By Jonathon Van Maren
California Governor Gavin Newsom is one of the worst governors in America. He has spent his career hammering socially liberal policies through and even breaking the law to do it—as mayor of San Francisco in 2004, he began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples (triggering a court battle that ruled same-sex marriage constitutional—this was overturned by California voters in the 2008 Proposition 8 campaign, which was again overruled by the courts. The people’s vote only matters when they vote the right way.) As governor, abortion and LGBT issues have again been Newsom’s constant focus.
Newsom is now facing a recall election on September 14. In California, if enough signatures are collected, the governor faces a recall and can be forced from office. California voters will be asked two questions in next month. First, a “yes” or “no” question on whether they want to recall Newsom. Second, they’ll be asked to choose a candidate to replace him. There are 46 available options, including well-known conservative commentator Larry Elder. If a majority votes to remove him, then the candidate with the majority of votes wins—even if they only have a fraction of the California electorate in their corner.
Recall elections are usually a political stunt, but progressives are starting to get worried that Newsom is in real trouble. To shore up Newsom’s support, activists are trying to persuade Californians that Gavin Newsom is an essential ally of the abortion industry. From Politico:
Democratic activists working to save Gov. Gavin Newsom from being thrown out of office by California voters next month are seizing on an issue better known for energizing voters on the right: abortion access. Fearful of widespread voter apathy, Democrats and their allies are hammering the message that a GOP governor could veto abortion-rights laws, cut funding for clinics and appoint anti-abortion agency officials, judges and senators in a state that’s long been at the forefront of making it accessible to terminate a pregnancy.
Abortion rights groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, as well as the newly formed Women Against the Recall, are phone banking, knocking on doors, posting digital ads and social media messages and holding events with Newsom and other lawmakers as ballots are mailed to voters over the next few weeks ahead of the Sept. 14 recall election.
“As much as people in California support these rights, you can see by the polls that we’ve become a little complacent about what that actually means,” Jodi Hicks, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a livestreamed conversation Wednesday night that was part of the organization’s anti-recall campaign…
Abortion rights organizations have also invested millions in get-out-the-vote work, but Democrats have split in recent years. Some insist the party should avoid focusing on abortion over fears of alienating moderates and feeding into GOP attempts to brand them as “baby killers,” while others have been urging candidates to lean into the issue.
Newsom himself is so desperate that he has been hitting the campaign trail with Planned Parenthood and warning that if he gets the boot, the next governor of California could roll back his pro-abortion policies and make pro-life appointments. Larry Elder, the high-profile African American conservative on the ballot to replace him, is staunchly pro-life, and Newsom warned that Elder “doesn’t believe in Roe.” Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other abortion groups are throwing thousands of dollars to save Newsom’s job, and “Women Against the Recall” has also geared up to defend the abortion industry’s key ally.
While the California legislature is stacked with pro-abortion politicians, the abortion industry is worried about the powers that the governor does wield, such as funding for abortion—not to mention the gubernatorial veto, which a pro-life governor like Larry Elder would presumably exercise often. As Politico reported:
“If there’s a shift at the highest level of leadership, we could anticipate that at the bare minimum, the gains we have made over the last several years could be stalled, if not reversed,” said Amy Moy, the chief external affairs officer for the organization, pointing in particular to the budget blueprints governors release and the power to appoint agency officials. “We saw during the Trump administration an exodus of career civil servants with institutional knowledge. If the recall is successful, we could see a similar situation in California.”
Abortion activists are hoping that if their fearmongering works, they can try this playbook in other political races—but there has traditionally been little appetite for pro-abortion campaigning in America. At the moment, Gavin Newsom is being attacked primarily for his pandemic response. If he decides to make abortion the ballot issue and loses, then his defeat will send quite a different message to the country—and to politicians like him.