PAFFRATH IN THE SPOTLIGHT: For months, Democratic recall candidate and YouTube star Kevin Paffrath has assailed California’s political establishment for not treating him as a serious contender. But tonight, he steps onto a major debate stage for the first time — the lone Democrat in the lineup.
Paffrath has risen from relative obscurity with an antagonistic social media presence and unorthodox strategy that includes shadowing Gov. Gavin Newsom, uninvited, at the governor’s campaign events.
The 29-year-old has managed to separate himself from the eight other little-known Democrats listed on the ballot, performing well enough in a handful of polls to earn an invite to the debate hosted by KCRA 3 and the San Francisco Chronicle. He’ll be the first Democrat to line up beside Republican candidates Kevin Faulconer, John Cox and Kevin Kiley, who have already participated in three debates this month.
This will also be the first time that many voters get a taste of Paffrath’s platform, which is hardly the usual fare for a Democrat running for office in California. It includes appeals to voters on the right, like allowing concealed carry and eliminating taxes on the first $250,000 of income.
Paffrath clearly has little interest in making friends within the California Democratic Party, calling Newsom “a selfish loser” in a recent YouTube video and eagerly highlighting Fox News’ coverage of his campaign.
It’s unclear how his style will translate to a live debate format, but Paffrath has proven that he’s a showman who is willing to push boundaries to grab attention. When asked about what viewers should expect from Paffrath tonight, campaign spokesperson Gabriel Gottfried responded with only a firework emoji.
HAPPY WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON! Welcome to California PM Playbook, a new POLITICO newsletter that serves as an afternoon temperature check of California politics. We’re back for the legislative homestretch and last month of the California recall campaign. Got tips or suggestions? Shoot an email to [email protected] and [email protected]. We’re also on Twitter: @kyamamura or @katymurphy.
DRIVE-THRU RALLY: Newsom’s Friday campaign event with Vice President Kamala Harris will be a car rally in the parking lot of the Cow Palace Arena in Daly City. The rally will start at 1 p.m., and attendees are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.
— Republican Larry Elder picked up an endorsement from Democrat Gloria Romero, former majority leader of the California State Senate from 2001 to 2008. “Our public schools need big change … I believe in charter schools and school choice; so does Larry Elder, but not Gavin Newsom,” she said in a campaign video. “He shut our public schools while he sent his kids to private school. Yes, I’m a Democrat, but the recall of Newsom is not about political party. It’s about Newsom.”
— Republican Caitlyn Jenner tweeted that she met Wednesday with San Francisco “local leaders on homeless issues.” Jenner also said she would “declare a state of emergency when local leaders request it, and need it..like in #Oakland we must protect our #AAPI communities.”
— Republican Kevin Kiley held a press conference in Grass Valley with Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus) and a couple whose home was destroyed in the River Fire that burned 2,600 acres earlier this month. “Is it a coincidence that there happens to be an election going on, that these [wildfire oversight] hearings are being canceled? I don’t think it is,” Kiley said.
— Republican Kevin Faulconer made a stop on his bus tour in Salinas to say hi to his father, Jim. “Vote for Kevin, he’s got good genes,” the elder Faulconer said. The former San Diego mayor said he was also visiting Oakland before the KCRA-hosted debate Wednesday night in Sacramento.
— Paffrath continued his criticism of what he decried as media “censorship” of his campaign, calling on his followers to “#StopTheBullShip” at 4:20 p.m. PT.
THE BUDGET’S BUDGET: Newsom’s office spent at least $11,000 on a state budget signing ceremony last month, a stand-out event that felt more like a campaign rally as the governor faces a Sept. 14 recall election.
The event, held at the Barrio Action Youth & Family Center in Los Angeles on July 13, cost more than $6,000 in stage rental costs and “California Roars Back” posters, according to records obtained by POLITICO. Additional costs for the event included flights and hotel stays for staff to travel from Sacramento.
