"People don't get what a big deal" the war on drugs is, he says.
Josh HarkinsonMay 9, 2016 6:00 AM
California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is the only statewide leader who has endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.
Last week, backers of an initiative to legalize marijuana in California declared that they'd collected enough signatures to place it on the November ballot. The news was announced by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, a declared 2018 gubernatorial candidate best known nationally for using his power as San Francisco's mayor to greenlight same-sex marriages long before courts had sanctioned the practice.
"If the war on drugs was a scientific war, it would have collapsed under its own weight years ago."
That experience has encouraged Newsom to take bold positions on other social issues, including drug policy reform. I sat down with Newsom in downtown San Francisco to talk about legalization, his college bong photos (it's not what you think), and how the experiences of other legal-pot states helped him craft the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.
Mother Jones: You have the distinction of being the only statewide office holder who supports legalization.
Gavin Newsom: It's unfortunate. That’s not an indictment of my colleagues, it's an indictment of the politics. The war on drugs is a political war, not a scientific war. If it was a scientific war, it would have collapsed under its own weight years ago.
In California, they have seven times the electoral clout of white Republicans.
Josh HarkinsonMay 3, 2016 6:00 AM
Call it justicia divina.
"If Trump is going to be held under 1,237, it will largely be the result of Latino Republicans [in California] voting against his candidacy."
After serving for months as punching bags for Republican candidates, Latinos may ultimately decide the outcome of the race. An upcoming report from two GOP consulting firms argues that Latino votes in California could prove decisive in 11 of the state's 53 congressional districts—a swath that confers more delegates than 20 other states combined. "If Trump is going to be held under 1,237"—the number of delegates needed to avoid a contested convention—"it will largely be the result of Latino Republicans voting against his candidacy," says Mike Madrid, whose firm, Grassroots Lab, co-authored the report with the GOP analytics firm Murphy Nasica.
Latino Republicans have far more clout than their numbers would suggest. Fewer than 1 in 5 California GOPers is Latino, but Madrid calculates that their primary votes, on average, will be worth a staggering 6.5 times more than those of the average white voter.
This situation stems from the state GOP's quirky rules. Each congressional district confers three delegates in a winner-take-all election, regardless of how many Republicans live there. So a majority-white district in Orange County with 166,000 Republicans is worth the same as a majority-Latino one in East Lost Angeles with just 30,000 Republicans. In other words, those Republicans living in Democratic districts have the most powerful votes, and a disproportionate number of those Republicans, Madrid calculates, are Latinos.
"Cruz has built his entire operation in appealing to Southern, white evangelicals."
"Finding Latino Republicans in these districts is like finding the Holy Grail," he says. "The irony is that those votes have become the most effective and valuable for amassing delegates, but they are extremely hard to find because the party has not been there [in these areas] for 25 years."
The Cruz campaign has invested heavily in targeting Latino-heavy districts in the Central Valley, Los Angeles County, and east of San Diego, with phone banking and precinct walking. "We are the only campaign that has the organization to do it," says Mike Schroeder, the campaign's California co-chair. "It's not complicated; it's simple, basic, nuts-and-bolts politics."
But it's also an uphill climb for an ultraconservative candidate like Cruz, who has staked out positions on immigration nearly identical to Trump's. Cruz's lead among Latino Republicans in California stands at a mere 4 percent and is unlikely to widen much before the June 7 primary, Madrid speculates. "Cruz has built his entire operation in appealing to Southern, white evangelicals," he says. "It's too late to pivot."
"I have never seen negatives that high," says a Latino Republican consultant.
Josh HarkinsonMay 2, 2016 6:00 AM
A protester at the California GOP convention, where Trump spoke on Friday
In 1994, California Gov. Pete Wilson ran a television ad showing Mexican immigrants dashing across the border as a voice declared, "They keep coming: Two million illegal immigrants in California." Wilson's short-term gain—he won both reelection and a ballot measure denying state services to undocumented immigrants—was soon overcome by a Latino backlash that transformed California into an overwhelmingly Democratic state.
So it was more than a little bit rich to see Wilson use a surprise visit at California's Republican convention on Saturday to endorse Sen. Ted Cruz, warning that the nomination of Donald Trump could spell ruin for the state GOP. Cruz "is not anti-immigrant," Wilson said, an implicit jab at Trump. "He, as I am, is for legal immigration of the kind that made this country great. And I might point out that he is hardly anti-Latino."
