Gov. Newsom’s Death Penalty Moratorium is Bad Timing for OC’s Freshman Democrats

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Elected officials and survivors called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to rescind his moratorium on carrying out the death penalty during a news conference at the Riverside County District Attorney's Office on May 9, 2019. (Photo by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Attorney General William Barr and the Trump Administration may re-open up a politically inconvenient topic for the seven freshman California Democrats. Congressional legislation is being crafted that aims to speed up the death penalty procedures for those convicted of crimes involving mass shootings and violence against police.

Earlier this year, and despite California voters clear wishes, newly-elected Governor Gavin Newsom made headlines with his executive order to place a moratorium on the death penalty in California.

Meanwhile, 25 California Death Row inmates have already exhausted their legal appeals and 737 offenders are on death row total and now the executions are being held up. The Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times both compiled lists of the offenders.  On this list of executions the Governor wishes to stop, are everything from serial killers to a recent conviction in Southern California of Francisco Zavala Jr. who murdered a 16 year old boy in broad daylight for his cell phone.  An eye witness observed Zavala stabbing the boy with enough force to lift him off the ground with each thrust.

While Governor Newsom enjoys majorities in both chambers of California government and can take solace in an overwhelmingly blue state, Orange County’s new Congressional Democrats Gil Cisneros, Katie Porter, and Harley Rouda, have been careful not to weigh in as an overwhelming majority of voters in their toss up swing districts do not favor a death penalty repeal.

The breakdown by congressional district of the Orange County congressional districts that Democrats flipped in 2018, make the Newsom vs Trump stand off even more interesting:

% of Voters that Voted Against Repeal by Congressional District

On a recent episode of the SF Chronicle’s politics podcast, another Freshman Democrat from Califonria, Representative Josh Harder, sought to create some daylight between himself and Newsom’s position stating that he has “a problem with the governor’s process” in suspending executions.

“You can’t put something on the ballot, like the repeal of the death penalty, have it rejected, and then have an executive order to dispense with it anyway,” Harder said. “That doesn’t feel like democracy to me.” (Full episode HERE)

This latest issue concerning the death penalty is becoming a theme in 2020, as freshman Democrats that campaigned as moderates in 2018, are faced with a Democratic party being dragged further to the extreme left of the political spectrum by the likes of Gov. Gavin Newsom, Rep. Alexandria Ocazio Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar.  Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has urged members, especially it’s “Frontline Members“, who face tough reelection battles to steer clear of the far-left fringe of the party and avoid taking positions on things like impeachment and the death penalty.  To date, both Porter and Rouda have supported an impeachment inquiry with Cisneros avoiding the topic all together.

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