While Newsom has hosted ceremonies for some budget bill signings in the past, those involved much less fanfare. At the L.A. budget event, an energetic Newsom spoke to cheering crowds of supporters waving “California For All” signs and received praise from fellow Democrats before he put his signature on the record $262.7 billion budget.
“This is one hell of a budget signing,” the governor said then, adding that California critics can “eat your heart out.”
A spokesperson for Newsom said in an email that hosting the event in L.A., “an area with the state’s largest population,” ensured that “we reached the maximum number of Californians” about how the budget will benefit them.
“Signing the unprecedented California Comeback Plan with essential workers and others hard-hit by COVID-19 was important to help get the message out about ongoing relief funds available to pay for past utility bills, support small businesses and provide direct financial assistance to those impacted by this pandemic,” a spokesperson said Tuesday. —Mackenzie Mays
FIRE NEARS TAHOE: One of California’s crown jewels is in the line of fire, with the Caldor Fire 11 miles away and advancing as of this afternoon.
The blaze, which started Aug. 14, has already burned over 126,000 acres and destroyed 460 homes. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for areas right up to Twin Bridges, a town next to the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort. Residents in the region are dealing with hazardous air quality, and local media have reported orange skies and ash raining down in South Lake Tahoe.
Fire officials, who say the Caldor Fire is just 11 percent contained, are heartened that weather, winds and temperatures in recent days have been in their favor. But the blaze is still progressing, U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Dana Walsh said, and mandatory evacuation orders could be deployed for more populated areas if the situation gets worse. — Colby Bermel
MASK (BACK) UP: Just two months after California workplace safety officials scrapped a rule requiring all workers wear face coverings indoors regardless of vaccination status, they are encouraging everyone to mask up, citing updated public health guidance.
Cal/OSHA’s standards board in June repealed mask mandates and other safety precautions — like physical partitions — after facing immense pressure from the administration and businesses to fall in line with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s June 15 reopening timeline.
The board members seem ready to revise the state’s emergency Covid-19 workplace rules again, but have made clear that changes shouldn’t be expected until December as they move more deliberately this time around. The hope from both business and worker advocates is that the state will develop a way to strengthen or loosen safety measures based on current case numbers.
ABORTION RECALL POLITICS: California’s first March for Life rally in Sacramento today wasn’t supposed to be about the recall — the anti-abortion event was originally planned for last year — but ousting Newsom, a proponent of abortion rights, clearly loomed large.
Reproductive rights groups are mobilizing their supporters to oppose the recall, warning that a Republican governor could undermine access to abortion in California. Anti-abortion factions are making the opposite pitch, even if they haven’t coalesced around a particular candidate.
“We have a very big, important election coming up on Sept. 14, and I ask you exercise your freedoms. And one of your basic freedoms that we have for constitutional government is your right to vote. So please vote,” said state Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) told protesters gathered at the Capitol.
Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus) pointed to the lawsuit that he and Republican recall candidate Kevin Kiley, a fellow state lawmaker, brought against Newsom to block the governor’s executive orders. “We knew about King George. And King Gavin is no better than that,” he said to cheers. A lower court rejected their case, and the state Supreme Court earlier this month declined to hear the lawmakers’ appeal.
Grove highlighted state legislation the group opposes, including SB 245, which would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for abortions, and AB 1356, which would limit contact with and recording of individuals near reproductive health clinics. — Victoria Colliver
Links compiled by Camryn Dadey.
“California epidemiologist ‘hopeful’ virus surge is abating.” (AP)
“Unvaccinated people, riskier behavior: What is fueling L.A.’s coronavirus surge.” (LA Times)
“President Biden approves wildfire major disaster declaration in California.” (LA Times)
“Gavin Newsom’s grassroots work against recall showing success — but it’s still early.” (SF Chronicle)
“For college students in California, the only common ground is uncertainty.” (LA Times)