Gov. Gavin Newsom, juggling a fidgety 2-year-old, called for a renewal of the ‘California dream’ at an inaugural speech that showcased his liberal agenda while criticizing President Donald Trump’s “corruption” and “incompetence.”
He didn’t offer many specifics, but pledged to focus on health care, education and criminal justice reform. He contrasted his vision for those and other issues with Trump’s administration.
“People’s lives, freedom, security, the water we drink, the air we breathe – they all hang in the balance. The country is watching us,” he said, flanked by California flags in a tent on the west lawn of the Capitol. “We will offer an alternative to the corruption and incompetence in the White House.”
What comes next is the hard part. Newsom’s first budget by law is due on Thursday and he’ll be challenged to meet the high expectations of his campaign.
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He harkened back in his speech to one of the marquee moments of his political career, when he as San Francisco in 2004 authorized same-sex marriage before state and federal law clearly allowed it.
“Just like 15 years ago, this is a time for courage. We will stand up for what’s right, and we will defend our people. My pledge to every Californian is this: no matter what comes at us, I will have your back,” he said.
The show, largely stolen by Newsom’s 2-year-old son, Dutch, who ran onto the stage and was reluctant to leave, was filled with symbolism. Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, read a bilingual poem by Juan Felipe Herrera, a former U.S. poet laureate. The couple has made clear that she’ll be called the state’s “first partner,” not first lady.
Attendees danced and clapped in time to performances by Voices of Destiny, a church choir from Compton, and Los Cenzontles, a Mexican-American ensemble from San Pablo.
During the invocation, the Rev. Stephen A. Privett asked Newsom to lead the state through a “deeply divisive” time for the United States.
Although the skies outside were sunny, stormy forecasts prompted organizers to hold event in the massive tent, where some attendees sat in folding chairs and others stood along the sides.
Guests included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown, who drew standing ovations when they entered. Former Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, who once ran against each other in a contentious gubernatorial election, smiled and embraced for a photo.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, seated next each other in the front row, placed a $5 bet over the length of Newsom’s inaugural speech. Garcetti, won betting Newsom’s speech would be less than 30 minutes, though he said he wasn’t able to collect because Steinberg didn’t have change.
Newsom is taking office in a soaring economy that has swelled the state budget with a projected $16 billion in reserves and an additional $14.8 billion unrestricted surplus.
Already, Newsom’s staff has floated some policy proposals that would raise state spending, including expanding opportunities for preschool and parental leave.
Though difficult conversations about how to pay for those programs have not yet begun, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said Newsom’s plans for early childhood education and other family issues have been well-received by the Democrats that dominate the Legislature.
“He understands that, as a state, we’re behind where we should be and we’re behind other states as well,” Rendon said.
Newsom used some of his speech to caution against reckless spending that could cut into reserves and harm services in a recession.
“We will be prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars, pay down debt, and meet our future obligations,” he said. “We will build and safeguard the largest fiscal reserve of any state in American history.”
He alluded to some of the challenges he’ll face as California governor, mentioning the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise late last year. He also promised to help alleviate the state’s housing crisis that has left many without stable homes.
Newsom, a Democrat, was elected by a wide margin but will still have to govern a vast state with large conservative areas.
“I intend to represent all Californians, not only those who voted for me,” he said. “I recognize that many in our rural communities believe that Sacramento doesn’t care about them – doesn’t even really see them. Well, I see you.”
He drew contrast between himself and national leaders in Washington. He said he’s challenged Washington before, pointing to his granting of same-sex marriage licenses as San Francisco mayor in 2004.
Newsom has been a vocal Donald Trump critic since the Republican president took office. In March, Newsom released a campaign ad that called Trump’s planned border wall a “monument to idiocy” and referred to Trump as a “small, scared bully.”
Some of Newsom’s early appointees for key government positions also have taken stands resisting Trump’s priorities.
Julie Su, whom Newsom named labor secretary late last week, in 2017 directed her employees at the Department of Industrial Relations to keep immigration agents out of state offices unless they had warrants. Su sought to assure low-wage workers that they could report labor law violations without risk of deportation.
Newsom in December said he had a “tweet by tweet” relationship with Trump. The two met in November to visit Paradise, where the Camp Fire leveled a city and killed 86 people.
“We’re grateful that he came,” Newsom said last month. “That said, we’re living in an environment, tweet by tweet, day by day, issues raise themselves to the fore. That makes it challenging for us to cooperate at all levels all of the time.”
Davis, who served as governor for five years until he was recalled in 2003, applauded Newsom’s bold message about Trump.
“He’s what California needs right now,” Davis said. “California has always been a beacon of hope and opportunity. If you travel around the world, people may or not like America, but they love California.”
Newsom was briefly interrupted by two critics during the ceremony. While Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye was swearing Newsom in, a man in the press section holding a video camera yelled, “I object.” He was escorted out of the tent as the crowd drowned him out by chanting “Gavin.” Another man in the press section also was told to leave.
Here are excerpts from Newsom’s Monday morning address:
“Now more than ever, we Californians know how much a house matters – as so many of our neighbors have lost theirs. Together, let us build a house stronger than the coming storms, yet open to the world. A house that provides shelter to all who need it and sanctuary to all who seek it – where opportunity abounds for all who will work for it.”
“In our home, we believe in justice for all. We will defend the progress we’ve made to reform our criminal justice system. We will continue the fight against over-incarceration and over-crowding in our prisons. And we will end the outrage of private prisons once and for all.”
‘A wall that should never be built’
“But all kids – not just the children of a governor and a filmmaker – should have a good life in California…. Not ripped away from their parents at the border… Not left hungry while politicians seek to pour billions into a wall that should never be built. We will support parents so they can give their kids the love and care they need, especially in those critical early years when so much development occurs.”
‘A Marshall Plan for affordable housing’
“In our home, no one should live in constant fear of eviction or spend their whole paycheck to keep a roof overhead. We will launch a Marshall Plan for affordable housing and lift up the fight against homelessness from a local matter to a state-wide mission. In our home, every person should have access to quality, affordable health care. Far-away judges and politicians may try to turn back our progress. But we will never waver in our pursuit of guaranteed health care for all Californians. We will use both our market power and our moral power to demand fairer prices for prescription drugs. We will stop stigmatizing mental health and start supporting it. And in California we will always protect a woman’s right to choose.”
Looking out for rural California
“I intend to represent all Californians, not only those who voted for me. I will be a governor for the dock worker in Long Beach, and the farm worker in Lost Hills, the small business owner in Corona, and the teacher in Compton. I recognize that many in our rural communities believe that Sacramento doesn’t care about them – doesn’t even really see them. Well, I see you. I care about you.”