This article was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom is firing off a double-barrel blast of TV attack ads aimed at fellow Democratic rivals Antonio Villaraigosa and John Chiang, all with the goal of helping Republican John Cox win the No. 2 slot in the upcoming primary.
The reason is simple. In deep-blue California, Newsom stands a better chance in the general election against a conservative Republican like Cox.
With just two weeks to go before the June 5 top-two contest, Newsom’s internal polling shows him running at about 32 percent, with Cox at 19 percent. That gives the San Diego businessman an eight-percentage-point lead over former Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, at 11 percent, and state Treasurer Chiang, at 10 percent.
Villaraigosa’s latest internal polling, however, has him at 15 percent — running neck and neck with Cox’s 17 percent.
At first blush, attacking Villaraigosa might seem the smart play to assure a Cox win.
The Newsom campaign, however, knows that Villaraigosa and Chiang are vying for the same Democratic votes, so attacking one of them might serve only to elevate the other. Hence, the two-pronged attack aimed at knocking the wind out of both of them at the same time.
“We are trying to keep them pinned on the mat,” said Newsom campaign spokesman Nathan Click.
The anti-Villaraigosa ad reminds voters that he paid a record $123,500 ethics fine for “taking thousands in illegal gifts from special interests” as L.A. mayor and that he later made millions of dollars off “a pyramid scheme (Herbalife) fined for cheating low-income Latino workers.”
The anti-Chiang ad knocks his performance as state controller, citing a 2014 report from the state auditor that he had “lost track” of $31 billion in state money.
Both campaigns say the ads are cynical and self-serving.
“Newsom will do just about anything to get elected, including selling out his own Democratic Party,” Villaraigosa campaign spokesman Luis Vizcaino said.
Chiang campaign spokesman Fabien Levy said Newsom’s hit on Chiang for losing track of money while controller was misleading.
Any problems were “corrected and identified” by the controller before the auditor’s final report was published, said Levy, adding: “Not one cent of taxpayer dollars was affected.”
The tandem Villaraigosa-Chiang hit is the latest piece of a six-week, $10 million TV ad buy executed by Newsom’s San Francisco consultants, SCN Strategies, that mixes positive and negative messages.
In addition to bashing the rival Democrats, the SCN plan also includes a backhanded TV ad aimed at helping Cox by attacking him for standing “with Donald Trump and the NRA” — knowing full well that’s exactly the kind of message that will stoke GOP turnout.
Newsom spokesman Click defended the scattershot spending, saying: “We are the only campaign that has the resources to be able to do it.”
Through the roof: Lawmakers who are once again pushing for a ban on gun shows at the Cow Palace may have an ace up their sleeves — the aging exhibition hall’s roof.
Since the mid-1980s, the state-owned Cow Palace, in Daly City at the border of San Mateo and San Francisco counties, has hosted gun shows four or five times a year. In recent years, the shows have become a flash point for gun control advocates in both counties.
“Five gun shows a year right in the heart of the Bay Area — right on the border of San Francisco,” state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said at a news conference Monday to promote his bill to ban the gun shows. “When people hear this, they are surprised and they are, frankly, horrified.”
“Our communities are trying to get more guns off of the streets, not on the streets,” said state Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, another bill backer who was with Wiener at the event, as was state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.
Twice, lawmakers pushed a ban through the state Legislature only to have it vetoed, once by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and once by Gov. Jerry Brown, who appoints the Cow Palace board.
“He didn’t want the Legislature telling his administration how to make decisions,” said former state Sen. Mark Leno, who authored two of the four previous attempts at banning gun shows.
Cow Palace officials declined to go on the record about the ban, partly out of fear of politicizing the issue.
Privately, however, they say the call for a ban comes just as the 77-year-old Cow Palace needs the state’s help to pay $8 million for a new roof. And that roof may come into play because the Legislature would have to approve the money.
In fact, Cow Palace officials were up in Sacramento lobbying for the roof repair when they first heard of the new legislative pitch to ban gun shows.
Ting, who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee, acknowledged the unusual circumstance of having the gun-show ban and new roof coming up at the same time, but said they “are different issues and will be on different tracks.”
But Leno said that in Sacramento, tracks have a habit of crossing each other — and that there would probably be “conversations.”
San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or email [email protected] Twitter: @matierandross