Gavin Newsom Says Larry Elder 'Celebrates' Texas Abortion Law, Wants Roe v. Wade Overturned

Days before California's recall election, Governor Gavin Newsom has warned that ousting him from office could put the state's abortion policies at risk, the Associated Press reported.

Newsom said that Larry Elder, his leading Republican challenger in the recall effort, is someone who "celebrates what just happened to women in Texas and is celebrating the prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade."

Newsom was referring to the new Texas law that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law also empowers civilians to enforce the measure by suing anyone who helps a woman get the procedure. Governor Greg Abbott signed the legislation in May, after the Supreme Court denied an emergency appeal to block the law, and it took effect September 1.

"The whole idea that a constitutional right, the right to choice, the right to reproductive freedom, rights of women, now are under assault—what a remarkable moment it is in American history," Newsom said this week, according to the AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Newsom Opposes Larry Elder
Citing Texas' new abortion law, California Governor Gavin Newsom said this week that Republican recall candidate Larry Elder is someone who "celebrates what just happened to women in Texas and is celebrating the prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade." Above, Elder speaks during a campaign stop on Thursday in Glendale, California. David McNew/Getty Images

The last day to vote in the recall is Tuesday, and Democrats are using stronger rhetoric to drive their voters to the polls. There are nearly two times as many registered Democrats as Republicans in the state, meaning a strong turnout should enhance Newsom's chances of surviving.

More than 7 million of California's 22 million voters already have cast ballots, and Democrats so far have made a strong showing. Meantime, recent polls show the recall failing by double digits.

If those polls are wrong and a majority of voters choose to remove Newsom, it's almost certain a Republican would take the governorship because no Democrat with significant political standing is among the 46 replacement candidates. The leader in that field is talk radio host Elder, a conservative Republican who opposes abortion and is seeking to become the state's first Black governor.

California and Texas are the nation's two most populous states and political opposites. California and its nearly 40 million residents are governed by Democrats who champion progressive policies on health care, workers' rights and immigration. Texas, home to about 30 million people, is led by Republicans who have been at the forefront of conservative efforts on the same topics.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren are among the national Democrats who have reinforced Newsom's message that the California race is central to the fight over the nation's values.

"Governors matter," Warren said at a rally with Newsom last weekend after discussing the Texas law. "We can look away while they take women's rights...or we can fight back."

Leaders in California and Texas have a history of using each other's state as a political tool. In 2013, then-Texas Governor Rick Perry cut a radio ad encouraging California businesses to decamp for Texas and its lower taxes and then followed it up with a recruiting trip to the state. Former California Governor Jerry Brown dismissed the effort as "barely a fart."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has gloated about some businesses, including Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprises, moving their headquarters from California to his state during the pandemic. California's population growth has slowed in the past decade, and so the state lost a congressional seat for the first time while Texas kept growing fast and gained two.

"Texas policies attract people more than any other state," Abbott tweeted recently, linking to a story about California businesses leaving the state.

Ray Sullivan, who was chief of staff to Perry, said it makes sense for political leaders in the two states to do battle.

"Texas is the biggest, boldest, best-known Republican-led state in the country. California is the biggest, loudest, high-profile liberal state in the country," he said.

Sullivan said Newsom and fellow Democrats are using scare tactics by bringing up Texas's abortion law.

"California is not going to become socially conservative just because they remove their governor," he said, noting the state Legislature would still be overwhelmingly Democratic.

California Democrats dispute that. Even before the Texas ruling, California supporters of abortion rights were warning voters that a Republican governor could put that access at risk by using a line-item veto to slash budget funding for reproductive health and appointing conservative judges.

"If you have a leader that's hell-bent on taking away rights, doing actions that are harmful for people in getting access to care, they'll find a way to do that," said Jodi Hicks, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. "California is not insulated from that happening either."

Even before the abortion law took effect, Newsom was drawing a sharp distinction between his handling of the pandemic and how leaders in Texas and Florida responded. Those states are governed respectively by Abbott and Ron DeSantis, who have sought to ban local mask mandates and taken a more hands-off approach to how businesses operate.

By contrast, in the early days of the pandemic Newsom imposed the nation's first statewide shutdown. More recently he has mandated that children wear masks in school and that health care and state workers be vaccinated.

Jessica Lavariega Monforti, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at California Lutheran University and an expert in voting and elections, said the contrast on abortion rights is likely to be a more potent message for voters because the pandemic contrast has long been clear. That Texas' law was allowed to take effect by the Supreme Court shocked many people, particularly after courts have put laws banning abortion or drastically restricting it on hold in 13 other states.

"Now you have to be a little bit more on your toes in the state and local arena," she said. "You can't just rely on federal institutions like the court to step in."

Harris Campaigns with Newsom
Vice President Kamala Harris joins Governor Gavin Newsom at a rally Wednesday in San Leandro, California. Noah Berger/AP Photo