(CN) — In a grocery store parking lot in Capitola, California, Steve Krill — a new resident of the Santa Cruz County town — loaded his purchases into his vehicle. He also had some choice words for Governor Gavin Newsom.
“I don’t think he has the people’s interest at heart,” Krill, who declined to give his real last name so as not to offend his new neighbors, said. “He’s out for himself only while he manages a controlled collapse of the economy.”
He expressed particular frustration about the latest round of stay-at-home orders — which have not yet been implemented in Santa Cruz County — and the closure of outdoor spaces from al fresco dining to children’s playgrounds (the state quietly changed its provision playgrounds Wednesday).
He’s not alone.
People up and down the state have complained the new orders punish businesses and families, while those who are and are not exempt appears largely arbitrary.
Angela Marsden, the owner of the Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill in the Los Angeles County city of Sherman Oaks posted a viral video showing her closed-up outdoor dining area next to an expansive outdoor dining area for an active film shoot.
"How can you tell me that this is dangerous, but right next to me ... that's safe?" Marsden said in the Facebook video. "Mayor Garcetti and Gavin Newsom is responsible for every single person that doesn't have unemployment, that doesn't have a job, and all the businesses that are going under.”
Small businesses aren’t the only ones feeling the pain and lashing out.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who tussled with Alameda County public health officials this past May regarding the reopening of his auto manufacturing plant, threatened to leave California. He made good on the threat this week, officially announcing he had moved to Texas.
He had a parting shot for California and its officials.
“If a team is winning for too long, they tend to get complacent,” Musk said. “California has been winning for a long time, and I think they’re taking it for granted.”
Political experts believe the coronavirus crisis has left Newsom vulnerable, halfway through his first term as governor.
“Many people aren’t happy about the extent of the shutdown orders and that is an ongoing vulnerability for Newsom,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.
Pitney said Newsom was fortunate he did not face a well-financed and widely known gubernatorial candidate in 2018, even as he benefitted from California voters’ deep dislike of President Donald Trump and a Republican Party that facilitated his rise.
But those factors could change in 2022, Pitney said, as outgoing San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer, a moderate Republican, has indicated he is ready and willing to run against Newsom. Pitney said many in the GOP think Falconer’s candidacy could be viable.
Thad Kousser, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, agreed.
“When you are running for governor or Senate there is always an opportunity to break through the national noise,” Kousser said. “In California, a Republican governor could always be viable.”
It’s happened before.
The last time California gave its electoral votes to a Republican president was 1988, when George H.W. Bush earned the votes of its then-47 electors (the state now has 54).
But California has elected a Republican governor four times since then, including Pete Wilson twice in the 1990 and Arnold Schwarzenegger twice in the 2000s. Critics of Newsom point to the French Laundry scandal, where Newsom was photographed eating dinner at the famed Napa Valley eatery with a collection of members from other households, including prominent lobbyists from California’s medical industry.