California Politics: Newsom’s war with a conservative school board

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LAUREL ROSENHALL | LATIMES

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has made it clear for the last year that he wants to lead Democrats across the country in bringing a tougher fight to conservatives, especially on culture war issues where he once said his party was “getting crushed” by Republicans.

Mostly Newsom has made good on that pledge by exporting his liberal rhetoric beyond California — airing television ads in Florida, renting billboards in states that restricted abortion, and traveling through the Deep South to launch a political action committee to help elect Democrats in red states.

But now Newsom seems to have found a conservative enclave right here in California where he can bring the fight as a culture warrior for the left: the Temecula Valley Unified School District, which educates 28,000 students in Riverside County.

The Temecula school board held a raucous nine-hour meeting this week over its decision to reject textbooks that include information about Harvey Milk, an influential gay-rights advocate whose position on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors made him the first out gay man elected to public office in California.

Newsom plans to send textbooks that reference Milk to Temecula students in defiance of the board. It’s a fight that couldn’t be more perfect for Newsom, allowing him to lead the pushback against cultural conservatives while honoring the civil rights icon who was assassinated in the same City Hall where Newsom, as mayor, sanctioned same-sex marriages before they were legal.

Some parents who spoke in support of the school board’s conservative majority painted Newsom as a “tyrant” who “forces his rule” upon a district he knows nothing about, reports Times writer Mackenzie Mays. They called lessons about LGBTQ+ history “pornographic” and “obscene.” Without evidence, a school board member said the proposed instruction would promote pedophilia.

Newsom was so inspired to take on Temecula conservatives that he has publicly vowed to hold the school district accountable on the basis of a law that does not yet exist, Mays explains. He has rushed to craft legislation that, if passed, will give the state new power when it comes to textbooks — a direct response to the controversy in Temecula.

Read more about the California law Newsom has proposed and his battle with the Temecula school board in this article.

I’m Laurel Rosenhall, The Times’ Sacramento bureau chief, here with your guide to the week’s news in California politics.

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