SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom held his toddler son during his inaugural address, spent nearly two hours discussing his state budget with reporters and engaged in two Twitter spats with the president.
Newsom, 51, took office Monday and quickly dove into governing the nation’s most populous state, but with a different focus and touch than his 80-year-old predecessor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown.
Newsom, a father of four, placed expanding early education and paid leave at the center of a family-friendly platform he outlined in his inaugural address, which delivered a signature image when Newsom’s 2-year-old son, Dutch, wandered on stage. Newsom didn’t miss a beat, picking up his son and continuing to talk as he cradled him.
Three days later, when he announced his budget plan, Newsom seemed to enjoy his lengthy dialogue with the media and showed a deep grasp of the facts and figures.
“Wait ‘til next year, you’ll have to sit here for four hours,” he told reporters. “I love this stuff.”
Brown usually kept the media at arm’s length. When his budget plans were announced, he would appear briefly but let his finance director delve into details.
Newsom “has a style that’s much more interactive,” said Kim Nalder, a professor of government at California State University-Sacramento. Newsom’s on-stage moment with his son, she said, “sort of broke the mold for what we think the gravitas of the office requires.”
Newsom, like Brown, so far isn’t releasing a daily schedule of his whereabouts. On Friday, he made an unannounced trip to the Central Valley to discuss clean drinking water with residents. His budget proposes a new tax to help clean up contaminated water.
After eight years as lieutenant governor, Newsom won the governorship in a landslide over Republican John Cox. In his inaugural address, he said he would work to gain the trust and support of rural Californians, millions of whom didn’t vote for him.
Newsom’s first public appearance after the inauguration was in Placer County, which he lost in November. He wore jeans and sneakers as he discussed wildfire safety and stressed his personal connection to the Sierra Nevada foothills county where his father had lived.
Brown was a harsh critic of Trump but picked his battles. Newsom overtly blasted the White House’s “corruption and incompetence” in his inaugural address and in his first week hit back twice, on Twitter, at Trump’s threats to withhold emergency money for fire victims and flood projects.
“The President of the United States is trying to take funds away from California communities devastated by natural disasters to pay for an immoral wall that America doesn’t need or want,” Newsom tweeted Friday.
Newsom showcased his policy chops when he discussed details of his budget plan, which pledges to pay down California’s debts while investing in housing and education. Whether his projection for a gigantic $21.5 billion surplus comes to bear and allows him to do it will become clear in coming months.
While Brown often warned the Legislature was too quick to spend money or pass new laws, Newsom has eagerly engaged lawmakers.
“This budget, I think, reflects a lot of their priorities in advance in ways that, with respect, the previous administration’s budget didn’t,” Newsom said.