California governor travels to Texas amid feud with GOP

California Governor Gavin Newsom will travel to Texas on Saturday, venturing into the territory of one of his main political foils while seeking to raise his own profile amid his state’s uncompetitive re-election campaign.

Newsom is headed for an easy victory for a second term as governor of the country’s most populous state, facing a lesser-known and underfunded Republican challenger a year after defeating a recall attempt.

With little pressure at home, Newsom has been looking elsewhere to spend some of the $23 million he has in his campaign account. So far, he has bought TV commercials in Florida urging people to move to California, newspaper ads in Texas denouncing the state’s lax gun laws, and billboards in seven conservative states—including Texas—that urge women to come to California if they need an abortion.

Now, Newsom is scheduled to speak at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas, what he called a lecture “about what the state’s most populous state can teach 49 others — including (Texas).”

Newsom’s action came after he blamed his own political parties for being too lenient, urging them to stand firmer in light of the conservatives’ recent victory in the US Supreme Court that overturned federal abortion protections and relaxed gun restrictions.

“Our donors are asking for more than that,” Newsom told reporters last week when asked if his concern for other states suggested he was not taking his re-election campaign seriously. “People in the state of California are asking for more leadership in this space.”

Newsom spent most of the week in New York City, speaking at various climate change conferences while taking time to poke fun at the conservative governor who he said was “doubling down on stupidity.” He specifically called out Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott Tuesday during a brief interview at the Clinton Global Initiative, saying he and other Republican governors were “as stupid as they want to be.”

Last week, Newsom asked the US Department of Justice to investigate Abbot and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for transporting migrants to other states, something Newsom called a “shame.” DeSantis rejected Newsom’s request at a press conference, saying “Newsom’s hair gel interfered with his brain function.”

Newsom hit back on Twitter, challenging DeSantis to a debate, stating: “I’ll bring my hair gel. You brought your hairspray.”

Nationally, Democratic President Joe Biden has been less vocal in this political battle, creating an opening for someone like Newsom to step in and confront the most vocal Republican leaders, said Eric Schickler, co-director of the Institute of Government Studies at the University of California-Berkeley.

“(Biden) is less out there in many ways than many previous presidents,” said Schickler. “It creates a kind of vacuum where ambitious Democrats who want to be in the national conversation have that kind of space to maybe say things they want Biden to say that he doesn’t feel fit to say as president or just isn’t his style. To do.”

Newsom’s aggressiveness could finally help Abbott, who is locked in a more competitive race with former congressman Beto O’Rourke. Kenneth Grasso, a professor of political science at Texas State University, said there was concern among some in the Republican Party that Abbott was “not conservative enough.” Newsom’s attack on Abbott “just helped him with those guys,” Grasso said.

“If you emphasize that they are right-wing, you call them extremists, use that kind of language, all you will do is increase their popularity in their own base,” he said.

Despite that risk, the Texas Democrats seem to welcome Newsom’s attention.

“I love this guy,” Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said of Newsom. “I love the way he shows the contrast between what you do in California and what is the narrow-minded, extremist position that goes on here in the state of Texas.”