‘Lead by example’: California lawmakers face pushback for flouting state coronavirus guidelines

If politicians want their constituents to stop thinking of them as elitists, they’re going to have to start following their own rules. But that prospect doesn’t seem to appeal to lawmakers in California.

As the Golden State clamps down on residents with a series of new coronavirus-related restrictions, the Washington Examiner is reporting that a group of lawmakers from the California legislature traveled to Hawaii to attend a lobbyist conference in person.

The Independent Voter Project’s conference is being held this week at the Fairmont Kea Lani on the lush island of Maui. It didn’t seem to bother the California lawmakers that their state government recently issued strong warnings against traveling — particularly out of state — and congregating in large crowds. Hawaii has restrictions of its own regarding travel to the state.

As the Examiner noted, the controversial trip comes after California’s Democrat governor, Gavin Newsom, faced similar criticism for attending a dinner party at a restaurant with a dozen other people, including some from different households, in violation of his own guidelines put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.

A conference in Maui

According to Politico, upwards of 100 people from four different states have gathered in Maui for the four-day conference, which, perhaps ironically, is all about finding ways to reopen businesses and the economy in a safe manner during the ongoing pandemic.

The organizer of the event, the Independent Voter Project’s chair and executive director, Dan Howle, has insisted that the conference is safe and that all attendees are abiding by the applicable regulations. Speaking with Politico, Howle stressed that attendees would be masked at all times, that there would be no outside mingling at bars and restaurants, and that the event had received special permission to operate despite bringing together more than 12 people.

Howle also claimed that attendance at the event is about a third of what the group usually sees, and that only about 20 of the attendees are actually lawmakers.

“At some point in time, you have to figure out a way for people to get back to some semblance of a normal life,” he told Politico. “This is a good conference.”

Leading by example

The Sacramento Bee issued a similar report that revealed, citing Howle, that the group had worked closely with the hotel in Maui for months to ensure that the event could be held safely. Precautions included requiring attendees to test negative for the coronavirus and submit to temperature checks.

But it’s all unlikely to cool what the Los Angeles Times described as “white-hot anger” among Californians, many of whom are still livid about Newsom attending a birthday party at a pricey public restaurant amid COVID-19.

The governor has since apologized — but the LA Times said it “did little to quell the anger of his fiercest critics.”

“Fair to say that the timing isn’t great,” Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, told Politico of the recent bad moves by California lawmakers. Cassandra Pye, a former staffer for then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), expressed a similar sentiment, telling the LA Times, “It’s so important to lead by example right now.”

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