Santa Clara County Executive questions Newsom’s push to reopen

The push to reopen more of California’s private sector continues to be a political battlefield. Some of the fire now aimed at Gov. Gavin Newsom is coming from within his own party.

Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith, who is also a physician, gave a stinging rebuke of Newsom in the pages of the publication Politico. Experts say a failure to communicate has led to public infighting.

"Part of this is a reflection that the Newsom administration doesn’t always communicate on the political side, with what’s happening on the policy side," said Dr. David McCuan, chairman of the Political Science Dept. at Sonoma State University.

Frustration over Newsom’s COVID-19 policies led Smith to sound-off in the article. With a headline questioning the governor’s reopening push, Smith said, "So he is changing the blueprint rules without any logical reason. Our futures are in the hands of a governor trying to stop a recall. He has already killed tens of thousands by opening too soon in May. Now he wants to do it again."

"Democrats have been AWOL in fighting for the rights of the citizens of California. And it’s a little too late now, for them to jump on the bandwagon," California Republican National Committee chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon said in response.

KTVU reached out to Smith for clarification about his quote, and any evidence supporting his claim the governor’s actions have led to tens of thousands of deaths. He declined to speak on camera, and Santa Clara County staffers didn’t send a response by email.

"This is kind of inside baseball," said McCuan, when asked if he thought this issue will hurt Newsom politically. "But it does spill over to the general tenor that what he Newsom administration is doing is orchestrated and political," he continued.

Newsom and California Democrats are fighting a recall effort. Organizers said they have enough signatures to put the issue before the people. They said the uneven, unequitable government-ordered coronavirus shutdowns fuels the effort.

Now, some political opponents who had given the governor the benefit of the doubt last year smell blood in the water.

"The governor is not an emperor. He’s not a king. He’s part of a constitutional system of checks and balances in which over the past year the checks and balances have checked out," said Dhillon.

But McCuan countered, "The governor is really popular…it’s something his team can handle but they also have to do better about coordinating and communicating."

The governor's supporters point to the science behind his decisions -- falling COVID-19 infection rates, and increasing vaccination rates.

But many ask if it will be enough to overcome a wave of frustration over his policies?