Wonderful to speak with Marisa Lagos for this piece on KQED.
Jessica Levinson, a law professor who studies campaign and ethics issues at Loyola Marymount University, said it’s all part and parcel of the Gavin Newsom playbook: Play to a liberal base, get ahead on issues that are controversial now but will likely be more broadly embraced in a couple years and also, yes, focus on more mainstream issues like the economy while you are at it.
She said it’s a smart strategy.
“I think Gavin Newsom knows his brand very well, and it’s using his office and using ballot measures to really try and come out clearly as a solid liberal — and maybe just a few years ahead of the curve,” she said.
“So by the time we are voting for governor,” she added, “we will be looking at Gavin Newsom and saying, ‘You had ESP, you knew where the state was going when it came to minimum wage, you knew where things were trending when it came to pot and you saw the importance of stronger gun control before other people were acting on it.’ ”
‘He Embraces Being a Liberal Democrat’
Levinson said Newsom’s positions may be risky for a moderate, but “he can’t run away from the fact that he’s a liberal Democrat, so I think he’s basically decided to embrace it.”
She noted the lieutenant governor is also talking about the economy and water — “he just made a trip to the Central Valley” — but that voters won’t be paying attention to the actual governor’s race for a year or more anyway, so it makes sense to lay the groundwork around other issues.
“I think he is going to be one of the top contenders, and he’s basically laying claim to a number of areas now,” Levinson said, noting Newsom has been “trying to lose the lieutenant part of his title since before the day he was sworn in.”
She said it’s smart to use ballot measures to burnish his political credentials for another reason: Initiatives are not subject to the same campaign finance limits that candidates are.
“You can tie yourself to an issue without the same rubric of money restrictions, and in some ways it’s less risky, because if a ballot initiative goes down, it’s not a referendum on you as a candidate,” she said.