Lt. Gov. Newsom is known for three major policies: same-sex marriage, pot legalization and gun control. He has pushed them hard, the last two with initiatives for the Nov. 8 ballot. Proposition 63 would impose more gun control and Proposition 64 would legalize marijuana for recreational use.
The policies will not help him in the 2018 gubernatorial race, in particular if the Top Two final election pits him against Treasurer John Chiang.
Newsom first gained statewide and national renown (or in some circles, notoriety) in 2004 for issuing same-sex marriage licenses when he was mayor of the City on the Bay. After numerous court cases and Proposition 8 in 2008, the matter was settled in 2015 with the Obergefell decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s an issue for the 2014 gubernatorial election, not 2018. In politics, it’s never, “Thanks for helping,” but, “What can you do for me now?”
As to legalizing reefers, Prop. 64 is likely to pass. But its most vociferous proponents won’t remember what happened.
That leaves us with Prop. 63 and Newsom’s reputation, which he is augmenting, as a gun-grabber. That would be great for him in a Democratic Party primary. But we don’t have partisan primaries anymore (except for U.S. president). We have jungle primaries: all against all, with the Top Two going on to the final round.
If this year’s U.S. senatorial race is any guide, two Democrats will face one another in the final round, one liberal and one moderate. Unfortunately, this year moderate Rep. Loretta Sanchez has flaked out in her race against much more liberal Attorney General Kamala Harris.
But in 2018, Chiang will be running as the responsible candidate who has kept an eye on the taxpayers’ dollars, first as state controller, then as treasurer. It’s not clear yet what position he’ll take on Prop. 63, but I suspect he’ll back it to not ruffle the feathers of the gun controllers in his party, yet do so almost in petto. It’s not his issue.
Turn to 2018. One of the most passionate groups in the country is gun-rights advocates. Many of them consider the NRA a namby-pamby gang of compromisers. If it’s Newsom-Chiang in 2018, what will the gun-rights folks remember? Newsom wanting to abridge their Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms.” If Hillary Clinton becomes president and starts imposing her gun-control ideas, the issue will be emphasized even more. Newsom will become a pariah to the gun fans and, by default, Chiang will get their votes.
Of course, it might not be Newsom-Chiang in November 2018. Antonio Villaraigosa, Tom Steyer and others could displace one or both of them. And maybe Republicans will back one candidate – instead of four significant ones as they did in the June senatorial primary, splitting their vote hopelessly – and place before November voters another sacrificial lamb.
But never underestimate an interest group whose bumper stickers read, “I’ll give up my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”
Veteran California columnist John Seiler’s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org