At the California GOP convention, he claims that endangered Delta smelt "go great with cheese and crackers."
Josh HarkinsonApr. 29, 2016 3:00 PM
This endangered smelt makes for a great hors d'ouvre, according to Cruz
With California's unusually high-stakes primary just weeks away, the top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination have descended on their party's state convention in Burlingame, a suburban enclave 16 miles south of San Francisco. This weekend's convention will be a key opportunity for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich: For the first time in at least a half century, the GOP presidential nomination will hinge on who Californians vote for in the state's June 7 primary. This has empowered local GOP officials, some of whom have toiled in obscurity for years, running quixotic candidates against Nancy Pelosi or denouncing local climate-change laws in Santa Cruz. Suddenly, these GOP officials now possess valuable connections with potential volunteers and local voters.
I have a ticket to the convention and will be posting live updates here.
Perhaps the funniest part of the Cruz speech was when he claimed that "Carly terrifies Hillary Clinton."
Technology aimed at improving safety for cops and private gun owners gets a push from the White House.
Josh HarkinsonApr. 29, 2016 2:38 PM
On Friday, President Barack Obama released a plan for the federal government to promote the development of smart-gun technology. The guns, also known as "personalized firearms," employ biometric or other sensor technologies to prevent them from being fired by anyone other than their owners.
"Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen, misused, or discharged accidentally," Obama said in a Facebook post. "As long as we've got the technology to prevent a criminal from stealing and using your smartphone, then we should be able to prevent the wrong person from pulling a trigger on a gun."
Obama began advocating smart guns in January, as part of his latest push to confront America's costly gun violence crisis. He ordered the departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security to develop a strategy to promote the technologies and expedite government procurement of the weapons. The report released Friday details the following initiatives:
By October, the departments of Justice and Homeland Security will establish requirements that smart-gun manufacturers need to meet in order for their guns to be purchased by law enforcement agencies. They will also identify agencies willing to participate in a smart-gun pilot program.
The Department of Defense will help manufacturers test smart-gun technologies at the US Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland. Manufacturers will be eligible to win cash prizes for successful designs.
The Department of Justice has authorized agencies to apply certain federal grants to the purchase of smart guns.
Gun companies first pursued smart guns in the 1990s, in part at the urging of the Clinton administration. Colt, Smith & Wesson, and O.F. Mossberg & Sons developed prototypes. The products were shelved, however, when market research showed consumers didn't trust the weapons—and after the National Rifle Association and other gun rights activists denounced the companies for a product they claimed was a Trojan horse for gun control.
The recent rise in mass shootings has helped renew interest in smart guns, including among investors in Silicon Valley. The Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, created by angel investor Ron Conway after the 2012 Newtown massacre, has handed out about $1 million in funding to gun safety startups. One grant recipient was Jonathan Mossberg, a former Mossberg & Sons VP and the developer of the iGun, a shotgun that will only fire if the shooter is wearing a special ring. Mossberg, who is working on miniaturizing his technology for handguns, told me by phone on Friday that Obama's efforts could "raise a whole lot of interest and give people a sense of this market."
By one estimate, smart guns may be a $1 billion slice of the industry. The White House initiative could help create more opportunity in the major market for supplying law enforcement agencies. Mossberg and a handful of other smart-gun developers have long been trying to get police departments interested in their weapons; an estimated 5 to 10 percent of police deaths occur when officers' own firearms are used against them. Some law enforcement leaders have shown support for adopting the technology, including San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.
But strong opposition continues: The NRA remains sharply critical of Obama's policy, which suggests the gun industry is likely to follow suit and ignore efforts on the technology. The Fraternal Order of Police, a national interest group representing the rank and file, is also signaling skepticism. "Police officers in general, federal officers in particular, shouldn't be asked to be guinea pigs in evaluating a firearm nobody's even seen yet," FOP Director James Pasco told Politico. "We have some very, very serious questions." (Politico failed to note that a charity run by the FOP has received at least $125,000 since 2010 from another conservative gun lobbying group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation.)
Obama on Friday also announced several other gun safety initiatives, including a proposed rule requiring the Social Security Administration to better report mental-illness information to the federal background check system, and a gun violence prevention conference to be hosted by the White House in May.