CA Gov. Gavin Newsom drops $10 million for political action committee and promises to empower Democrats in red states

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday dropped $10 million for a new political action committee and pledged to empower Democrats in the reddest of the red states ahead of the 2024 election and a possible future presidential bid.

Newsom launched the Campaign for Democracy with money leftover from his 2022 gubernatorial campaign, where he easily won re-election against a little-known Republican opponent. In a video announcing the committee, Newsom vowed to take on “authoritarian leaders” who he says are “attacking our liberties directly,” including Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Gov. of Texas , Greg Abbott, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“What’s happening in these red states?” asked Newsom. “We’re not. That’s un-American. That is undemocratic.”

Newsom accused these governors of banning books and targeting transgender children. Republicans, meanwhile, have criticized Newsom for using taxpayers’ money to pay women in other states who come to California for abortions and to cover the healthcare costs of people illegally living in the country.

“There’s a reason Gavin Newsom never focuses on the problems he caused in his own state,” said Sanders spokeswoman Alexa Henning. “California residents are experiencing sky-high rents, but Governor Sanders lives rent-free in his mind.”

“$5 million isn’t enough:” Activists tell California Reparations Committee to aim higher

Newsom and his family will visit Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi early next week and meet with Democratic activists pushing for things like expanding Medicaid and opposing Sanders’ education proposals. But first he will appear at a fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association in Florida on Saturday, spokesman Nathan Click said.

A donation blitz to candidates in other states is a typical route into the presidential campaign for ambitious politicians. Most of the time, the money goes specifically to swing states or places with early presidential elections, where donations can pay off later.

However, Newsom is taking on states with little strategic-political value for Democrats, which is part of his ongoing effort to reshape the Democratic Party’s message.

β€œHe said we can’t just go to the 12 states that are at stake; we have to go to the states where we’re losing and help the people who are on the front lines of those fights,” Click said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses a news conference in Sacramento, California on March 16, 2023. On March 30, 2023, Newsom announced a new political action committee that he claims will empower Democrats in Republican-led states. (P AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

Other Democrats have tried to use their star power to help candidates across the country — some in heavily Republican areas.

On the heels of his 2020 Senate run against South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham β€” which broke fundraising records but resulted in a loss for the incumbent β€” Jaime Harrison started Dirt Road PAC and used his newly minted status as a fundraising powerhouse to try , to be a sustained boost to other Democrats, who he hopes can help turn more areas from red to blue.

Dirt Road has continued its operations since Harrison took over as chair of the Democratic National Committee and raised about $200,000 by the end of last year, according to federal files.


Such efforts have not always been successful. In 2013, Jeremy Bird, who the previous year was National Field Director for then-President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, helped organize Battleground Texas, which pledged to make long-term financial and organizational commitments to democratic causes in the nation’s largest Republican state.

The group invested heavily in Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis in 2014, who lost heavily to Republican Abbott. Nearly 10 years later, the Texas Democrats have still not won a statewide office since 1994, the nation’s longest losing streak.

Individual elected officials, such as Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, also took part in the campaign. Weeks after exiting the 2020 presidential campaign, she announced a political group called the Warren Democrats, in which she supported, campaigned with, and provided financial and logistical support to progressive congressional candidates this cycle and last year. Warren’s record of supporting candidates has been mixed, and she is now running for re-election in the Senate next year.


Last year, Newsom’s name was floated amid some unrest among Democrats over President Joe Biden’s re-election prospects as a potential 2024 replacement. Newsom quickly shut down those rumors, saying he had no desire to run for president. However, he has continued to raise his profile as a national leader, spending his governor’s campaign money last year on ads in Republican-led states, including Florida and Texas.

“He’s clearly building his national profile and presence,” said Eric Schickler, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s a path that taps into something that many Democrats have worried about, which is that many red states don’t have a major party presence.”

Newsom’s second term as governor ends in 2026. He has said he will not Challenge Biden for the presidency. If he were running in 2028, he might be running against Vice President Kamala Harris, a fellow Californian.

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