Leaked Emails Expose Tense Struggle Between California Democrats

According to an email chain, Governor Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff would not negotiate to strengthen a Democratic package of crime bills until a group representing victims of crime, retailers, and law enforcement officials agreed to delay their ballot measure until 2026.

A bill to reduce homelessness, drug abuse, and theft is up for debate. Its goal is to revise Proposition 47, a measure that was passed by the voters in 2014 and which lowered the penalties for drug possession and theft under $950.

Despite claims to the contrary, the ballot proposition is supported by a coalition of victims’ advocates, corporate moguls, and public safety officials, including several notable former district attorneys.

According to several sources, a handful of Democratic lawmakers are planning to include inoperability clauses into the public safety legislation next week. These clauses will make sure that the improvements to Proposition 47 cannot take effect if voters approve them. Democrats have argued that this is necessary to avoid legal contradictions; however, the campaign rejected this on Friday. 

A poison pill is what Republicans are describing as the strategy.

On Friday, Newsom would neither confirm nor deny whether he would sign the bill with the inoperability concerns included. 

Walmart and Target were among the top contributors to the ballot proposal.

Rather than addressing the ballot initiative in its entirety, the Governor crafted this legislative framework to handle property crime and some of the restrictions associated with Prop 47.

The Senate and House of Representatives have openly committed to working with the initiative group to improve their legislative packages.

The emails suggest that discussions have come to a standstill. It seems like the governor’s office would instead have Californians not vote on the reform of Prop. 47 this year.

Leadership is prepared to negotiate on its package of criminal measures, which would take effect immediately, according to an email from the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Dana Williamson, to the coalition’s main negotiator, Greg Totten. Williamson further clarified that they are open to an initiative in 2026.

With only seven weeks until the secretary of state must certify the November vote, Democratic leaders have little time to attempt negotiations. The deadline is June 27.