Dem governors draw contrasts with Trump

Democratic governors are drawing sharp contrasts with the Trump administration as they take office, previewing what is likely to be an increasingly tense relationship between states and the federal government.

Governors across the nation pledged to work together with legislative Republicans, eschewing partisan labels in hopes of making progress on issues important to their voters.

But in some blue states, those governors contrasted that approach, implicitly or explicitly, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity MORE’s apparent disdain for anyone who didn’t vote for him.

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“We find ourselves at a time when economic, social, racial and geographic division feels rampant. I will not normalize behavior that seeks to deepen and exploit these divides,” Minnesota Gov. Tim WalzTimothy (Tim) James WalzStates scramble to fill void left by federal shutdown Where does your governor stand on marijuana legalization? Dem governors draw contrasts with Trump MORE (D) said Monday. “I will not normalize policies that are not normal — ones that undermine our decency and respect. If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) urged swift action on climate change and pledged to lead an inclusive state, an explicit rejection of the federal government’s move to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration agents.

He reserved his sharpest rebuke for Trump himself, albeit without mentioning the president by name.

“We will offer an alternative to the corruption and incompetence in the White House. Our government will be progressive, principled, and always on the side of the people,” Newsom said Monday in Sacramento.

Blue states have emerged as a thorn in the side of the Trump administration, much as Republican-led states mounted legal cases against former President Obama’s agenda. Democratic attorneys general have mounted dozens of lawsuits against Trump’s ban on immigration from majority-Muslim countries, his education policies and his moves to roll back environmental regulation.

“If the president is going to get in the way of us taking care of the people of our states, we’re going to step up and do our jobs,” Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) told The Hill in an interview last month. “I don’t see it as a partisan issue, and I don’t see it as opposing him for political purposes. I see it as sticking up for Rhode Islanders.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said the biggest surprise he has encountered in his first year as governor is “the amount of time, energy, manpower that we’re putting up against litigating, compensating, mitigating for everything that’s coming at us” from the federal government.

Other governors have faulted Trump on a far more personal level, for capitalizing on and exacerbating national division at a time of unprecedented partisanship in the nation’s electorate.

“I don't fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration. But I fault them for something worse — for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. For manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said as he was sworn in to a third term in office. “Like looters during a blackout, they didn't cause the darkness, but they exploited it.”

Democrats won 16 governor’s races in the 2018 midterms, including seven states previously held by Republicans. The party knocked off Republican governors in Wisconsin and Illinois, and they picked up Republican-held states like Michigan, Kansas, Nevada and Maine. 

Several of the new governors, especially those who will lead purple and red states, avoided addressing Trump and the federal government altogether. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) urged legislative Republicans to work with her to fix the state’s broken roads. Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) said she would work to attract new residents to her state.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) called for a new era of “kindness and respect” as he took control of a state riven by political division and protests for the last eight years, as his predecessor Scott Walker (R) watched.

“We’ve become paralyzed by polarity and we’ve become content with division. We’ve become indifferent to resentment and governing by retribution,” Evers said. “The people of Wisconsin demanded a change this November, and that change is coming.”

He did not mention the federal government.