Newsom launches national campaign to fight ‘authoritarian leaders’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday launched a statewide campaign to counter the GOP agenda, announcing that he was setting out to “lead the fight in states where freedom is most under attack.”

The Democratic governor transferred $10 million of his state campaign funds to a new federal political action committee dubbed the “Campaign for Democracy,” which he said was created to empower Democrats and roll back Republican leaders who “Ban books”, “kidnap migrants”. and “Foster Racism” ahead of the 2024 election.

“What’s happening in these red states, that’s not us,” Newsom said a new campaign video. “It’s un-American. It’s undemocratic, and all it takes to fight back is a willingness to stand toe to toe and say enough is enough.

Newsom’s political advisers said he plans to travel to Republican-controlled Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama with his wife and children beginning this weekend.

The move reinforces Newsom’s role in America’s culture wars as a champion of the left at a time when many see him as a future presidential nominee. Newsom, who denies having White House ambitions, has used his bullying pulpit in California to campaign for abortion, immigrant and LGBTQ rights, which are under attack in many red states.

Last summer, he ran ads in Florida, urging Flordians to “join us in California where we still believe in freedom.” He sponsored billboards in seven states with the most restrictive abortion laws, telling women there that California “will defend your right to make decisions about your own health.”

The new campaign is the latest effort in Newsom’s increasingly confrontational pattern of taking its messages beyond California. It also gives the governor the ability to build infrastructure to reach Democratic voters and donors nationally. Nathan Click, a spokesman for the governor, said the campaign raised money from donors in 50 states.

“He’s building something that fills a huge, dangerous void in the Democratic Party,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican political adviser. “He’s trying to bring the Democratic Party together in a united front, and there’s no better way to do that.”

Madrid co-founded and has since exited an organization called the Lincoln Project, set up as a Republican force to counter former President Trump. He said Democrats have not stepped up to keep up with the “right-wing media echo chamber” at the national level. Through social media and conservative media, Republicans were able to drive a narrative and mobilize voters across the country.

“While it didn’t help them build a majority, it certainly radicalized a large segment of the American public,” Madrid said. “Democrats don’t have that at all.”

Newsom’s campaign gives him an opportunity “to go right into the belly of the beast,” Madrid said, to speak about the issues he’s been open about in California and to review the narrative the GOP is in sold red states.

While Madrid and others don’t think Newsom would challenge Biden, the move will help the governor build his brand should Biden not seek re-election or for future presidential campaigns.

Newsom’s new campaign video contrasts clips of controversial GOP figures including Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders with himself and his family during the well-choreographed “People’s March” at his 2023 inauguration.

The governor’s political strategists said he intends to use his campaign to help Democrats up and down the election in 2024, while focusing on deep red states.

Click said Newsom plans to meet in Alabama with Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney whose work trying to change the criminal justice system was portrayed in the 2019 film Just Mercy.

Stevenson heads the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative and was an influential figure in Newsom’s work against the death penalty.

Newsom described speaking with Stevenson in 2019, when the newly installed governor announced a moratorium on California’s dealth penalty.

“I spoke to Bryan Stevenson — which is something everyone should spend time speaking to Bryan Stevenson — and he made a point that he has made on many, many occasions.” Newsom said at the time.

“And it just… hit a nerve. He said: “It’s not about the death penalty, whether people deserve to die for their heinous deeds. The question really is, do we have the right to kill?’” Newsom said. “It’s a deep and existential question, and I don’t think we do.”

In Arkansas, he will meet with high school students who have opposed Sanders’ education reforms, Click said. News supported her Democratic opponent Chris Jones in his race against Sanders last year.

Newsom is also in Mississippi meeting with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who has been campaigning against his own GOP-controlled state legislature.

“He puts his money where his mouth is,” Click said. “He goes to places where these attacks on liberties and rights are not academic issues and helps local leaders who are fighting back.”

Laurel Rosenhall, director of the Sacramento office, contributed to this report.

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