Newsom speech ushers in election season

Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers the State of the State address at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on March 9, 2021. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters

Buckle your seatbelts: It’s officially election season in California.

That much was evident from the ambience of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s State of the State speech Tuesday night. The governor stood at a podium in Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, flanked by massive screens that alternated Zoom snapshots of top Democratic officials with images of California’s prowess and resiliency, including the Hollywood sign and cars lined up at mass vaccination sites. Newsom, who maintained an upbeat tone and smile throughout much of the fast-paced 28-minute speech, walked off the stage to Wilco’s version of “California Stars” — the same song featured in his 2018 election commercials.

In his address, Newsom worked to acknowledge the tragedies of the past year while simultaneously inspiring hope for the future and shoring up the base of voters he’ll need to stave off an almost-certain recall election, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. Newsom gave call-outs to mothers, teachers, workers and Latinos — all key Democratic voter blocs — while highlighting the state’s recent stimulus packageschool reopening deal and vaccine strategy. And after months of refusing to reference the recall, he blasted it in his harshest words yet.

  • Newsom“To the California critics out there who are promoting partisan political power grabs with outdated prejudices, and rejecting everything that makes California truly great, we say this: We will not be distracted from getting shots in arms, and our economy booming again.”

The challenge facing Newsom now is that, with the recall looming over him, critics will try to attribute almost anything he says or does to his desire to stay in office. The governor, whose French Laundry dinner came with a rumored $12,000 wine tab, will need to strike a relatable, empathetic and genuine tone with would-be voters — something Newsom recognizes. “My word of the year is humility,” he said last week at a press conference in Stockton.

  • Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican running for governor: “California needs a comeback. But the only comeback Gavin Newsom is focused on is his own.”

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

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