Incoming head of powerful California union vows to run Newsom's 'a– out of office'

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Only 40% of Californians say they’d vote to oust embattled Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in this autumn’s all-but-certain recall election, according to a new poll. But count the incoming head of one the Golden State’s largest and most influential unions as part of that 40%.

Richard Louis Brown, the newly elected president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, is angry at the governor over wage cuts for state workers that were implemented last year amid what turned out to be a temporary budget deficit.

“He is going to need support from public sector unions to help him fight this recall,” Brown said Tuesday in an interview with the Associated Press. “When I become president of Local 1000, he can look for somebody else to support him. He will not get any help from us. He’s on his own.”

Brown said anger among the rank and file in the union – which represents 96,000 California state employees – fueled his own election victory over longtime union leader Yvonne Walker.

Newsom was easily elected governor in 2018 with key support from organized labor. But Brown – who takes over as union president at the end of June – argued that the governor turned on organized labor to help close the state’s projected budget gap amid the coronavirus pandemic by demanding the equivalent of two days’ wages or furloughs each month during the pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference held at Unity Council career center in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, Calif., on Monday, May 10, 2021. (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)
(AP)

“That’s why I said we’re going to run his ass out of office,” Brown said.

The projected budget has turned into a record revenue surplus in the state’s revised spending plan, which the governor unveiled earlier this month.

While Brown needs support from his union’s board of directors to carry out his pledge, his comments represent what appears to be one of the first breaks in the unified block of support for Newsom among Democrats and Democratic allied groups.

Neither the governor nor his campaign team has responded to Brown’s comments.

Brown’s interview made headlines in California on the same day that a new poll from Public Policy Institute of California indicated that 57% of likely Golden State voters oppose recalling Newsom, with just four in 10 supporting removing the governor. The numbers are virtually unchanged from PPIC’s previous survey, conducted in March.

There was a wide partisan divide on the question, with 86% of Democrats opposed to recalling the governor and 78% of Republicans backing his ouster. But Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans in the solidly blue state. Independents questioned in the poll were divided on the recall question.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed approved of the job Newsom’s doing as governor, with approval on how he’s handling the COVID crisis at 64%.

“The remarkably stable opposition to the recall of Gavin Newsom is driven by a large and consistent partisan divide that favors the Democratic governor,” Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO, highlighted in a statement.

The recall push was launched last June over charges the governor mishandled the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The effort was fueled by the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and houses of worship, school shutdowns and even opposition to the state’s high taxes. But discontent surged in the fall, after Newsom was spotted having dinner at an uber-exclusive restaurant, which – at best – skirted rules imposed by the governor to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

State election officials announced last month that the recall effort had garnered more than the 1.5 million valid signatures needed make the ballot.

Republicans see the recall election as their best chance to topple a politician who has never lost an election during his years as San Francisco mayor, California lieutenant governor and now governor – and their first chance to win a statewide contest since the 2006 gubernatorial reelection victory by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a moderate Republican. Three years earlier, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis became the second governor in U.S. history to be successfully recalled and was succeeded by Schwarzenegger, who won the recall election.

If the Newsom recall formally qualifies for the ballot, as expected, voters would be asked two questions – first, whether the governor should be removed from office. If more than 50% support removing Newsom, the second question would be a list of candidates running to replace the governor.

Among the leading GOP contenders hoping to succeed Newsom if he’s ousted are businessman and 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former Rep. Doug Ose, and Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete turned transgender rights activist and TV personality.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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