Monday, November 28, 2022







        Words matter, we often hear in this contentious political era when politicians frequently say things and then deny they meant what their words said.


        Words also matter in the California penal code, where the label “violent” is not thrown around as much as it obviously should be. That tag currently is not applied to many crimes most people with common sense know are violent. Some examples include assault with a deadly weapon, soliciting murder, elder and child abuse, arson, human trafficking, plus some forms of rape and forced sodomy.


        All are obviously violent, until it comes to sentencing someone who has committed one of more of these crimes.


        This has mattered a lot since the 2016 passage of Proposition 57, a pet project of then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who desperately wanted to clear thousands of convicts out of the state’s prison system.


        His initiative, passed by a 64-36 percent margin (almost 2-1), allows inmates whose crimes are not legally defined as violent to win early parole in exchange for good  behavior and other achievements like earning college degrees.


        No one knew in 2016 what the exact consequences would be. But police chiefs warned at the time that one result would be more violent crime. So part of the Proposition 57 campaign was a commitment by state legislators to expand the list of crimes considered violent. But like many other things promised by politicians, that never happened.


        One result was a gang shootout that killed six and left 12 persons injured last April in Sacramento. It eventually emerged that one of the murder suspects in that case bearing the rather ironic nickname “Smiley” Martin, had spent a mere four years in prison, despite a 10-year sentence for domestic violence and assault to commit great bodily injury – both considered “nonviolent” crimes under this state’s penal code – but not by many others.


        Even though Prop. 57 had been the project of liberals in the Legislature, the April episode caught enough attention from leftist Attorney General Rob Bonta to get him interested in having the Legislature at last follow up on its 2016 pledge to expand the list of formally defined violent crimes.


        Bonta, a former Democratic Assemblyman from Alameda who supported Prop. 57, told a reporter last fall that “Domestic violence, human trafficking, rape of an unconscious person – all of those should be discussed and potentially changed under whatever the appropriate means is for Prop. 57. I think if people are asked, ‘Is this a violent crime? Or is it not a violent crime?’ I think people will say, ‘It’s a violent crime,’ so I think those should be considered for change.”


        So should some others, like assault with a deadly weapon, soliciting murder, and forced sodomy, among others.


        It is, in short, high time to make California law and rules of imprisonment line up with common sense.


        For there’s a lot more to the crime problems Prop. 57 has caused than merely the Sacramento gunfight.


        One report presented to Orange County supervisors about one year after the initiative passed claimed that one-fourth of the first 8,000 felons released back into that county under prison realignment furthered by 57 was convicted of another crime in the year after their discharge.


        That rate just about matched prior recidivism, which some took to mean that both 57 and the reclassification of many crimes from felonies to misdemeanors under the previous Proposition 47 did not increase crime.


        And yet…some crimes have risen sharply. In San Francisco, car burglaries and other property crimes rose by 667 cases per 100,000 population in just the first year of 57. There were similar increases in Long Beach and Los Angeles.


        Although the COVID-19 pandemic saw a respite in rising crime rates, they’ve recently been going up more.


        These realities are the reason the state’s Association of Deputy District Attorneys has called 57 a “full-fledged assault on public safety.”


        The way to begin fixing that is for legislators now coming into a new session to start reclassifying obviously violent crimes as what they really are, and stop allowing early releases for many of the most dangerous convicts.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit







        For many months, there has been little or no doubt that California's five big gasoline refiners were gouging most of this state’s drivers. The question now is how much of a windfall profit tax to assess and whether to send that money directly back to people who fill their tanks regularly.


        Electric car drivers, for one example, probably don’t deserve any of the projected return of cash contemplated in a special session of the Legislature called by Gov. Gavin Newsom.


        Newsom’s move marks the first time any California governor has actually tried to stop the refiners from cheating Californians at the pump.


