PODCAST: Former CA Gov. Gray Davis on Gov. Gavin Newsom's gubernatorial leadership


California Governor Gavin Newsom continues to face challenges from all sides, now adding the beleaguered EDD fraud to the list of crises Newsom needs to tackle, on top of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. David McCuan is a political scientist at Sonoma State University, and he told KCBS Radio in the midst of catastrophic events, even politicians are human and “fallible.”

“Overall, he’s navigated and managed the the pandemic pretty well,” he said.

McCuan added that Newsom has received some “pretty high approval numbers."

But Newsom’s performance thus far is only the tip of the iceberg, as the nation, including Washington D.C., will undoubtedly be watching to see how he and his team can tackle the many issues still coming the state's way.

“There are some clouds building on the horizon that portend some stormy seas,” McCuan said. “How the governor and his team ride out those incoming storms will be telling not only for his own political future, but the future for all Californians. And what is important to remember is there’s a required amount of learning on the job and putting some ‘steak behind the sizzle’ of those daily noon conferences that they hold.”

Former California Governor Gray Davis joined KCBS Radio’s “The State of California” on Wednesday to weigh in on Newsom’s gubernatorial performance, and said that he doesn’t think any governor has as many challenges on their plate as Newsom does.

“He has the pandemic, the economic fallout from that, the human fallout trying to make sure people can pay their rent (which is not always done), feed themselves,” he said. “Then obviously all the racial injustices that were unveiled during the campaign, and throw in wildfires.”

Davis added that when looking at the coronavirus numbers, Newsom has helped keep California relatively safe.

“If you look at us in comparison on a state-by-state basis, we are ranked 41st in the numbers, there are 40 states that have more infections than California per 100,000 basis,” he said. “And we’re 37th in terms of deaths, so 36 states are worse off than we are.”

Now that Sen. Kamala Harris has been elected as the Vice President, Newsom also has the task of filling her vacant seat in the Senate. Gray thinks that the first step Newsom should take is to ask Harris what kinds of qualities she thinks a candidate should have to succeed her, then to “check in” with Sen. Diane Feinstein and Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

“At the end of the day, the good news is he has so many good choices,” Gray said. “I can’t see how he could possibly go wrong.

When asked what advice he would have for Newsom moving forward, he emphasized again that he thinks Newsom is doing “a pretty good job,” and that it is actually up to county public health officers to take more restrictive measures after they are first established by the state.

“There’s a lot of cooperation back and forth between Dr. Ghaly and the county health officers,” he said. “I think you’ve got 58 public health officers and I think they’ve managed pretty well.”

This past week, Newsom dissolved the coronavirus economic task force he created earlier this year to help deal with the pandemic, which Gray was a part of.

“It did a lot of good,” he said. “Unlike a lot of task forces, we tried to solve problems as we went.”

Gray said that one problem the task force tackled was the digital divide students in the state were experiencing learning remotely.

“I think we had 100 people on the task force to contribute funds or raise funds to make sure we could buy enough mobile devices and get enough connectivity so that people in the four sections had the same opportunities to learn remotely,” he said. “And I think two thirds of what was raised to date came out of that collective effort by the governor’s task force.”

The task force was also in charge of getting the motion pictures and film back on track during the pandemic, a prevalent industry in California.

“The unions representing the theatrical trade on this task force worked directly with the people trying to hammer out an agreement and they did,” Gray said. “We now have ways in which you can film on the closed set, with a lot of procedures obviously in place.

He said that everything Newsom has accomplished as governor, so far, is poised to set the state up for success in the future.

“I think you’re going to find that when the governor makes his state of the state speech, and introduces the budget, a lot of the ideas on a variety of sectors—from housing to environmental issues, to getting the economy moving—they’re going to be incorporated in the proposals he’ll make to the legislature,” Gray said.