SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The politically powerful California Nurses Association announced Wednesday that it is endorsing Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s bid to become governor — nearly three full years before the general election contest.
The influential and wealthy union representing 90,000 California nurses announced its support of the former San Francisco mayor at a rally with hundreds of nurses in Los Angeles.
“It was just a given that we would, of course, endorse somebody who embraces all of our values,” CNA executive director RoseAnn DeMoro said in an interview. “We know the landscape and you know, there are people who are progressive, it’s true. Gavin, he scores across the board, he’s the A-student.”
The endorsement of the nurses’ union is significant because of CNA’s ability to mobilize thousands of nurses statewide and to infuse millions of dollars into the campaign.
Newsom announced his candidacy early this year, just a couple of months after Gov. Jerry Brown won a second term ending in 2019.
That allows Newsom to begin fundraising early and to try to secure such endorsements, potentially staving off competition from fellow Democrats in the first open race for governor in nearly a decade.
California Republican Party spokeswoman Kaitlyn MacGregor declined to comment on the endorsement, saying that the GOP is focused on elections upcoming in 2016.
“That said, we expect to have a very strong candidate for governor in 2018,” she said.
Potential Republican candidates include San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen. Other Democrats thought to be considering a run in 2018 include former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, current LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, state Treasurer John Chiang and former state Controller Steve Westly.
DeMoro said she is not concerned anyone else would be a better choice for the union’s support, given Newsom’s work to establish a universal health care program in San Francisco, his support for a single-payer health system, for lower nurse-patient ratios and his early endorsement of gay marriage.
“I would feel bad for anyone who runs against him in the primary, on our side as progressives, because there’s no space,” she said.
The nurses’ union played a significant role in the 2010 race for governor, backing Brown’s candidacy and campaigning vigorously against Whitman, following her to events with a character it dubbed “Queen Meg.” It was later revealed the union also helped Whitman’s former maid go public with allegations that she worked illegally.