A week before Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom postponed a recall election, Vice President Kamala Harris returned to California to rally voters to his side. United in victory for now, Democrats suspect Harris and Newsom will soon find themselves on a collision course.
The two California Democrats were shaped by “the same political machine, the same political family,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican political agent from California, referring to the San Francisco-based team that helped launch their careers. A longtime Newsom adviser said that as the governor gains ground with his victory, “they both might end up wanting the same thing, namely the White House.”
Gil Duran, a former Harris assistant when she was California attorney general, said this could present a challenge for advisers who spearheaded both his 2020 presidential bid and Newsom’s successful campaign against the recall. . Rumors of behind-the-scenes negotiations brokered by the company swirled when California Senator Barbara Boxer announced her retirement in 2015. The seat ultimately went to Harris.
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“The real question is if Newsom emerges from this recall with a lot of force and tries to start building a narrative towards his own presidential race, you come to a crossroads where it’s Kamala and Newsom,” Duran said. “Which client do you choose? “
Whether Harris would turn to Bearstar Strategies to launch his next presidential bid is an open question. The company is the latest iteration of the powerful California Democratic campaign store, formerly known as SCN Strategies, and later SCRB Strategies, known for winning local and national banknotes. Hillary Clinton’s primary victory in California over the then senator. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race is attributed to the founder of the company, who also campaigned in Texas and North Carolina.
The team was in attendance at Harris’ San Leandro rally with Newsom, where the vice president took photos with former staff away from the press. This person said now is the show.
“They are persona non grata with Kamala,” said a Democratic strategist. “They are not welcome or allowed to communicate with the vice president in any meaningful way.”
Photos of the event circulated showing the consultants and Harris chatting and smiling, but he said that was not an accurate description of the relationship. “It’s not the reality,” he said. “It was for Instagram.”
Last week in Oakland, Calif., Harris took the stage in front of some 200 supporters urging voters to reject the recall motion. President Joe Biden campaigned for Newsom the day before the election.
Much has changed since Harris launched his presidential bid 12 miles away in 2019 in front of 20,000 people – most notably, a bruise in his first eight months in office.
Before teaming up with Biden, Californians said they viewed Harris as risk averse
and underlined his stance on health care during the race. Her prosecutorial skills were previously her selling point, appearing at confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions and Brett Kavanaugh or on the debate stage with Biden, but she sought to stand out from her years as a prosecutor in the middle. of a national calculation on law enforcement and race.
Some blamed his advisers. The company’s clients, with an eye on the national scene, have taken “politically cautious” positions, a San Francisco Democrat said.
“It’s a trait shared by Newsom and Kamala, and it’s a trait their consultants push,” argued this person, saying Newsom’s initiatives regarding same-sex marriage or executions, while innovative, were few.
It’s the effect of being guided by a famous opposition researcher, Bearstar Strategies founder Averill “Ace” Smith, who puts opponents on edge just by walking into the room, the San Democrat said. Francisco.
“His job is to find flaws in people, punish them and ruin them for it,” the person said. “He’s going to give you tips on breaking down all the edges.”
An agent in Los Angeles said Harris, as a black and South Asian woman, faces a level of scrutiny and pushback that her counterpart avoids. “Because of who Gavin is, he can take more risks,” he argued.
While Harris remains the heir apparent to succeed Biden as the head of a future Democratic ticket, whether in 2024 or beyond, California political sources have questioned how she would advance her case for the top spot.
“It will be fascinating to see if Kamala can put together the kind of coalition and campaign and finally build a device that can win,” said another California Democrat.
His presidential candidacy “was very hot for a very short time,” he added. “I don’t know where you are going to fix this.”
Newsom got what he wanted on Wednesday, a landslide victory that Biden says cemented his tenure and that of the governor.
Political strategists credited Newsom’s political muscle with staging an early coup by excluding other prominent Democrats from the poll.
That meant putting aside the “panic agitations” of worried Democrats who wanted a viable second-option candidate, Duran said. “You had Chicken Littles say, ‘We have to have a Democrat on the ballot, just in case,’ and the Bearstar team very wisely said no.”
Chris Lehman, policy adviser to NextGen Policy, an advocacy group founded by billionaire environmental activist and former presidential primary candidate Tom Steyer, said the race was over when the deadline for nominations was passed and no credible Democrat has tabled to replace Newsom. “That’s when, as a Democrat, I started to pop my champagne cork,” he said.
This “high risk, high reward” tactic, as one strategist called it, really made sense when Newsom’s biggest rival started to gain momentum.
With Tory radio host Larry Elder edging out other removal candidates, Newsom has managed to turn the run of a referendum on his leadership over the past 18 months into a one-on-one battle, posing the question. : Did deep-blue California voters want a MAGA-aligned governor?
About a quarter of the signatories to the recall petition were registered Democrats, a feat that frightened party officials.
Frustrating voters were a willingness some saw in Newsom to break its own COVID-19 rules, even as Californians struggled under strict lockdowns.
According to a pre-election poll by the Los Angeles Times and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, 56% of voters agreed with the claim that “through its own actions, Newsom has shown that strict policies and behaviors that he wants others to follow during the pandemic do not apply to him.
A video shared on Instagram by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, California’s “first partner” and wife of Newsom, seemed to capture the essence of the complaint. Waving her finger at the camera, Jennifer Siebel Newsom asked Californians to conserve water, turn off the tap while brushing their teeth, and wait to run the dishwasher until it is full. But viewers spied on a second dishwasher, undermining the water conservation message she was championing.
“[Newsom], in his two-dishwasher home, told people who live in three families at home, with homeless people on the street, “Don’t use your dishwasher,” a Sacramento Democrat said. “The theme was just, ‘Wow, these people, they’re so out of touch.'”
Parents became enraged to learn that Newsom’s children were back in their private school classes while public schools remained closed.
“I think one of [his advisers] would have thrown their bodies under the wheels of the governor’s SUV to prevent him from going to French Laundry that evening, ”Duran said, pointing to the evening which effectively lit a match as part of the recall effort. While the three-walled outdoor setting where Newsom was seen having dinner followed the letter of the state’s coronavirus rules, it flouted the spirit, for which the governor later apologized.
Newsom changed its strategy, advocating for reopening schools and supporting businesses, a pivot which Joe Rodota, chief policy officer for Arnold Schwarzenegger when he ran for California governor in 2003, said made the challenge to counter the more difficult Democrat.
Newsom addressed the state’s concerns over the coronavirus and touted its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and schools. In a campaign ad, the governor argued that the race was “a matter of life and death,” targeting Elder’s “deadly conspiracies” that he said threatened school closures.
The downside to capitalizing on Elder as a foil, one strategist said, was that the Newsom team “never really sold Gavin.”
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Californians have seen “the same thing we’ve seen since 2016,” this person said – a referendum on MAGA policy. “If Democrats can only run against Trump, what are we for?
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Key words: News, Biden Administration, Kamala Harris, White House, California, Gavin Newsom, Campaigns, Elections 2024, Democratic Party, Larry Elder
Original author: Catherine doyle
Original location: California Democrats see Harris and Newsom collide on White House road