SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom had been slated for a prime speaking slot in the Democratic National Convention Thursday evening, but sent in a brief video instead, as his administration grapples with dozens of wildfires and the continued effects of COVID-19.
Instead of his originally planned segment, Newsom appeared briefly in a selfie video from a forest near California’s Central Coast after visiting a nearby Red Cross evacuation center. “I confess this is not where I expected to be speaking here tonight,” he said in a video recorded on a cellphone.
He added, “If you are in denial about climate change, come to California.”
Newsom criticized President Donald Trump for working to roll back vehicle emission standards meant to curb climate change and for threatening to withhold funding from California.
Newsom’s original speaking time was a coveted political asset in a convention that was condensed to fit an all-virtual format, but pressing issues abound in the Golden State.
“The segment that was originally planned didn’t make sense given the growth and severity of the state’s devastating wildfires, so we’re evaluating options while the governor prioritizes the emergency response,” Newsom’s spokesman, Nathan Click, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Newsom had been one of several Democratic governors chosen for a more traditional address at the four-day event, including New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer.
Wildfires have destroyed at least 175 structures in California, including homes, and are threatening 50,000 more, said Daniel Berlant, an assistant deputy director with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. In all, 33 civilians and firefighters have been injured, and two people have died.
Most of the activity is in Northern California, where fires have chewed through about 500 square miles (1,250 square kilometers) of brushland, rural areas, canyon country and dense forest surrounding San Francisco.