California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) made national news for his recent TV ad campaign encouraging Floridians to move to California based on his claim that the Golden State is a bastion of freedom. Newsom’s Florida ads have since been the subject of mockery and derision, with Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and others pointing out California has lost thousands of former residents and millions of dollars of wealth to Florida in recent years. In fact, from 2019 to 2020 alone, California saw a net outmigration of more than 11,500 people to Florida, who took $1.9 billion in annual income with them.
“While Governor Newsom breaks his own laws to dine at French Laundry as ordinary Californians suffer under his rule, he continues to lose the remaining sane residents of his state. Where do they go? They come to Florida,” said Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy at the James Madison Institute, a Florida-based think tank. “Today, 30 individuals and $5.5 million in annual income will leave California and travel 2,700 miles – destined for the Sunshine State. Another 30 people and $5.5 million will do the same tomorrow.”
Many have questioned the prudence of using campaign cash for ads on the other side of the country whose main objective, as some see it, is to troll another governor. While even Newsom’s critics concede he is free to spend campaign cash trying to irk a potential 2024 opponent, there is bipartisan, cross-ideological agreement that it would be improper to spend California taxpayer dollars on what amounts to trolling of red states. Yet that is likely what Newsom will soon do in defense of a new state law that utilizes an enforcement mechanism which Newsom himself describes as unjust.
Newsom was one of the most vocal critics of Senate Bill 8, a 2021 Texas law that prohibits abortions after cardiac activity is detected, which is typically around the sixth week of pregnancy. He and other critics of that Texas law lambasted the way in which it permitted private citizens to file lawsuits against those believed to have had an illegal abortion.
Despite his previous criticism of the Texas abortion law, Governor Newsom recently signed a gun control bill based on the same private right of action enforcement mechanism that was the focus of Newsom’s critique of SB 8. Senate Bill 1327, which Newsom signed on July 22, now permits Californians to sue anyone who sells, transports, distributes, or manufactures illegal firearms. Newsom has placed full page ads touting SB 1327 in multiple newspapers not in California, but Texas.
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“If [Texas Gov. Greg Abbott] truly wants to protect the right to life, he should follow California’s lead,” Newsom tweeted out the day he signed SB 1327, along with a copy of the ad he ran in Texas papers.
The Texas newspaper ads, like the Florida TV ads, were paid for by Newsom’s campaign. But California taxpayers will likely soon begin paying for part of Newsom’s red state trolling venture. That’s because California’s new gun law will likely be challenged in court. When that happens, it will be California taxpayers, not the Newsom campaign, who will cover the legal costs to defend a law whose enforcement mechanism has been denounced by Newsom.
“That’s why we call the Governor ‘Poser in Chief.’ Most of what he does is for purely political reasons,” said Jon Coupal, president of California’s largest taxpayer organization, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, of Newsom. “He cares not one whit for citizen taxpayers which goes a long way in explaining the accelerated outmigration from California by the state’s middle class.”
Opposition to California’s new gun control law is not limited to Republicans and conservatives. “The problem with this bill is the same problem as the Texas anti-abortion law it mimics,” ACLU California Action wrote in a letter to legislators in opposition to SB 1327, adding “it creates an end run around the essential function of the courts to ensure that constitutional rights are protected.”
Aside from the policy, legislative, and legal arguments at hand, many believe Newsom’s Texas and Florida ad buys are part of an effort to boost the California governor’s national profile in the lead up to a potential presidential bid in 2024. There is nothing wrong with spending campaign cash on ads to boost a candidate. The problem comes when taxpayers are forced to cover the costs for such campaigning. California taxpayers will effectively be forced to do just that, critics contend, when the legislative trolling that is SB 1327 is challenged in court.
Blue state trolling of red states via legislation or other official action has been practiced by prominent politicians other than Newsom. In July 2020, less than 13 months before he would end up resigning, then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) led a task force trip to Savannah, Georgia to, as Cuomo’s office put it, “help the city in the fight against COVID-19.”
“What did we do in New York? We did it as a science. We did it on the numbers. We did on the data,” Cuomo said of his message to local officials in Georgia. “I’ve been speaking with the mayor…we’ll tell them about what we did and will help them.”
Trolling via legislation or other official state action is done by both Democrats and Republicans. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, for example, have been sending busloads of illegal immigrants to New York City and Washington, D.C.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) says the immigrants being bused to the Big Apple are straining the social safety net and has pleaded for “additional federal resources immediately.” Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), meanwhile, has requested help from the National Guard.
When it comes to trolling by legislation or executive action, much of it is about political messaging. But, as recent examples demonstrate, it can also entail substantive policy change and make important points more salient to the public.