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Biden hits campaign trail ahead of California election

By AFP - Sep 13,2021 - Last updated at Sep 13,2021

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden kicked off a visit to scorched western states on Monday to hammer home his case on climate change and big public investments, as well as to campaign in California’s recall election.

The Democrat was bound for California, a party stronghold that he hasn’t visited since his 2020 presidential victory, to support Governor Gavin Newsom, who is facing a referendum that could cost him his job.

Before hitting the Golden State, Biden departed for Boise, Idaho, where he will visit the federal firefighting coordination centre.

He will then head to California capital Sacramento where, according to the White House, he will survey damage from northern California wildfires that have burned hundreds of thousands of hectares and destroyed thousands of structures.

The final leg of his trip will take him to Denver, Colorado, where he will make the case for two bills he has proposed that would spend nearly $5 trillion over the coming decade to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure, expand an array of social services and fight climate change.

Biden is expected to reiterate what is becoming a familiar message on the urgency of tackling climate change and the disasters associated with it, including forest fires and storms — both of which have devastated different areas of the country in recent months.

During an address after surveying damage from California’s Caldor Fire, “the president will make clear that these extreme weather events require bold, ambitious and decisive action — now”, a White House official said.

He will also underscore how his huge proposed investments currently under consideration by Congress “will strengthen our nation’s resilience to climate change and extreme weather events, advance environmental justice and create good-paying union jobs”.

Forest fires have raged across the western United States this summer, including in states Biden will be visiting.

As of Sunday, the National Interagency Fire Centre counted 80 large active fires in the country, including 22 in Idaho alone, involving more than 22,000 firefighters.

Biden, who has broken with the climate change skepticism of his predecessor Donald Trump, recently said the world faces a “code red” on climate danger and called for parties to put aside their political differences to address the issue.


California recall 


But in a step away from calls for bipartisan action, the president will enter the partisan arena during his trip, lending his support to California’s governor at a last-minute campaign rally in Long Beach.

Californians will vote Tuesday on whether to oust Newsom, 53, in a recall election prompted by Republicans angered over COVID-19 mask mandates, a high cost of living and skyrocketing homelessness in the wealthiest and most populous state in the nation.

Eighteen years ago, a similar vote allowed Arnold Schwarzenegger to win California’s governorship.

On paper, Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco who was easily elected governor in 2018 and whose term does not end until next year, does not risk much in a solidly Democratic state.

After a shaky start, Newsom now appears likely to avoid defeat, with respected poll-crunching website predicting 55 per cent will vote to keep him.

But Democrats are still taking the vote seriously, knowing that a surprise recall is always possible, especially if turnout is low.


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