        Sure, there are still folks who take the side of the oil companies, claiming things like California’s high gas taxes, old and decrepit refineries that need frequent repairs and special seasonal smog-busting gas formulations are the reason for the sudden price increases that still afflict the state 10 months after February’s sudden $2-plus price increases.


        Here’s the problem with that thinking: All those factors existed long before February and were already factored for years into the prices that prevailed before, so they could not have played a role in this year’s huge price increase, no matter what refiners might say.


        This realization is the why the Legislature last fall overwhelmingly passed a new law that will force refiners to report their per-gallon gasoline profits starting at the end of January.


        For now, though, it is not all that difficult to calculate the likely profit margins for the big refiners that make 97 percent of California gas: Marathon, Valero, Phillips 66, Chevron and PBF.


        “The proof of the gouging always comes out in the companies’ profit reports,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, which has emerged as this state’s most active consumer advocacy organization.


        The group’s analyses have rarely proven wrong over the more than 30 years since it made big headlines for writing and then running the campaign for the 1988 Proposition 103, which lowered California insurance rates, made the insurance commissioner an elected official and has so far saved consumers several billion dollars.


        Over the last 20 years, says the group’s analysis of the most recent profit statements from the big refiners and their parent oil companies, California refiners averaged about 30 cents per gallon in profits and rarely cleared more than 50 cents per gallon, or about $21 per barrel. “Now,” says Court, “they are raking in more than $1 per gallon in profit. These windfall profits must be rebated to California drivers to stop oil refiners’ price gouging.


        “The reason California have paid $2.50 per gallon more for their gasoline is clearly price gouging.”


        Valero’s third quarter report revealed a lot about this. The Texas company’s net income was $2.8 billion for the third quarter of this year, ending Sept. 30. This more than quintupled the $463 million reported for the same quarter last year. Valero’s California profits were also higher than in any of its other regions around the nation and the world.


        “The oil companies must again treat Californians like customers rather than ATMs,” said Court.


        Now it’s up to state legislators to decide how much of the refiners’ new income is ordinary profit and how much is in the windfall category, the result of corporate collusion or taking advantage of artificially created shortages.


        Consumer Watchdog analysts suggest that if a 50 cent per gallon windfall profit tax were applied to the four in-state refiners that report results quarterly (Chevron does it annually), those four would owe motorists more than $930 million for excess profits in the first half of this year.


        Add in Chevron, which makes 29 percent of California gas, and the return to buyers would be well over $1 billion. Returning that would be one way to fight the inflation that has been fueled to a large degree by refiners.


        But until they passed the law demanding monthly per-gallon profit reports, legislators had always handled the oil companies with kid gloves. Now those gloves are off. We will know soon if the legislators really were serious, or whether they will quickly revert to being oil company lapdogs.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, November 21, 2022






        Only rarely does the California Public Utilities Commission, long known as the least responsive agency in state government to consumer concerns, return to the drawing board once it proposes a problem “solution.”


        That’s partly because when the utilities commission (the PUC) floats ideas, it is essentially proposing them to itself; the five commissioners charged with coming up with ideas are also the ones with the votes to impose them on every affected Californian.


        So the new rooftop solar rules the commission proposed in November are very unusual: An almost completely reworked proposal that hopes to keep rooftop energy expanding, but also to bring more equity for electricity consumers unable to pay for rooftop solar or living in apartments, condominiums and other places not suited for it.


        The originally proposed new rules, offered in late 2021, sought to cut payments by 80 percent to solar rooftop owners for excess power their panels generate which is sent to the overall state power grid, and thus increases renewable energy supplies for everyone.  They also aimed to charge rooftop solar owners a fee of about $60 per month for linking to the grid, which lets them draw power when solar linked storage batteries run dry.


        Since most solar rooftop owners pay upwards of $20,000 for panels and installation in order to avoid monthly electric bills, this plan promised to cut installations vastly. That would put about 67,000 installer and manufacturing jobs at risk, while slowing California’s march toward 100 percent renewable electricity.


        Consumer groups and solar rooftop owners howled. Soon, Gov. Gavin Newsom, who appoints PUC members to staggered six-year terms but cannot fire them once they’re confirmed by the state Senate, joined the chorus.


        So, in a virtually unprecedented move, the commissioners pulled back their plan from the brink of adoption, promising to create a revised proposal.


        The new plan would still cut what solar owners are paid for excess energy, but not as much. This is their sop to advocates for utility customers unable to afford or install rooftop solar. The new rules would apply mostly to new rooftop solar owners.


Some advocates for non-rooftop electric customers have complained they pay monthly to maintain the state’s grid, while solar owners who link to that grid for emergency use don’t help with that cost.


        At the same time, the new plan eliminates the proposed $60 monthly fee.


        So this is a compromise. It does not make anyone very happy, but was fair enough to avoid the kind of withering criticism that drew Newsom to oppose the previous proposal.


        The new plan’s exact reduction in what each solar owner can get for excess power will be based on the state’s “avoided cost” calculator, which figures how much solar owners save on electric bills each month.


        Rooftop solar advocates like the Oakland-based Center for Biological Diversity, concede the new plan is an improvement, but oppose the reductions in electricity prices paid to owners.


        The avoided cost calculator, it says, “ignores many benefits of (solar returned to the grid)…such as (improved) grid reliability, reduction in greenhouse gas and air pollution and local economic benefits including job creation.”


        That likely will not convince the commissioners, who appear bent on imposing their new plan in a scheduled Dec. 16 meeting.


        And yet, the new plan is the first sign in many years that the PUC may occasionally listen to consumers, rather than only utility companies. The commission has been widely criticized for more than 50 years for favoring companies like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric over their customers.


        This time, with all three of those companies firmly behind the original version of the new rooftop solar rules because it would have eliminated their payments to small solar owners, the PUC has bent a bit to a specific group of consumers, the residential solar owners.


        That still leaves the PUC far short of looking after the interests of most utility customers, as the new responsiveness mainly benefits a group with above-average wealth.


        Which makes the new solar metering plan an improvement, but does not lessen big doubts about the commission’s responsiveness.    


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit







Los Angeles County voters have just sent a powerful and threatening message to scofflaw sheriffs all around California: enforce the laws, even ones you don’t like, or you may not hold your office much longer.


They did this in two emphatic ways: First, they defeated the state’s leading scofflaw sheriff, Alex Villanueva, by more than 18 percentage points, over 320,000 votes. Then, a short distance down their ballots, they voted by an overwhelming 69 percent majority to allow firing of future sheriffs if 80 percent of their county’s supervisors vote for an ouster.


That local proposition, known as Measure A, specified that sheriffs can only be canned if they break laws, flagrantly neglect their duties, misappropriate funds, falsity documents or obstruct an investigation. Villanueva has been informally charged with almost all of these.


        Villanueva may have been the most obviously egregious of California’s scofflaw lawmen and women, with his well publicized refusals to enforce COVID-19 quarantines and masking, trying to obstruct the work of the county’s oversight commission, condoning deputy gangs and more, but he was far from the only sheriff exposed during the height of the pandemic.


        Refusal by sheriffs and police chiefs to enforce state law was most common during the height of Covid infections, which so far have killed more than 93,000 Californians. At the end of 2020, before Covid vaccines began cutting down cases and hospitalizations, at least two dozen law enforcement agencies were refusing to observe or enforce emergency stay-at-home, crowd size and masking orders from state and local public health officers.


        Of the five counties with the highest seven-day average Covid caseload in the week leading up to Christmas 2020, only one had taken strong enforcement measures to protect its people.


        Wherever those measures were enforced, they proved effective. Statistics show that if this state had pursued the laissez faire, everything-stays-open approach used in Florida and some other states, more than 40,000 more Californians would be dead today.


        But the scofflaw sheriffs didn’t care. Villanueva was not moved to act, nor were sheriffs in nearby Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, among others ranging as far north as Del Norte County on the Oregon border.



        But nothing happened to Villanueva or the other refusing sheriffs until it was time for Villanueva to seek reelection this fall. That’s when his political house came crashing down.


        There is little doubt former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, Villanueva’s successor, will be far more circumspect, making sure to enforce even laws that are unpopular or inconvenient, like the anti-Covid tactics. But it’s uncertain what might happen elsewhere. For example, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco was reelected outright in the June 7 primary, and so has another four years in office.


        But Measure A provides an example showing elected supervisors in other counties, who have never had much authority over sheriffs, that they, too, can bring recalcitrant law enforcement kingpins to heel. That applies to reluctant law enforcers in counties from Sacramento to Imperial near the Mexican border.


        Villanueva opposed Measure A as “an illegal motion that would allow corrupt supervisors to intimidate sheriffs from carrying out their official duties to investigate crime.” Of course, just after the November vote, he faced an investigation of his own, the local district attorney now looking into allegations that he tried to dun his deputies for campaign donations once he realized his reelection was in doubt.


        In any case, the vast majority of Los Angeles County voters did not heed Villanueva’s protestations, and he will soon be gone. Whether he is prosecuted for corruption over allegedly seeking campaign money from deputies, with the implicit threat of punishment if they did not donate, remains uncertain.


        But county supervisors who voted 4-1 to place Measure A on the ballot said they believed he was guilty of at least three of the shortcomings listed in the proposition as grounds for dismissal.


        If  Villanueva’s loss and the easy passage of Measure A doesn’t tell other sheriffs they must enforce even laws they don’t like, it’s hard to see what might.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, November 14, 2022






        Walk into a car dealership of virtually any brand and you will find price markups unheard of in almost any past era.


        At Toyota, a new Prius Prime plug-in model, carrying a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) in the low $30,000s, often sports an asking price these days about $10,000 higher, a markup of about 33 percent.


        It is not alone. Nationally, markups more than 20 percent over MSRP are common. One high average markup percentage belongs to the non-luxury Jeep Wrangler, generally priced about $8,500 above MSRP, closely followed by the Porsche Macan at $14,200 over MSRP. Both represent dealer markups of about 25 percent.


        In most cases, barring special sales that reduce the markup a bit, this means hugely higher dealer profits.


        This is pure price gouging, based on the age-old law of supply and demand.


        “As demand continues to exceed supply for popular vehicles, dealers are adding market adjustments generally ranging from $2,000 (for low-end gasoline-powered models) to $10,000,” reports the automotive research firm, whose fall survey included 1.9 million new car listings.


“Markups are highest for cars that hold their value best after they leave the dealerships.” Translation: hybrids or electric vehicles.


        In California’s biggest market area of Los Angeles, some of the highest markups belong to the Genesis GV70 luxury sport utility vehicle, generally priced slightly more than 25 percent over its MSRP. The same Genesis model also tops markups in San Diego, where dealers commonly ask 27 percent above MSRP. In the San Francisco Bay area, the biggest markups belong to the Ford Maverick pickup, at 36 percent ($8,600) over MSRP. Both the Genesis and Maverick models offer hybrid engines as options.


        The Maverick also tops all the markup averages around the nation, especially in the Philadelphia and Jacksonville areas.


        The high-tech four-door Maverick, introduced in the 2022 model year, is especially popular as a hybrid, its success partly driven by today’s high gasoline prices.


        Most dealers don’t deny taking advantage of low new-car inventories caused by supply chain shortages that often cause buyers to wait months before their car or truck of choice arrives. Overall, new car sales in California were down 16 percent in the first nine months of this year.


        But even as state legislators get set for a special session on gasoline price gouging by oil refiners, there’s not much they can do to prevent the unprecedented car price hikes.


        This is trickling down to used cars, too. The study showed huge price increases from last year to this among many used car models, the leader being the Nissan Leaf electric car, which saw an average price increase of $6,501, or 48 percent, between June 2021 and June 2022.


        The same for Chevrolet Camaros, whose used-car price rose 45 percent in one year, or $11,200. And the popular Dodge Ram 1500 rose 42 percent used, or about $12,000.


        The reason for all this: New ones are hard to find.


        The best deals, those with the smallest increases, included late-model Subaru Crosstreks, which increased $3,300, or 15 percent, in a year and the Mazda CX-3, up $3,100 or 18 percent.


        Dealers say their markups are a way to maintain profits while overall auto sales are down.


        “They have responded to market conditions by pricing cars above MSRP and making a higher profit on specific models to help offset restricted new car production,” analyst Karl Brauer told a reporter. “In this market, consumers are willing to pay well above sticker price.”


        Which means the best bottom line strategy for car buyers seeking both new and used models may be to wait. Current gasoline car owners can still find plenty of service stations for fuel. Cars built up to 15 years ago are more durable than previous versions, so waiting until conditions improve might pay off, even with gasoline at near record prices.


        There’s no likelihood of a windfall profit tax on car dealers, even if one is imposed on oil companies. That leaves any penalties for price gouging car dealers strictly up to individual consumers.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


Suggested pullout quote: “Consumers are willing to pay well above sticker price.”






        California’s Republican Party doesn’t have to be irrelevant, but it likely will remain so for years to come.


        That’s because if nothing else, this month’s election returns show that party identification matters a lot, and registered GOP voters are outnumbered in this state 47-23 percent, exceeded for the first time by No Party Preference folks, now tallying 24 percent of registrations.


        Even with one state Senate seat and four slots in the Assembly undecided a week after the Nov. 8 vote, Republican legislators could be assured they will have zero influence when it comes to state taxes and other public policy.


        That’s because despite having those five seats up in the air, Democrats had already clinched two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses, all that’s needed to levy new taxes, override gubernatorial vetoes and make some proposals effective immediately rather than waiting until year’s end.


        Even when statewide Republican candidates are plainly better qualified, non-controversial and win endorsements right and left, they still lose. That’s what happened to the GOP’s well liked Lanhee Chen, a Stanford University faculty member who lost handily in his run for state controller this fall despite endorsements from every significant newspaper and TV station that bothered making them.


        None of this stopped the GOP’s state chair Jessica Millan Patterson from sounding like her party won on Election Night. “We’re doing great,” she told a reporter. “Our candidates are doing better than they have in years.”


        But the only place the GOP made even slight progress was in Orange County, where redistricting has made some seats easier upset targets than they were as recently as two years ago. Redistricting is the reason Buena Park’s Soo Hoo was only slightly behind incumbent Democratic Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, a former Fullerton mayor, a few days post-election in a district overlapping the Los Angeles-Orange county line.


        It is also why Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter was only about 5,000 votes up on former Orange County Republican chairman Scott Baugh at the same moment, and why two-term Democratic Oceanside Rep. Mike Levin was in a closer-than-expected contest with repeat challenger Brian Maryott in their district covering parts of both San Diego and Orange counties.


        The percentages of folks voting Democratic and Republican had not changed significantly since the 2020 vote even in Orange County, but district lines were different.


        That led to joy and bragging from the GOP, despite its dismal statewide performance, in which it continued a streak of failing to win even one statewide office since Arnold Schwarzenegger last ran for governor in 2006. That’s 16 years of constant failure.


        And yet, Orange County Republican Chairman Fred Whitaker made this statement the day after the vote, a moment when even there, his party had not flipped a single state or federal office: “Orange County Republicans had an incredibly strong showing in last night’s midterm elections…this was a fight we were ready for.”


        But for the most part, even in Orange County, where Republicans traditionally need – and used to get – 250,000-vote margins in order to have a chance at a statewide office, the party did not improve its performance beyond what it was gifted in redistricting.


        All of which means California Republicans have work to do if they want to regain relevance. If they want to register more Californians as GOP voters, they could abandon their steadfast opposition to abortion rights, where Proposition 1 passed by a 66-34 percent vote this month, adding such rights to the state Constitution. That percentage is only slightly larger than the proportion by which Democratic registered voters outnumber Republicans. The GOP could change its automatic opposition to any new tax or social benefit program, no matter its purpose.


        It’s also time top Republicans like Whitaker and Patterson stop their happy talk after elections where Republicans hold what puny influence they have but gain little or nothing new. If you’re satisfied with losing consistently, and your only gains stem from redistricting, your party will never regain much influence.


        Meanwhile, responsible two-party government demands a loyal opposition capable of checking strongly ideological approaches to problems by the majority party.


        So far, the California GOP has not come close to becoming even that.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Tuesday, November 8, 2022






     Sports gambling lost, and badly. But not to worry, would-be online gamblers and folks who want to lay wagers in Indian casinos or racetracks: Sports gambling will be back on the ballot soon.


        The untold billions of dollars that promised to flow from either this fall’s Proposition 26 or 27 – or both – were the reason Native American gaming tribes and the big national online sports bookmakers put up a record war chest of more than $440 million to pass these propositions. The same billions assure the idea will be back as often as it takes for something akin to 26 or 27 to pass.


        Maybe next time, the campaigns will be more honest. For while lies are common in this state’s initiative politics, rarely if ever have they been as obvious and obnoxious as those propounded by gaming interests this fall.


        One remarkable pre-election poll showed voters didn’t take long to recognize this: While both propositions ran about even among voters who saw no more than one or two of the ads backing 26 and 27, those who saw a lot of ads were against the propositions by margins of almost 2-1. The ads were not merely ineffective; they were self-defeating.


        Dishonesty began with the formal title of Prop. 27: the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act.” That didn’t even mention gambling.


        In fact, had 27 won, gambling revenues would have been taxed at slightly more than 10 percent. Of that money, 85 percent would have gone to homeless support agencies that already get billions in state tax money. So it would have made little difference in a field where big money has proved ineffective.


        Meanwhile, commercials for Prop. 26 were also dishonest, implying that much of its take would go to mental health treatment of pretty much the same unhoused populace that 27 claimed to help.


        In reality, neither measure was giving away much of the proceeds.


        That may have been one reason the falsely promoted Propositions 26 and 27 lost among both Republicans and Democrats, Donald Trump supporters and Trump haters.


        This entire outcome was as counterintuitive as it gets. Early on, if you were a gambling man or woman, you would have felt foolish betting against either initiative.


        For the recent history of propositions aiming to legalize things that long were considered illegal vices suggested one or both would pass easily. That’s what happened first with medical marijuana and then with recreational pot. Now, because of initiative outcomes, it’s hard to find a city or county without at least one cannabis dispensary.


        The same with gambling, where voters in 2000 approved Indian gambling on once-impoverished and desolate Native American reservations. Eight years later, voters eagerly expanded the number of slot machines in Native American casinos, many of which now double as luxury resorts, complete with spas, tennis courts and sometimes golf courses.


        But as the tide turned against online sports gaming, backers vowed they are not finished, that they will bring legalized online sports betting to the ballot again. This would not be unusual. Proposition 29, the third attempt in the last four years by the Service Employees International Union to unionize at least some of the labor force at dialysis clinics, failed badly again this month, but who’s to say the union won’t try again?


        It was no surprise, then, when the CEOs of the FanDuel and DraftKings online sports bookies, announced at an October gambling convention in Las Vegas that they would “live to fight another day.”


        First, though, they will have to work with Indian casinos to share the wealth so they don’t end up with another set of competing propositions, something that pollsters said hurt their chances this year.


        They will also need to sweeten the pot when it comes to sharing the new wealth they could get from California with positive civic causes and with impoverished Native American tribes. Giving these interests a minuscule share of the proceeds may have been another factor in the defeat of both 26 and 27.


        So the gaming folks have work to do if they want to milk the billions they seek to take from Californians.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit






        Few California politicians have been more opportunistic than Gavin Newsom, just reelected easily to four more years in the governor’s state capitol office.


        But few governors ever seemed more bored with the job itself. Like several predecessors, Newsom has lately seemed far more obsessed with national politics than his own job.


        But none has ever felt more blocked in advancing from Sacramento to Washington, D.C. Yes, a few California governors like Jerry Brown and Goodwin Knight have been willing (Brown did not succeed in this) to move from being governor to a seat in the U.S. Senate. The most successful at this was Republican Hiram Johnson, early in the 20th Century.


        But most governors here see the Senate as a step down, the only real step up being the presidency.


        Like many politicians before him, Newsom denies any interest in that. No one keeps score of this, but few officials have ever issued more denials of desire for the nation’s top office than Newsom.


        That may be because right now he looks boxed in on two fronts. First, there’s incumbent president Joe Biden, who implies he wants to run again in 2024, and hang his lousy ratings in voter polls. Then there’s Newsom’s longtime stablemate, Vice President Kamala Harris, a fellow alum of San Francisco city government with whom he has shared political consultants.


        That scene could change very quickly when 2023 ends and the 2024 primaries begin. Biden’s age (81 in 2024) could affect him even more than it already seems to. And Harris, who has never made it past the opening caucus states during the primary season, might falter again. If either of these not-at-all-unlikely developments became reality, the way would open for Newsom. He might be an opportunist, but has never been a traitor to political friends like Biden and Harris.


        Meanwhile, Newsom decries Democrats’ electoral passivity and has been more active against potential Republican presidential candidates than any other national Democrat. He’s often critical (or more) of ex-President Donald Trump. He used advertisements to attack hard-line rightist governors of Florida and Texas, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott.


        Other national Democrats have noticed. Why else would Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another potential presidential hopeful, blast Newsom for not campaigning enough for other Democrats around the nation?


        Newsom talks as if he’s itching for a real fight after coasting to reelection, grimacing visibly and almost painfully at the notion of debating DeSantis.


        That came after he ran biting TV ads on Fox stations around Florida asserting Californians enjoy more freedom than folks in Florida. He cited abortion and COVID-19 survival rates as two such areas. Newsom followed up with newspaper and billboard ads in Texas making similar comparisons.


        Both brief ad campaigns drew blood. DeSantis soon started featuring blasts at California in his almost daily emailed fund-raising pitches. He castigated California for closing public schools and shutting down many businesses during the pandemic, claiming this state has “hobbled law enforcement and allowed drugs and crime to destroy their (sic) cities.”


        He, of course, did not mention that if California had followed the laissez faire DeSantis Covid policies, 40,000 more Californians would be dead by now in that plague, atop the current toll of 92,000.


        DeSantis took to calling Newsom “Gov. French Laundry,” for his infamous visit to a pricey Wine Country restaurant while other Californians were stuck at home. Never passive, Newsom quickly labeled DeSantis “Gov. DeathSantis.” Newsom then began contributing campaign money to Democrats around the nation.


There’s really nothing substantive Newsom and DeSantis could fight over other than the White House, unless each somehow wound up as a vice presidential candidate on someone else’s ticket.


        Meanwhile, several polls have shown Newsom with a better chance of defeating Trump in 2024 than Harris or Biden, while also indicating he would beat DeSantis if they were matched today.


        As for Abbott, Newsom mocked his open-carry gun policies, and his almost total shutdown of abortions, sponsoring a gun-lawsuit law that specifically mocks the Texas abortion measures.


        Legendary Republican consultant Karl Rove then called Newsom “brilliant” for all this.


        It’s very unlikely that it will lead nowhere at all.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit