presents a real vulnerability for him. A May 2021 IGS poll showed a plurality of voters thought Newsom was doing a poor job on “crime and criminal justice.” And as San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said yesterday, much of this comes down to how the public views things: “The perception of lawlessness, the perception that anything goes, that has to be overcome too,” Scott said, and people need to know “we are doing something about it.”
Republicans are intent on keeping this issue prominent in voters’ minds. Conservatives scoffed at Newsom’s event yesterday as damage control after years of Democrat-enabled backsliding. The Republican Governors Association blasted a “transparently political and desperate” response to the recall. CAGOP chair Jessica Millan Patterson argued Newsom has failed at “combating crime in California,” and she argued there will be consequences: “Voters can see through his photo ops,” Patterson said, “and on September 14 will replace him with a leader who is committed to returning safety to our communities.”
BUENOS DÍAS, good Thursday morning. Environmentalists scored a major win over oil companies yesterday thanks to a Bay Area air quality board, and disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein appeared in an LA courtroom.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee. The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejects two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for a Jan. 6 committee.
TWEET OF THE DAY: Republican recall candidate @BeastJohnCox on rival Kevin Faulconer seeking a court order to be called “retired San Diego mayor” on ballots: “Best of luck to the ‘retired’ @Kevin_Faulconer today. @GavinNewsom could have told you that the @CASOSvote is a stickler on the rules! If you need backup options for your ballot designation, may I suggest:
‘Failed San Diego Mayor’
‘Ash Street Developer’
‘Smug Career Politician’”
WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.
CONGRESS — Pelosi vetoes Banks, Jordan for Jan. 6 select committee, by POLITICO’s Olivia Beavers, Heather Caygle and Nicholas Wu: Speaker Nancy Pelosi stunned the GOP on Wednesday by vetoing two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s choices for a select panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, a move all but guaranteed to spark a Republican boycott of the probe. Pelosi rejected Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who was tapped to serve as ranking member, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both of whom voted to challenge certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral wins earlier this year.
ANOTHER EPITAPH — “The California Dream Is Dying,” by the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf: “The generations that reaped the benefits of the postwar era in what was the most dynamic place in the world should be striving to ensure that future generations can pursue happiness as they did. Instead, they are poised to take the California Dream to their graves by betraying a promise the state has offered from the start.”
OOF — “California coronavirus hospitalizations hit highest point in months as Delta spreads,” by LATimes’ Luke Money: “Statewide, the number of coronavirus patients in the hospital more than doubled in the last month, and the numbers have accelerated further in the last two weeks.”
ELDER WIN — Talk show host Larry Elder reinstated in California recall, by POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White: At issue were the tax returns Elder had submitted to California elections officials in his bid to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom. … In addition to ruling that Secretary of State Shirley Weber must place Elder on recall ballots, Judge Laurie Earl also rejected Weber’s conclusion that recall candidates are covered by the 2019 state law compelling gubernatorial candidates to release tax returns.
— BUT NOT FAULCONER: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer lost his case to be labeled “retired San Diego mayor” on recall ballots.
AND THEN THERE WERE 46: Late Wednesday, Weber issued the certified list with 46 recall candidates, five more than the elections chief announced Saturday. The official field is notably absent of an establishment Democrat and lacks the star power of the 2003 recall that led to Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor.
Elder’s court win paved the way for at least two other candidates to be reinstated. That’s because the judge rejected Weber’s interpretation of a 2019 state law that compels gubernatorial candidates to release tax returns in a “direct primary election.”
IT’S A ‘YES’ — “Kamala Harris says she will campaign for Gavin Newsom in recall fight,” by SFChronicle’s Tal Kopan: “An East Bay native, the vice president would be a high-profile surrogate for Newsom in his efforts, and could potentially offer a strong fundraising draw, as well.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — CALVERT CHALLENGER: Democratic engineer and entrepreneur Shrina Kurani is launching a challenge to Rep. Ken Calvert in the Riverside-based 42nd congressional district, where Republicans currently wield a 6.2 point registration advantage.
— “California’s Private Labor Enforcers,” Repubican recall candidate Caitlyn Jenner and Tom Manzo opine in the Wall Street Journal: “More than 3,000 legal notices have been filed since January under the state’s Private Attorneys General Act, or PAGA, a rate of more than 17 a day.”
PETERS PLAY — “Pharma CEOs, lobbyists showered Democrat with cash after his attempt to torpedo Pelosi’s drug pricing bill,” by STAT’s Rachel Cohrs: “The very next day after Rep. Scott Peters attempted to torpedo House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s signature drug pricing bill by gathering a cadre of moderates to challenge the measure, pharmaceutical industry executives and lobbyists flooded his campaign with cash, according to campaign finance disclosures.”
— “Gavin Newsom report card: What he has done, and what he hasn’t,” by CalMatters’ Ben Christopher and Sameea Kamal: “For voters who need a highlight reel of Newsom’s two-and-a-half years at the helm of state government, here’s a look at some of the most significant ways he’s changed California — and some of the ways he hasn’t. “
— “PG&E vows to bury 10,000 miles of California power lines, as the Dixie Fire explodes,” by SacBee’s Ryan Sabalow and Dale Kasler: “The announcement came at a press conference in Butte County, where a plume of smoke from the Dixie Fire could be seen in the distance. Just three days ago, PG&E told the Public Utilities Commission that its equipment might have sparked the fire.”
ENVIRO WIN — “Bay Area air board forces refineries to adopt clean air technology,” by the SF Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli: “The Bay Area Air Quality Management District voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to require refineries including the Chevron and PBF facilities in the North Bay to reduce the amount of air pollution they emit by installing expensive particulate scrubbers.”
— State, local officials distributed just 6.5 percent of rental aid in first half of year, by POLITICO’s Katy O’Donnell: While officials have picked up the pace of disbursal — serving 290,000 households in June, up from 160,00 the previous month — they remain woefully behind demand, with a little over 633,000 households served by a program meant to help millions.
GIG WARS — “Uber and Lyft drivers strike over pay, gig work conditions,” by LATimes’ Johana Bhuiyan: “The 24-hour strike, which began at midnight Wednesday, aims to push Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act — proposed federal legislation that would allow contractors to unionize if they chose, participating drivers said.”
RED FLAG FAIL — “Outgunned: Why California’s groundbreaking firearms law is failing,” by CalMatters’ Robert Lewis: “California enacted a law to remove guns from people deemed too dangerous to be armed. But the measure, plagued by problems, has not achieved its promise.”
— “California’s electric car revolution, designed to save the planet, also unleashes a toll on it,” by LATimes’ Evan Halper.
— “Rep. Waters seeks federal probe of L.A. County deputies’ alleged Executioners gang,” by LATimes’ Alene Tchekmedyian: “‘I ask that the DOJ take two immediate actions: launch an independent investigation into the existence of the ‘Executioners,’ both at the LASD Compton station and within the greater LASD community, and launch a pattern or practice investigation into the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for potential civil rights and constitutional violations,’ Waters (D-Los Angeles) wrote in a letter to the Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland and Asst. Atty. Gen. Kristen Clarke.”
— “More than a laugh: Kamala Harris’ is a sound check for a divided country,” by LATimes’ Noah Bierman: “While many people just hear levity in her laugh, those on the right react with heckles and attacks, a difference that says as much about the divisive, personally vicious state of politics as any debates over policies.”
— “Here’s when each Bay Area tech companies will return to office work,” by SFGate’s Nico Madrigal Yankowski: “Tech companies are reopening their Bay Area office doors once again, and some of their employees are eager to return to a normal work setting. Some employees, though, would prefer to continue to work remotely. Here’s a list of some of the most notable Bay Area tech companies and their office plans moving forward.”
— “Salesforce completed its $27 billion purchase of Slack. Here’s what comes next,” by SFChronicle’s Roland Li: “It’s the second-largest software deal in history, behind IBM’s $34 billion purchase of Red Hat in 2019.”
— “Harvey Weinstein appears in L.A. courtroom to answer rape charges,” by LATimes’ James Queally: “Harvey Weinstein made his first appearance in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday, pleading not guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault and kicking off a legal process that will see him stand trial for alleged attacks on women that, in some cases, happened nearly two decades ago.”
— “Drone photos show the shocking truth of California’s parched landscape,” by LATimes’ Brian Van Der Brug.
— “Wildfire smoke is more harmful than previously thought, research shows,” by SFChronicle’s Kurtis Alexander.
— “Couple whose gender-reveal party sparked 2020 fire charged with involuntary manslaughter,” by LATimes’ Julia Wick.
— John Nadolenco is now partner-in-charge of the LA office of Mayer Brown. He most recently was a member of the firm’s Partnership Board.
Albert Brooks … Tarun Chhabra … Breanna Pitcher … Natacha Hildebrand
CALIFORNIA POLICY IS ALWAYS CHANGING: Know your next move. From Sacramento to Silicon Valley, POLITICO California Pro provides policy professionals with the in-depth reporting and tools they need to get ahead of policy trends and political developments shaping the Golden State. To learn more about the exclusive insight and analysis this subscriber-only service offers, click here.
Want to make an impact? POLITICO California has a variety of solutions available for partners looking to reach and activate the most influential people in the Golden State. Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Seeking to increase brand awareness amongst this key audience? Share your message with our influential readers to foster engagement and drive action. Contact Jesse Shapiro to find out how: [email protected].
Friends, this isn’t the time to be complacent. If you are ready to fight for the soul of this nation, you can start by donating to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by clicking the button below.
Thank you so much for supporting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign.