Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom escaped with his political head by a healthy margin following Tuesday’s recall election, but his failed legacy remains.
Californians will likely continue moving to freer states unless Newsom changes course. The state Department of Finance reported California’s population declined by 182,083 people in 2020 — the first time a population drop occurred since 1900, when the department began collecting these estimates.
The U.S. Census Bureau found the state’s population grew between 2010 and 2020, but at a slower rate than the rest of the country. So for the first time ever, the Golden State is losing a congressional seat.
This should come as no surprise: terrible labor, energy, public safety and sanitation, housing, fire prevention, education, and a host of other policies spurred more than 1.7 million Californians to sign the recall petition and 3.3 million Californians to vote to remove Newsom from office.
Take AB5, the controversial independent contractor law signed by Newsom in September 2019 that keeps many Californians from working. Directed at gig-economy giants like Uber, Lyft and Doordash, AB5 was meant to protect independent and gig workers, prevent exploitation and provide fringe benefits. But as a wide range of independent contractors and freelancers — including writers, interpreters, performing artists and even horse handlers — can attest, in reality, the law hurt them. That’s why nearly 10 million Californians successfully supported Proposition 22 last year to exempt both ridesharing and delivery companies from the AB 5 requirements.
In addition to causing miserable rolling blackouts and high energy prices, Newsom’s debilitating energy policies have damaged California’s industrial sector, discouraging the growth of well-paying private sector jobs and hiking energy prices for everyone. Joel Kotkin notes at UnHerd, “Even without adjusting for costs, no California metro area ranks in the US top ten in terms of well-paying blue-collar jobs. But four — Ventura, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego — sit among the bottom ten.”
California ranks second only to New Jersey for the worst tax climate in the country, according to The Tax Foundation, and ranks only better than Nevada for highest unemployment rate. But California does take the crown for America’s largest unsheltered homeless population. Newsom’s housing regulations have stifled the new construction of housing units, making housing prices skyrocket.
A report from my former employer, Moody’s Investors Service, which rates the Golden State’s bonds, says “High cost of living may contribute to accelerated outmigration and become a drag on economic growth over time” and that “Rapidly rising school district pension contribution requirements could become a growing fiscal burden for local districts and increase pressure on the state to expand financial support.” That means already over-taxed California’s may face even bigger tax bills.
The Supreme Court rebuked Newsom for his blantant religious discrimination when he restricted worshipping in California during the COVID pandemic. The Justices ruled that California could not ban indoor church services while allowing retail stores and other businesses to remain open.
Even before COVID lockdowns, Edelman found a shocking 53% of Californians were considering a move out of the state and nearly two-thirds said the state’s best days were behind it.
There are some silver linings to Newsom’s mismanagement of the state: some observers argue the recall election pressured Newsom to reopen California’s schools.
And the demographic shift toward conservatism seen in 2020 continued, according to exit polls at CNN. Those exit polls showed Tuesday’s California electorate was 24% Latino, and while 60% of Latinos opposed the recall, it was down four points from when Newsom won 64% of Latinos in 2018. Among Latino men, 55% opposed the recall, but Newsom won 61% in 2018.
Exit polls from 2020 say that Trump improved his share of the Latino vote by four points, including winning five Texas counties with at least an 80% Latino population — even though he’d lost them all in 2016, according to the L.A. Times.
Jessica Millan Patterson, chairwoman of the GOP of California, also reported a more than 71% increase in the number of GOP volunteers. Patterson also said the state GOP made 18 million voter contacts to voters, compared to 15 million in 2020.
Newsom’s top Republican rival, Larry Elder, conceded on a high note: “We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war.”
Carrie Sheffield is a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum.