Newsom’s Opponent: I’m Reasonable, Not a ‘Crazy Republican’
Brian Dahle, the Republican Party’s longtime hope of unseating Gov. Gavin Newsom in California, knows that to win in his progressive home state, he can’t allow Democrats to call him election denial, hate of abortion, of love of guns and of the explosive right. -winger.
That’s why Dahle, an affable farmer and state senator from the sparsely populated northeast corner of the state, goes out of his way to make one thing clear: “I’m not a crazy Republican. I am a reasonable person.
Whether voters believe he is what he says and not how Democrats portray him will determine how Dahle fares against Newsom, a first-term Democrat who is an overwhelming frontrunner in November.
Republicans haven’t won statewide office in California since 2006 because their candidates are typically little-known, underfunded, and identified — rightly or wrongly — as powerful social conservatives in a socially socialized state. liberal. The GOP has seen its share of registered voters shrink to the point where Democrats now have a roughly 2-to-1 advantage and there are almost as many independents as Republicans.
Under California’s primary system, all candidates compete against each other and the two with the most votes qualify for the general election. Newsom won last month with 56%, while Dahle received just 17% in a field of more than two dozen candidates.
With Dahle locked in as an opponent, Newsom’s campaign quickly evolved to identify him as the antithesis of what most Californians want.
“Dahle is a Trump Republican who wants to abolish abortion rights, repeal California’s gun safety laws, and is looking for any shred of relevance after being absolutely crushed by Governor Newsom in the primary vote,” said Newsom campaign spokesman Nathan Click.
Dahle acknowledges having voted for Trump, calls himself “pro-life” and calls himself a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. But he says his record is more nuanced than Newsom’s campaign claims.
Although he voted for Trump, he did not publicly amplify Trump’s lie that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election. He voted against a proposal to make abortion a right constitutional in California, but opposed his party and voted for a 2021 bill that would have made contraceptives – including the morning after pill – much cheaper.
On firearms, Dahle voted against a Newsom-backed bill to allow individuals to sue people who sell illegal firearms and a bill that would ban the marketing of firearms to children. Dahle’s office would not comment on a new bill aimed at limiting where people can carry concealed firearms, a response to the U.S. Supreme Court last month striking down the law. State.
He wants to make it a crime to steal a gun, supports improvements for gang members and other previously imprisoned people who commit new gun crimes. And he voted for a bill to bolster a unique California program that confiscates guns from convicted felons who aren’t supposed to have them.
His plan to beat Newsom is to focus on what he thinks are the real issues that people care about — record gas prices, rising crime and the state’s high cost of living — while portraying Newsom , a millionaire businessman and former mayor of San Francisco, as an out-of-touch elitist.
“The facts are (Newsom) is a failure. Show me something he does well. And that’s what we’re going to talk about,” Dahle said.
As governor, Dahle said he would push to suspend the state’s gasoline tax, which at 53.9 cents a gallon is the second highest in the nation. He says he would remove Newsom’s appointments to the state parole board, which he says often lets “violent felons out before the end of their sentence.”
And Dahle said he would pass hundreds of new oil and gas drilling permits in the state as California regulators work on Newsom’s plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars and equipment. of lawn.
Newsom won in 2018 with nearly 62% of the vote. He defeated a recall last year by about the same margin. He has $23 million in his campaign account and a record budget surplus of nearly $100 billion, of which about $9.5 billion will be returned to most taxpayers in the form of rebates to help offset high prices. gasoline.
Dahle has just under $400,000 in his campaign account. He asks his followers to donate $1 a day to his campaign. He needs around 200,000 people to do this to catch up with Newsom’s fundraising – which probably won’t happen.
“The key to its success would be getting the media attention needed to define itself beyond the party label,” said Rob Nehring, former California Republican Party Chairman and 2014 Republican nominee for President. lieutenant governor. “If it’s just a party preference vote, even in a strong Republican year, it’s likely to fail.”
Dahle grew up in Bieber, a small community of a few hundred people in the northeast corner of the state. His grandfather, a World War I veteran, came to California during the Great Depression and obtained a land grant in Siskiyou County which he won, according to family legend, when his name was removed from a jar of pickles. The deed is signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dahle said.
Dahle didn’t go to college. He tried farming after high school, but soon lost money. To pay his creditors, he packed lunch and stood outside a sawmill every morning for three days until the owner hired him. He worked a few years in construction, including long hours in a gold mine, before starting a seed business which he still owns.
He won his first race for the Lassen County Board of Supervisors by defeating a popular teacher in the town of Susanville where most voters lived. He won a state assembly seat by beating Rick Bossetti, a former professional baseball player and mayor of Redding, the region’s largest city with about 90,000 people.
And he was elected to the state Senate by defeating Kevin Kiley, another Assembly Republican who lived in a much more populated area.
“He did the things you have to do and he surprised his opponents,” said Jim Chapman, a Democrat-turned-independent who served on the oversight board with Dahle. “He has a very charismatic demeanor and from the moment I met him I knew this guy was going somewhere.
Government life seemed to suit Dahle and his family. He proposed to his wife, Megan, at a meeting of supervisors. Now Megan is a Republican in the State Assembly. They are like most married couples, except that if they disagree, it can become part of a public record.
“I just tease him and say, well, he was probably wrong,” Megan Dahle said of the times they voted differently on legislation. “He’s a farmer, so he works hard and has a great relationship with people. They can trust him. »
When he arrived in Sacramento, Dahle endeared himself to his bipartisan legislative colleagues by arranging tours of his district, which includes scenic farmland in the shadow of the Sierra Nevadas. In 2016, he worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to pass legislation to prevent patients from receiving surprise bills from healthcare providers outside their insurance network.
Last year’s recall election essentially cleared the field for Republicans this year, as none of the top candidates chose to challenge Newsom again. This has created an opportunity for Dahle, who will be expelled from the Senate in 2024. He realizes his success hinges on a sudden political reversal in a state that moves further left with each election.
“I saw the pendulum swing, and when it swings, it swings fast,” Dahle said. “So my message is, ‘Hey, do you want what you got? How about trying something different? »