Nervous Newsom attacks Larry Elder, says homeless camps are 'not acceptable'

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

As Allahpundit pointed out yesterday, the latest poll on the California recall was bad news for Gov. Newsom. Previous polls had showed support for the recall was climbing but yesterday’s poll showed it way out ahead. Maybe that poll was an outlier but there’s no doubt that Newsom saw it. Thursday he went on the attack against Larry Elder, the conservative radio host who is Newsom’s leading challenger.

…in a Zoom call with volunteers working on his anti-recall campaign, Newsom hit out at Elder, calling him a major Trump supporter — a rallying cry in a state won overwhelmingly by President Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Newsom also accused Elder of being a threat to abortion rights established under the landmark Roe vs. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973.

“The leading candidate thinks climate change is a hoax, believes we need more offshore oil drilling, more fracking, does not believe a woman has the right to choose [and] actually came out against Roe v. Wade, does not believe in a minimum wage,” Newsom said.

As I’ve said before, it really is hard to imagine Elder as the Governor of this deep blue state. Still the fact that Newsom feels the need to go on the attack tells you he’s worried. Elder’s spokesperson responded by pointing out some of the many problems the state is facing on Newsom’s watch.

“Gavin Newsom is running scared. He cannot defend his horrendous record on crime, homelessness, the rising cost of living, water shortages, uncontrollable wildfires, and tyrannical COVID lockdowns,” spokeswoman Ying Ma said in an email.

Speaking of the Governor’s record on homelessness, the other thing Newsom did yesterday was attend the clearing of a homeless camp in Stockton flanked by a reporter for the LA Times. The story is headlined, “Newsom, in recall fight, says it’s ‘not acceptable’ for homeless to camp on streets.”

The governor, in an interview Thursday with The Times as he watched state workers clear a homeless encampment here, made clear that tents along freeways and in public parks are not OK and that California needs to develop humane processes for moving people and clearing camps while also creating more housing options.

Newsom applauded the removal of homeless camps from Echo Park Lake and Venice Beach in Los Angeles, staking out a position that reflects a change in the public political dialogue about homelessness in California.

“You got to be honest, this is not acceptable,” Newsom said, staring at Caltrans workers cleaning up the remnants of a couple’s shelter on an embankment wedged between Interstate 5 and a housing complex. “People shouldn’t be living out in the streets and sidewalks … and the notion that until everything is perfect, we can’t do anything [about encampments], I completely reject. I also think it lacks compassion, because so many people’s lives have been changed, despite their obstinance in opposition to these things; it forces a different pathway in decision making.”

He’s right of course. As the AP pointed out a few months ago, these camps aren’t just an eyesore. In LA they are connected to thousands of fires that have caused millions in damage and they make up more than half of the calls firefighters respond to:

In the three years since the city’s Fire Department began classifying them, the number of blazes related to homelessness has nearly tripled, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. In the first quarter of 2021, they occurred at a rate of 24 a day, making up 54% of all fires the department responded to…

Many fires are attributed to cooking, heating and smoking amid the flammable materials found in homeless street camps, makeshift shelters and RVs, the newspaper said. Others were intentionally set. Arson was blamed for a third of more than 15,600 fires related to homelessness in about the past three years, the Times reported. Some were set by outsiders, but police say most stemmed from disputes between homeless people.

Newsom’s tough talk on homeless camps comes just a week after he told a group of newspapers, “Don’t ever confuse me with the defund police movement.” That may not sound like much in the rest of the country but in California, this is definitely moving to the right. Progressives who haven’t learned their lesson from Nina Turner’s loss in Ohio ought to pay attention. Newsom is many things but he’s not dumb. He knows the far left positions on these issues are losers.

There are so many more progressives than conservatives in California that surviving this recall really shouldn’t be much of a challenge. In fact, prior to a few weeks ago the conventional wisdom was that the recall would appear on the ballot but that it had no real chance of ousting the governor. What has changed isn’t the candidate but the the situation on the ground.

Mask mandates returned to LA County (which has 10 million residents) nearly three weeks ago. Case counts and hospitalizations are rising. In addition, there are major fires burning in the northern part of the state, one of which is already the 3rd largest in state history. Add to that the rising crime and ongoing problem with homelessness and there are plenty of reasons for people to be unhappy with how things are going.

Will recalling Newsom and electing Larry Elder solve all those problems? Of course not. But there may be a sense that, given how things are going, it’s really hard to get motivated to defend the governor. I think right now a lot of Californians are saying pretty much the same thing Newsom said when touring that homeless camp, “You got to be honest, this is not acceptable.”