LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom chose an unusual venue for this year’s State of the State, standing in center field of Dodger Stadium. It was a gesture symbolic of both the state’s plan to return the normalcy of baseball, but also of mourning.
What You Need To Know
- Newsom touted the state’s reaction to the pandemic
- He also noted that the state legislature passed a $7.6 billion stimulus package that includes $600 “Golden State Stimulus” payments that will come on top of federal relief checks
- Dr. Fernando Guerra, a professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University, called it Newsom’s first campaign speech in advance of a looming recall effort
- Former Congresswoman Mimi Walters said that she believes Newsom failed to address issues standing in the way of Californians returning to work
Every one of the stadium’s 56,000 seats sat empty, representing the 54,395 Californians who have died of the COVID-19 virus.
“So tonight, under the lights of this stadium — even as we grieve — let’s allow ourselves to dream of brighter days ahead,” Newsom said, launching into a speech that was celebratory of the state’s successes in the past year and hopeful for the future.
Newsom touted the state’s reaction to the pandemic: being the first to issue a stay-at-home order, sending ventilators and doctors to states in need, the state’s COVID testing program, and surge preparation for California hospitals.
“We were the first to launch mass-vaccination sites in partnership with FEMA, now a model for other states. Today, we have the most robust vaccination program in America,” Newsom said, touting the state as sixth in the world for vaccine distribution.
He also noted that the state legislature passed a $7.6 billion stimulus package that includes $600 “Golden State Stimulus” payments that will come on top of federal relief checks. It was part of a thread highlighting the state’s economic recovery efforts; Newsom touted that nearly half of the state’s counties have moved out of the state’s most restrictive tier, with more to come soon.
Newsom also noted the recent $6.6 billion legislative deal designed to encourage schools to bring students back into the classroom by April.
“We won’t be satisfied until everyone is back in school,” Newsom said.
The tone of the address, which is typically delivered in Sacramento before the California Legislature, was not unlike a campaign speech: it celebrated the successes that took place under his leadership while offering the slightest of rebukes to the state’s — and his — critics.
“Look, we’ve made mistakes. I’ve made mistakes. But we own them, learn from them, and never stop trying. After all, that’s the California spirit,” Newsom said. “We won’t change course just because of a few nay-sayers and doomsdayers.”
Dr. Fernando Guerra, a professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University, called it Newsom’s first campaign speech in advance of a looming recall effort aimed at unseating him.
“This was his first campaign speech, and he laid it out,” Guerra said, noting that Newsom admitted the state had a crisis — but that, unlike most crises described in a governor’s address, the state’s budget was not a problem. California, Guerra said, has “billions of dollars to throw at these challenges.”
Guerra’s problem with Newsom’s speech was that he didn’t address issues of racial justice, something that can’t necessarily be solved with budget packages.
But otherwise, Guerra said, it’s likely that issues being driven by recall proponents — COVID-related shutdowns chief among them — will be lessened by the fall, when a recall election would occur.
“The degree of difficulty for recall proponents…(is) that it will be very easy to paint them as Republican conservatives trying to take over the state using voter suppression or manipulating the law,” Guerra said.
Former GOP Congresswoman Mimi Walters said that she believes Newsom failed to address issues standing in the way of Californians returning to work.
“He talked a lot about handouts and a lot of subsidies, but he didn’t talk about how he was going to give people the tools they need to build their business,” Walters said.
“The people in the state of California are upset and they see through all of this, and that’s why I really believe that you’re going to see this recall qualify,” Walter’s said.
Randy Economy, a senior adviser on the Recall Gavin Newsom campaign, is banking on Californian outrage toward Newsom’s handling of the pandemic.
The speech, he said, was the governor’s attempt to “paint a picture of being in control.”
Economy seized upon Newsom’s line admitting mistakes — a reference to the governor’s dinner at Napa’s French Laundry restaurant last November — to fan public frustration.
“He should have done this 10 months ago…he’s jumped out of a plane and he’s looking for a political parachute to land on a soft spot someplace,” Economy said.