CA Gov. Gavin Newsom votes early at Sacramento Kings arena

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, left, drop off their

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, left, drop off their tickets to Diane Hobler, right, after voting during COVID-19 protocols at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom says Sacramento Kings player Harrison Barnes is just about the only person he’s talked with recently who hasn’t tried to influence his pick to replace Kamala Harris in the Senate if she’s elected vice president.

“About every other person I run into seems to have a strong opinion,” Newsom said. “I haven’t even processed that decision myself because we’ll have to make that determination after Election Day, whether that’s even an option.”

Newsom chatted with Barnes briefly Thursday morning when he cast his ballot using one of the touch-screen machines at Golden 1 Center downtown.

He’s one of roughly 8.5 million Californians who have already voted this year, a number Newsom called “remarkable.” The number of mail ballots returned so far in the state has already exceeded the state’s total vote-by-mail turnout in 2016.

“I encourage people to vote early so they can avoid lines later,” Newsom said. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible this year and as safe as it possibly can be this year, but we’re very very enthusiastic about the total number of ballots that have been returned.”

The election has seen record early turnout across the country, spurred by the high stakes presidential contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Newsom has been a vocal supporter of the Biden and Harris ticket.

If they win, he’ll get to pick a new U.S. senator from California to replace Harris, but so far has declined to publicly discuss whom he might pick.

Speaking with reporters after casting his ballot, Newsom also declined to say how he voted on Proposition 22, a measure put on the ballot by gig economy companies including Uber and Lyft. The measure would allow those companies to continue treating their drivers as contractors, instead of as employees like California lawmakers have tried to force them to do.

Newsom said he didn’t want to weigh in on the measure so he would be able to help broker a negotiations over gig worker classification in the future. Newsom tried to negotiate a compromise between labor unions and gig companies on the issue last year during negotiations on landmark labor law Assembly Bill 5, but was unsuccessful.

It’s the highest profile measure Newsom has not weighed in on this election cycle. He’s previously announced his positions on most of the other propositions, including his support for business property tax hike Proposition 15 and opposition to rent control measure Proposition 21.

He said he’s not necessarily expecting violence after the election from people frustrated by the outcome of the presidential race or delays counting ballots, but said the state will be prepared if there is unrest.

“Yes, we are always gaming out different scenarios and making sure we are prepared,” he said.

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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