Newsom skips State of the State and heads out on a tour of California

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Gov. Gavin Newsom is skipping the annual State of the State address and going on the road.

Fresh off an easy reelection, Newsom has decided to forego a formal speech at the state Capitol and will instead lay out his agenda with a round-the-state series of events starting Thursday in Sacramento.

“He’s not interested in the pomp of the State of the State speech,” said political adviser Sean Clegg. “He wants to get a spotlight on these issues he’s going to talk about rather than getting up there and doing the laundry list.”

Newsom will shine that spotlight as he rides political momentum into his second term. He overwhelmingly defeated an attempted recall in 2021 and then cruised to victory last November. Republicans who argue the governor has failed to allay pressing issues like homelessness and poverty have little power to impede his agenda in a Democrat-dominated Legislature.

The governor’s tour will traverse California. He will kick things off by highlighting housing construction efforts in Sacramento, an issue that is top of mind for many people in the state. From there he’ll journey to the notorious state prison at San Quentin— where officials dismantled the execution chamber four years ago on Newsom’s orders — to talk about his criminal justice plans. He’ll outline a public health plan in Los Angeles and conclude his weekend by proposing mental health policies in San Diego.

The decision to bypass his traditional speech doesn’t mean Newsom has ignored Sacramento’s political class. In January, he stood before the Capitol and delivered an inaugural speech to hundreds of lawmakers, interest group representatives, and constitutional officers, contrasting his progressive agenda with the policies of red-state rivals like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

This month he’s taking a different approach to “checking the box constitutionally,” senior communications adviser Anthony York said.

“We didn’t feel like there was a particularly loud clamor for another Gavin Newsom podium speech,” York said. “There are some times that, in Sacramento, talking to ourselves can feel a little cloistered, and things get lost. He likes the idea of going out into the state and talking to communities that are impacted.”

This isn’t the first time Newsom has broken the mold on required speeches. As mayor of San Francisco, he famously gave a seven-and-a-half-hour State of the City speech on his personal YouTube channel. He gave his 2021 State of the State address in cavernous Dodgers Stadium, seeking to mark California’s pandemic progress while acknowledging the loss of life with thousands of empty seats.

He does things differently in part because of a lifelong struggle with dyslexia. The learning disability makes reading speeches difficult — which is why Newsom loathes using a teleprompter, Clegg said.

“To this day you’ll never see me, including at a press conference today, ever read anything,” Newsom said on a February podcast with David Axelrod, “with one exception: those torturous exceptions where a teleprompter is required, and I will have to spend 100 hours on a one-hour speech just to feel comfortable with the words on the screen.”

Republicans are not impressed. They accuse Newsom of dodging accountability on crises like pervasive homelessness and high gas prices.

“The guy has nothing to tout, so it’s kind of amazing to me,” said Assembly Republican leader James Gallagher (R-Yuba City). “It just continues to show his disdain for the Legislature.”

But aides say Newsom has little desire to speak in that setting.

“He doesn’t love the idea of lecturing and standing before 120 legislators,” said political adviser Brian Brokaw. “That’s not really his comfort zone or his brand.”