Where Is Gavin Newsom, California’s Governor?
He’s in the office, according to increasingly frustrated staff members. But his critics on Twitter aren’t buying it.,
Two weeks ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would be leading a delegation to the U.N. climate change summit in Scotland. Four days later, his office abruptly announced he had changed his mind.
“Family obligations” was all his office would say, refusing to publicly elaborate in a decision that, times being what they are, unleashed a barrage of conspiracy theories. Was the governor having a bad reaction to the Covid-19 booster shot he had just gotten? Were any of his children — he has four ages 12 and under — infected again with the coronavirus? No and no, Capitol sources said.
Allies of the governor noted that most parents would understand why a couple with four small children might not want to take an extended trip to Glasgow over Halloween. California environmentalists also suggested that he might not be so wrong to skip the annual climate conference, which many of them view as a jet-fuel-wasting spectacle.
In theory, California conservatives should also have welcomed the decision. When it appeared the governor might be summit-bound, Kevin Kiley, a Republican assemblyman who challenged the governor in the September recall election, wrote in a blog post that “in the absence of our jet-setting governor,” he was requesting a special session on the port crisis, holding oversight hearings on pandemic unemployment fraud, holding town hall events on the governor’s vaccine mandate for schoolchildren and calling for hearings on mask mandates in elementary school classrooms.
“If we don’t fight for California,” Kiley said, “no one will.”
In any case, the governor — who was to have arrived at the summit on Nov. 1 and taken a Nov. 4 return flight — stayed home, working at his Capitol office, according to his spokeswoman, Erin Mellon. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, the former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, led the California delegation instead. Newsom released pictures of his family (dressed as pirates) at Halloween, announced some appointments and sent out some election night encouragement to fellow Democrats.
Nevertheless, as days passed with no public appearances, chatter persisted.
“I don’t know where Gavin Newsom is and won’t speculate,” Kiley tweeted on Sunday. “But it’s pretty strange for the Governor to disappear for 11 days without explanation.”
“Where’s Gavin?” demanded Charlie Kirk, the head of the right-wing activist group Turning Point U.S.A.
“It’s funny how certain folks can’t handle truth,” Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the governor’s wife, shot back in a tweet that was subsequently deleted. “When someone cancels something, maybe they’re just in the office working; maybe in their free time they’re at home with their family, at their kids’ sports matches, or dining out with their wife. Please stop hating and get a life.”
By Monday, “Gavin Newsom” was trending on Twitter. Unsubstantiated conjecture included Bell’s palsy, death and that he “and Kamala Harris are in an undisclosed secret location.” Meanwhile, Vogue posted a photo spread from the lavish San Francisco wedding on Saturday of the heiress Ivy Getty, a family friend of Newsom, officiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Guests in the background of at least one photo included the governor.
During a call with reporters, California senators at the Glasgow climate summit became increasingly frustrated with questions about the governor’s absence — once, twice and then a third time. Robert Hertzberg, a Democratic senator from Van Nuys, said the delegation got a heads-up that “a family issue” would keep Newsom from joining them in Scotland. He added that he didn’t know which events the governor would tune into virtually this week.
“There is nobody in California who wanted to be at this conference more than Gavin Newsom,” Hertzberg said on Monday. “But we’re all human beings, man, we’re all human beings — something clearly — he’s with his family. I don’t think it’s appropriate to further dig into it. I take him at face value. Whatever it is, it is. And sometimes you need to stay home.”
By the end of the day, the governor’s office had issued a statement: “Last week Governor Newsom worked in the Capitol with staff on urgent issues including Covid-19 vaccines for kids, boosters, ports, the forthcoming state budget and California’s continued economic recovery. He will have public events this week related to the economy and vaccines.”
In an interview, Mellon said that the governor attended the Getty wedding ceremony but not the reception; that the wedding was not the family obligation that kept him in California; that he always had been scheduled to return before the weekend; that he had been in his office, alive and well, all day on Monday; and that she had spent an hour and a half with him.
No matter. As afternoon turned to evening in California, tweeters were still tweeting.
“Where is Gavin Newsom?” Kirk, the conservative activist, demanded — again.
If you read one story, make it this
Vaccinated foreign travelers can again enter the country as restrictions that had kept families separated for months are lifted.
The rest of the news
Supreme Court case: The U.S. Supreme Court is wrestling with a suit against the F.B.I. for spying on Muslims in Southern California.
Wildfires: A New Yorker reporter embedded with firefighters battling the Dixie fire, one of the largest blazes in California history. Read more.
Plus, millions have moved to rural California to find cheaper housing in recent decades. Yet this migration is partly why recent wildfires have caused so much destruction, The Wall Street Journal reports.
A “magic recipe” for reducing homelessness: Hotels that emptied during Covid are providing a new way to address California’s housing crisis, Politico reports.
Powell’s Books: Portland’s landmark store survived Amazon. Can it reinvent itself after the pandemic?
Capitol rioter seeks asylum: Evan Neumann, a 48-year-old man from Mill Valley wanted for six crimes associated with the Jan. 6 insurrection, is seeking asylum in Belarus, BuzzFeed News reports.
Redistricting in San Diego: Initial maps for California’s electoral districts that are based on the latest census show potential shifts to the status quo in San Diego, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Pushback to Covid-19 vaccines rules: On Monday, the day Los Angeles began enforcing its strict vaccination verification rules for businesses, thousands gathered in protest outside City Hall, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Embryos swapped: A couple is suing the California Center for Reproductive Health, based in Los Angeles, after a mix-up at the fertility clinic caused two women to carry and deliver each other’s babies, The Associated Press reports.
Repopulating endangered lizards: The Fresno Chaffee Zoo, in partnership with state organizations, is working to hatch new blunt-nosed leopard lizards, ABC 30 reports.
Covid-19 death: A 46-year-old police officer in San Francisco died of the coronavirus, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The man had reportedly not been vaccinated against the virus.
Sacramento homelessness: Researchers estimate that the homeless population in Sacramento County has doubled since 2019, The Sacramento Bee reports.
What you get
What we’re eating
Instant pot tomato-braised chickpeas with tahini.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s travel tip comes from Jessica Northrup, a reader who lives in San Diego. Jessica recommends Borrego Springs on the outskirts of San Diego County:
“It’s probably not a spot people would think to go if they are traveling to San Diego. A highlight includes giant bronze animal sculptures that emerge from the sand throughout the area. There’s also a beautiful flower bloom that blankets the desert in the spring, terrific hikes through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, bighorn sheep and jack rabbit sightings all day long — and the desert sunsets can’t be beat. This place is amazing!”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, some good news
Once a week at twilight, dozens of people gather on Venice Beach to dance away the stress of their busy lives.
Before the pandemic, the events were held indoors, but they have been moved outside for coronavirus safety. Guidelines encourage participants to feel free of judgment and dance how they please.
“It’s my church,” one participant told The Associated Press. “It helped me get through this pandemic a huge amount.”
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Like chords that sound sad (5 letters).
Miles McKinley and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.