November 28, 2022

SACRAMENTO — California Governor Gavin Newsom won re-election against state senator Brian Dahle, R-Bieber shortly after polls closed on Tuesday night.

After voting in downtown Sacramento Tuesday morning, Newsom said he plans to focus during his second term in office on cutting housing costs and getting people off the streets if reelected.

“We need to address what’s happening on the streets and sidewalks,” Newsom said. “We need to address this sense of unease when it comes to what is happening in cities and communities, when it comes to quality of life – cleaning up our cities, tackling the problem of crime, not just violent crime but property crime.”

Newsom has long pledged to tackle housing and homelessness in California, but struggles to make a dent in the problem.

Last week, Newsom announced he was withholding $1 billion in state funding for homeless people for cities and counties because they don’t plan to get people off the streets any time soon. Newsom said the move is meant to hold local governments accountable, but city leaders criticized his decision, saying withholding money won’t help California solve the worsening homeless crisis.

Newsom also told reporters on Tuesday that he believes Democrats, who are bracing for a tough election night, need to be more aggressive in their coverage. He alluded to his own efforts to redefine Republican talking points about freedom and other buzzwords, including through ad purchases in other states.

“We’ve been on the defensive on a lot of culture issues — we need to go on the attack,” Newsom said. “I’m trying to change the story of freedom and fairness.”

Democrats make up about 47% of California’s registered voters, compared to 24% of Republicans. Democrats’ dominance in the state previously propped Newsom through the COVID-19 pandemic and a recall attempt.

Newsom beat the recall in September 2021 by about the same margin as his 2018 win that earned him the governorship of California. Newsom applauded the outcome as a confirmation of his leadership in the country’s most populous state.

During his reelection campaign, Newsom praised his stewardship of California’s economy, the fifth largest in the world. He also tried to take advantage of his tendency to draw national attention to his liberal policies.

As mayor of San Francisco, he led his party on LGBTQ rights by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As governor, one of his first actions was to impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

In the face of a reelection battle that was heavily in his favor, Newsom used his massive fundraising efforts to spend money to further raise his national profile, even buying ads in Texas and Florida to attack the Republican governors there.

He also focused on Republican national policy on abortion and the pandemic. He tried to co-opt their branding as the pro-freedom and pro-life party, arguing that those feel-good labels actually better describe his pandemic safety and abortion rights policies. His focus on building his national profile during the campaign fueled speculation that he is poised to run for president, something he has vehemently denied.

Dahle, meanwhile, focused his campaign on California. The state senator, who represents a rural district stretching from Sacramento County to the Oregon border, pledged to reduce California’s high cost of living by easing government regulations.

He attacked Newsom for homelessness and crime, arguing that the governor had failed to address California’s toughest challenges.

“That’s the point of this whole election,” Dahle said during an interview with Sacramento NPR affiliate CapRadio last month. “Would you like to continue getting more of what you’ve been given – promises with no real change?”

Sophia Bollag is a writer of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SophiaBollag

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