Capitol Alert

‘Are you on crack?’ Newsom attack ad is deceptive

Gavin Newsom - Straws and Syringes

A campaign ad by an independent group, “Restore Our Values,” blast Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for policies in San Francisco
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A campaign ad by an independent group, “Restore Our Values,” blast Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for policies in San Francisco

An independent campaign committee supporting Republican John Cox for California governor has launched an ad tying his opponent, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, to San Francisco policies banning plastic straws and providing free needles to drug users.

The 15-second ad, paid for by the “Restore Our Values” independent campaign committee, is running on social media, though its funders say they plan to “do more” with it in the weeks to come. Major backers of the pro-Cox independent campaign include Los Angeles real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer, a major donor supporting President Donald Trump. Cox has been endorsed by Trump.


In Gavin Newsom’s San Francisco, kids can’t drink juice through plastic straws.

But drug users can shoot poison through free plastic syringes.

Gavin Newsom for governor — are you on crack?


The ad features an image of Gavin Newsom with words on-screen asking the question, “Are you on crack?”

First of all, he is not.

The ad is also deceptive because it blames Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, for policies he was not involved in implementing.

The city-sanctioned practice of distributing free needles was adopted before he was mayor of San Francisco, and the plastic straw ban was advanced by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in July. Newsom has not been mayor of San Francisco since January 2011, when he became the state’s lieutenant governor.


It’s true, however, that Newsom supports both policies.

During his eight-year mayoral tenure, Newsom did back the San Francisco program, which provided free needles to drug users, funded with city money and run, in part, through the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

San Francisco provides intravenous drug users with access to free syringes at 13 sites across the city, as part of its public health program aimed at reducing infections spread through needles, such as HIV and Hepatitis C, according to the city. It distributes an estimated 400,000 syringes each month, and operates a syringe cleanup program.

Many used needles still litter the streets, prompting backlash from critics who say San Francisco does not do enough to collect the needles it distributes.

Newsom faced such criticism during his time as mayor as used needles were littering Golden Gate Park. Newsom supported the free needle program at the time, but said the city should also work more aggressively to clean up used needles.

“Don’t get me wrong, I still support the program,” Newsom was quoted as saying in a 2007 interview. “But so far we’ve been all about distribution. We need to start looking at collection as well.”

Newsom continues to support the free needle program.

The ad also ties Newsom to a proposed policy he had nothing to do with. In July, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban restaurants, bars and retailers from using plastic straws beginning in July 2019, joining other major cities such as Berkeley and Seattle that have advanced measures seeking to halt the use of single-use plastic products seen as wasteful and damaging to the environment.

Newsom backs a similar California law signed by signed by Brown last month that bars most restaurants from automatically handing out plastic straws. Newsom didn’t take a formal position on the bill, but his campaign confirmed that he supports the policy, and during his San Francisco mayoral tenure, supported a ban on plastic grocery bags.

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