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Governor Gavin Newsom to national Democrats: "Don't be timid" on COVID-19 response

CBS News exclusive: Newsom's message to Democrats
Newsom to national Democrats: "Don't be timid" on COVID-19 response 01:12

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, warned Wednesday that his party needs to "lean in" on COVID-19 prevention, despite hardline opposition. Speaking with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett less than 24 hours after he overwhelmingly survived a recall challenge, Newsom said he views the victory as a sign that his constituents approve of his handling of the pandemic.

"So, what I'm saying here is, be affirmative," Newsom said he would tell national Democrats. "Don't be timid. Lean in. Because at the end of the day, it's not just about formal authority of setting the tone and tenor on masks — on vaccines and masks. But it's the moral authority that we have: that we're on the right side of history and we're doing the right thing to save people's lives."

Newsom acknowledged that the recall effort was launched "in no small degree because of our approach to this pandemic."

California has been one of the hardest-hit states during the pandemic, prompting Newsom to adopt some of the strictest COVID-19 measures in the country. Conservative talk show host Larry Elder, who emerged as the frontrunner in the crowded field looking to supplant Newsom, made opposition to vaccine and mask mandates a cornerstone of his campaign. Several other Republicans vying to replace Newsom also voiced opposition to COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett. CBS News

But Newsom told CBS News that Democrats need to "stiffen our spines and lean in to keeping people safe and healthy," adding that he feels the "off the charts" turnout proved that people were "motivated, because they understood what was at stake." 

Although Newsom has faced six prior recall attempts, this was the first to garner enough signatures to make it to the ballot. The effort gained momentum after Newsom was photographed at the upscale Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry dining indoors with dozens of others while his indoor dining shutdowns were still in effect.

For more of Major Garrett's interview with Governor Gavin Newsom, watch "CBS Mornings" on Thursday, September 16. 

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