California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s aversion to Modesto is just plain weird | Opinion

Andy Alfaro/

Not feeling the love, governor.

For some reason, the state’s highest elected official doesn’t seem to like Modesto much, if visiting is any indication.

Not once did he make an official stop in Modesto during his entire first term of office, according to common knowledge and his travel schedule.

A well-traveled politician, Newsom popped in all over California from the beginning of 2019 through the end of 2022. He saw our neighbors to the north — Stockton and San Joaquin County — at least three times. He called on our neighbors to the south in Merced four times.

On his way from Sacramento to Merced, one would think the governor could come off Highway 99 for a few minutes for even a brief Modesto appearance one of those four times, but no.

Newsom can’t possibly fear that rubbing shoulders with San Joaquin Valley folk will muss his well-coiffed hair because he has blown past us on Highway 99 to see places like Tulare, Parlier, Sanger and Bakersfield. In the past four years, the governor has appeared in 10 official events — 10! — in Fresno.

But no love for Modesto?

It’s true that voters have been tough on the state’s top Democrat, in both the 2021 recall election and his 2022 re-election. He easily won both, no thanks to us. Stanislaus preferred getting rid of him by 51.7% in the former while giving his opponent 57.8% of the vote in the latter. But that was not much different from anywhere in the Valley, which tilts right in many areas.

In fact, Stanislaus is mostly purple — neither solidly red nor blue. One would think that Modesto is exactly the demographic Newsom might want to try winning over.

Sure, Newsom’s travel schedule confirms he’s made dozens of stops in metropolises like Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area and the Inland Empire. But Newsom also seems drawn to sparsely populated places wrecked by wildfires, from Petaluma and Geyserville to Paradise and Mount Shasta. All are far smaller than Modesto, the 19th-largest city in California with about 218,000.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom visited vaccination sites in Stockton, San Luis Obispo, Camarillo, Fresno, Arvin, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Hayward, Coachella, Madera, San Francisco, San Diego and Santa Clara. But not Modesto, among the first to have one in all of California.

Bygones, governor

Does Newsom hold media grudges?

This editorial board was less than kind with Newsom when he announced in March 2019 that California no longer will execute death row inmates — exactly opposite of what he said he would do when asked by The Bee 2 1/2 years earlier when he was lieutenant governor. “(His) lack of principle, and failure to keep his promise, is a slap in the face to survivors of heinous murders,” including Laci Peterson’s loved ones, a Modesto Bee editorial said.

But a beef with the media doesn’t seem to explain Newsom’s aversion to Modesto because he himself has joked about the pummeling he often takes in media circles far and wide — the price of doing business for politicians with national profiles.

And, to be fair, Newsom did show up briefly in Modesto before he was governor at a whistle-stop visit to the campaign office of Josh Harder, who would be elected to Congress a few weeks later, in 2018. Neither Harder nor Newsom publicized the event, and The Bee covered it after being tipped off.

On his third full day in office, way back in January 2019, Newsom teased Modesto when he swung by Monterey Park Tract, a small enclave with contaminated groundwater 10 miles south of town, followed by a closed-door visit to Grayson down the road. Again, those were not official visits — his office issued no press release. It was a “surprise trip,” Newsom said on Twitter. The general public was not invited and had no idea he was coming until after he was gone.

Was it something we said?

A good reason to see Modesto

A forward-thinking politician might want to be seen in Modesto to hobnob with folks at what someday will be the epicenter of bioindustry — turning organic waste into stuff you can sell for big bucks — before it happens. That’s Modesto, if the community plays its cards right.

Though a gubernatorial visit is not needed to validate the pride that Modesto residents feel, it would be nice to chat about water policy, homelessness, cruising or floodplains with California’s top elected officeholder.

Frankly, if Newsom doesn’t see us, he doesn’t know us. You can’t appreciate something you don’t know.

Newsom has said he represents everyone, not just the Californians who voted for him.

He is the governor of all of California.

And that includes Modesto.