“Just consider the Republican candidates running for office,” Newsom told ABC7 News anchor Liz Kreutz on Thursday. “Not only do they all share one thing in common, their support for Trump. But they also support eliminating mask mandates in our public schools, eliminating vaccine verifications.”
“The leading candidate Larry Elder says he’ll do that day one,” he continued. “So, I have no interest in taking us off the COVID cliff.”
The interview comes as Newsom continues ramping up his campaign to hold onto the governorship as the Sept. 14 recall election looms.
He has long been criticized for his handling of the pandemic, with recall challengers such as Larry Elder slamming him for decimating businesses and requiring students wear masks in the classroom.
Newsom, however, defended how he reopened schools in the state, saying the pandemic was “difficult times.”
“You have to remind yourself. December, January, February were difficult times in terms of the headwinds, the challenges we had with COVID in that winter surge, that fall surge, particularly in Southern California,” he said. “We got a majority of schools to reopen by the end of the school year.”
“Look, it’s a difficult job balancing, managing the needs, desires, aspirations of 40 million Americans,” he added when pressed for specifics on any mistakes he may have made during the pandemic. “But I’m very proud of what we’ve done on COVID. It’s been challenging, it’s been stressful, but I think it’s important … our approach of being the first to lead with the stay at home order, I believe saved lives.”
He also said that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who became governor of the state in 2003 after a recall election, has advised him ahead of the Sept. 14 vote.
“I appreciate his advice and counsel,” he said of Schwarzenegger. “All the former governors have been very helpful throughout this pandemic.”
Elder, meanwhile, has vowed to do away vaccine and face mask mandates if he is elected governor.
“This man that I’m going to defeat on September 14, he shut down the state in the most severe way than any of the other 49 governors have,” Elder told an audience in a San Jose church last week. “When I get elected, assuming there are still face mask mandates and vaccine mandates, they will be repealed right away and then I’ll break for breakfast.”
The embattled governor held his first official campaign event last week, where he warned voters to vote “no” on recall ballots and said that Elder is more right-wing than former President Donald Trump.
“He’s to the right of Donald Trump. To the right of Donald Trump. That’s what’s at stake in this election and don’t think for a second you can’t do damage in that role. Think about the judges he could appoint. Who would he have appointed to replace Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate? How would that impact the trajectory of this country. What would this mean for the future of the Democratic party in our efforts to keep the House of Representatives,” Newsom said last Friday in San Francisco.
The ballots began shipping out to voters this week, and ask who of the 46 candidates should replace Newsom.
“Just vote no. You don’t even have to touch the other part. The other part is irrelevant. Don’t even touch it. Simple no. This is about the easiest ballot you ever had to fill out. Just vote no. No on the recall,” Newsom said of the ballots last week.
Elder currently leads the pack of Republican candidates looking to replace Newsom, receiving 18% support from likely voters in a July poll. While former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox both received 10% support in the poll.
Other polls show the recall election overall in a dead heat, with a Sunday poll showing that 52% of likely voters said Newsom should not be ousted, while 48% called for him to be recalled.