Gavin Newsom: Stop Calif. Bullet Train, Spend Money Elsewhere

CA Dems revolt against high speed rail project supported by Gov. Jerry Brown

February 18, 2014

California Leitenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D) publicly spoke out against the Golden State's costly high speed rail project Friday in a radio interview with KTTH.

The project, once universally embraced by liberals, has been met with increased skepticism from officials across the aisle amid setbacks relating to the financing of the $68 billion boondoggle. Even if completed, the entire project would not come on line until 2029.

Newsom's dissension makes him as the most significant Democrat to date who has spoken out against his fellow Democratic governor's plans for the train. Brown has vowed to plow ahead with the initial stages of construction despite looming concerns.

"[…] The governor is hell bent on doing the first phase of this in that area you just referenced, the central part of the state," Newsom said.

Asked whether he would opt to do away with the project entirely, the Democratic Lt. Gov. did not budge. "I would take the dollars and redirect it to other, more pressing infrastructure needs, and I am not the only Democrat that feels this way. And I’ve got to tell you, I am one of the few that just said it publicly. Most are now saying it privately."  

Newsom and Brown have often been at loggerheads on several issues, but none so significant as the governor's marquee rail initiative.

Allysia Finley of The Wall Street Journal writes Newsom seems to be positioning himself for an eventual run for governor outside the confines of the "ideological fervor" that guides California's Democratic party:

The latest indication that Gavin Newsom wants to succeed fellow Democrat Jerry Brown as California's governor is his public denunciation of the increasingly unpopular bullet train project, which Mr. Newsom once supported.


The goal of Mr. Newsom's ostensibly well-meaning criticism of the governor, then as now, is to present himself as the level-headed, honest guy in Sacramento. But the lieutenant governor, a rising star in the party, is also transparently aligning himself with public opinion. As he explained last week, "I think I'm where the public was and is" on high-speed rail.

Polls over the past two years have routinely showed that voters have turned against high-speed rail and would unplug the bullet train were it put up for another vote. A USC Dornsife/LA Times poll last September found that 70% of voters want a referendum, with a nine-point plurality outright opposed to its continuance.

What's amazing isn't that Mr. Newsom has flipped on the train, but that so few other Democrats have. That should speak volumes about the ideological fervor that guides California's Democratic party.