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Government

Gavin Newsom Makes "Big Splash" In First 100 Days As California Governor..But Can He Follow Through?

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Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
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One hundred days ago, Gavin Newsom was sworn in as California’s 40th governor.

Newsom: “Now, let’s get to work. Thank you all very much!” (0:03 + applause = 0:05 total)

He’s had an eventful start: near-constant battles with President Trump … and unexpected events like PG&E’s bankruptcy. He’s also filled his opening months with splashy announcements — some of which might not be as bold as they first appeared. Capital Public Radio’s Ben Adler reports as part of our California Dream series.

In his first hundred days, Gavin Newsom has grabbed a lot of headlines.

1 Newsom montage

HSR at SOTS: “Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A.”

National Guard presser: “…are now directing the redeployment of our National Guard from the border…”

Delta Tunnels at SOTS: “I do not support the twin tunnels!” (applause)

Death Penalty presser: “...an executive order advancing a moratorium on the death penalty in California.” (0:23 combined)

But in each of these cases, there was somewhat less than met the eye — or ear, if you will.

High-speed rail? A closer look in the days that followed revealed that Newsom didn’t really change too much.

The National Guard redeployment? Newsom left about a third of the troops at the border to fight drug smuggling.

Cutting the Delta Tunnels project down from two to one? Former Governor Jerry Brown’s administration was already moving that way.

And the death penalty moratorium? California hasn’t executed an inmate since 2006.

2a Newsom in CapRadio’s 100-day interview: “I think those are overdue healthy conversations that add a little bit more nuance and specificity.”

In an interview this week, Newsom said it would’ve been easier to dodge some of those controversial issues. Instead, he argues, he’s trying to be more transparent … and bold.

2b Newsom in CapRadio’s 100-day interview: “If there's any point I'm trying to make, is that we're not unwilling to lean in to some of these vexing issues.” (0:06)

Some of his former colleagues at San Francisco City Hall say this is exactly what Newsom did when he was mayor.

3 Ammiano: “It’s similar in the splashy part.” (0:02)

That’s Tom Ammiano, a former San Francisco supervisor and state assemblyman. He says Newsom was splashy both when he delivered on his promises — like when he issued same-sex marriage licenses …  and when he didn’t follow through — like, in Ammiano’s opinion, Newsom’s efforts to address homelessness.

So, now that he’s governor…

4 Ammiano: “Is there going to be follow-up? Will he be able to withstand the pressures to change, modify or lighten up? Which he did a lot as mayor – would promise one thing and then in the end not be supportive of it.” (0:16)

Newsom’s allies from his time as mayor acknowledge his “big splash” style. But they argue that even if his initial actions are incremental, he often gets there in end. Here’s former Supervisor Angela Alioto:

5 Alioto: “Listen, Gavin is a flashy guy. I mean, it’s hard to get around that. He’s not dull. He’ll never be dull. … But the question is, as an elected official of the people, does he live up to what he says? And I believe he always has.” (0:14)

Of course, Newsom is hardly the first Californian to govern by splash.

6 Schwarzenegger: “I don’t want to move boxes around. I want to blow them up!” (applause, fades at 0:06)

Margita (hard G) Thompson served as press secretary to former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She says Newsom, like her old boss, wants to play on the world stage.

7 Thompson: “I see that passion and zeal for being the leader of the pack, and certainly that’s similar to Gov. Schwarzenegger. But — and this is something I just feel in my gut — from a stylistic perspective, he just seems more cautious.” (0:14)

Thompson says maybe that’s because of a little thing called the U.S. Constitution: Schwarzenegger couldn’t run for president.

But it likely won’t be the big splashes that make or break Newsom’s governorship. It’ll be whether he can convince voters that he followed through on his promises.

Ben Adler, CapRadio news.

In Sacramento, I’m Ben Adler.

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