It’s long been rumored that California Asm. Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher’s Achilles heel is her mouth (or, these days, her Twitter account). Over the weekend she made a major misstep when she tweeted “F*ck Elon Musk” after the entrepreneur announced that Tesla was filing a lawsuit against Alameda County and pulling its HQ out of California because the county refused to allow Tesla’s only United States manufacturing facility to open.
Musk replied simply, “Message received.”
As my colleague Brandon Morse reported, on Monday Musk announced that the company’s Fremont, CA manufacturing facility was opening anyway. At his daily noon press conference, Gov. Newsom weighed in – and for once, he wasn’t defending Gonzalez-Fletcher, one of his top foot soldiers.
Governor @GavinNewsom supports Tesla!
— Third Row Tesla Podcast (@thirdrowtesla) May 11, 2020
As it relates to Tesla, I have long been a strong advocate and supporter, early adopter of the technology. I have not only known that company but I’ve known its founder for many, many years. I have great reverence for their technology, for their innovative spirit, for their leadership, and I have great expectations that we can work through at the county level the issue with this particular county and this company in the next couple of days.
That was quite the smackdown of Mrs. Gonzalez-Fletcher. Newsom was joined by San Jose’s Democrat mayor, Sam Liccardo, who pointed out that “elected leaders shouldn’t respond to employers w/expletives, but work w/them to get people back to work safely.”
@LorenaSGonzalez, I don’t often agree w/ @ElonMusk, but #FreeSpeech & democracy cannot be casualties of this pandemic. W/food lines doubling ea week, elected leaders shouldn’t respond to employers w/expletives, but work w/them to get people back to work safely… (1/2)
— Sam Liccardo (@sliccardo) May 10, 2020
(2/2) If we can’t have civil conversations about challenges re-opening safely, #COVID_19 will destroy more than just our economy. Why are pot stores open, but book stores closed? We’ll lose public confidence & public health compliance if we don’t engage w/each other as adults
— Sam Liccardo (@sliccardo) May 10, 2020
If we can’t have civil conversations about challenges to opening safely, COVID-19 will destroy more than just our economy. Why are pot stores open, but book stores closed? We’ll lose public confidence and public health compliance if we don’t engage with each other as adults.”
Newsom’s comments should concern her more. More than 40,000 people are employed in Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX facilities throughout California, and even though Gonzalez-Fletcher had some apologists tweeting Monday that the manufacturing process for Tesla batteries is environmentally destructive, Teslas are considered “green energy,” one of Newsom’s biggest issues.
Also, Musk provided the state with over 1,200 ventilators at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, is on various gubernatorial advisory boards, and Newsom told Axios that he and Musk speak “often” about multiple issues, including technological advances.
And, many people are aware that Newsom and Musk are old friends. Musk appeared on a talk show Newsom had in San Francisco, and on his radio show in 2009. Tech companies are very influential in San Francisco politics both because they provide jobs and contribute to charities and because many of San Francisco’s elite families (who are responsible for Newsom’s political rise) are investors and shareholders in them.
While Newsom doesn’t have nearly the entrepreneurial status that Elon Musk does, he has owned a restaurant and winery and has had the experience of signing the front side of a paycheck, unlike Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher. That is a big distinction, one that explains a lot about their approaches to business.
Gavin Newsom grew up with the Gettys and has been a darling of the San Francisco ballet and symphony crowd for decades. Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher has worked hard, no doubt, and her upbringing was middle class to upper middle-class (not as hardscrabble as she’d have you believe). Her life, societal, and business experiences are not even in the same universe as Gavin Newsom’s. He’s a Marin County Volvo liberal who understands how his bread gets buttered; she’s a revolutionary.
Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher is a true believer in full unionization of the workforce. She believes in doggedly calling out and “holding accountable” politicians who aren’t sufficiently friendly to labor. As president of the local AFL-CIO she argued for the group to withhold endorsements of Democrat incumbents whose votes weren’t adequately pro-labor in her eyes, developing a report card to make selection easier.
In other words, she has no appreciation for what it takes to create jobs and believes that anyone who is creating jobs and making a profit is doing so by hurting and exploiting “workers.”
Gavin Newsom and Sam Liccardo, whose policies could hardly be described as pro-business, still somehow understand that Gonzalez-Fletcher’s angry rhetoric isn’t what California business owners need to hear from the state’s elected officials now or ever. Gonzalez-Fletcher got a pass so far from Newsom on AB-5, the anti-freelancing bill, but one industry group is making her job-killing ways harder to ignore, running a full-page ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune Tuesday (which cost $12,000, according to Lorena).
If Gavin Newsom has to choose between the two, my money is on Musk. Former union bosses with diva complexes are not quite a dime a dozen, but they’re more available than Elon Musk. Or, as a friend of mine tweeted Monday night, “Elon giveth to California. Lorena taketh away. It’s simple math.”