Capitol Alert

Gavin Newsom’s gun-control bid has a surprise surrogate – Kevin de León

State Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016.
State Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016. AP

First he tried to convince Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to remove his gun-control initiative from the November ballot. Now, in the waning days of the election, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León is putting his name, and his face, behind Newsom’s Proposition 63.

Voters in the Bay Area, Newsom’s home turf, have begun to receive a mailer from de León asking them to “Keep Our Kids Safe from Guns!” and support Proposition 63.

The colorful pamphlet includes several pictures of de León and touts his work on gun and ammunition regulation, an issue he has taken ownership of in the Legislature. Among the laws mentioned is Senate Bill 1235, instituting background checks for ammunition purchases, a measure de León pursued this year that was amended at the last minute to supersede a similar provision in Proposition 63.

“I go to work every day with one thought on my mind: How can I help protect our families and children from senseless gun violence?” the mailer says. “While I'm proud of the progress we've made in California, there's still more we must do.’

Bad blood has been brewing between Newsom, a San Francisco Democrat running for governor, and de León, a rising Democratic politician from Los Angeles, since last fall, when Newsom unveiled his proposal. The two have disagreed publicly and privately over whose political territory ammunition regulation should be, the details of the background check system, and whether it was best to take the issue to the ballot box or through the Legislature.

In a statement Sunday, Newsom and Proposition 63 spokesman Dan Newman let loose.

“The gun violence crisis is too dire to worry about credit claiming and bandwagon-jumping, so even though some may accuse him of being a self-aggrandizing hypocrite, I'd simply like to thank KDL for admitting he was wrong and enthusiastically following Newsom’s lead,” Newman said. “It's certainly better late than never on such a critically important initiative, so if he spends the final week campaigning for Prop 63, I’m happy to forgive and forget that he obsessively tried to undermine it for the past year.”

A de León aide referred to a statement the Senate leader recently sent about the issue.

“Earlier this year, our Legislature passed the most sweeping and important package of gun safety laws in the nation, increasing nationwide momentum and grass-roots outcries for common-sense safeguards against gun violence. I endorse Proposition 63 because we must send a powerful and united message to the national gun lobby that California will not capitulate to political bullying or compromise the public safety.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.