Gov. Gavin Newsom left California on Monday for a vacation with his family, but his office is staying quiet about where the governor will be while away from the state.
In addition to an upcoming official trip to El Salvador, Newsom will be out of state for nine full days, leaving Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis to serve as acting governor until April 10.
Though the governor’s office announced Monday that Newsom had left the state, it declined to provide additional information about his travel schedule, where he would be while on vacation and whether he was traveling in the United States or abroad.
“Consistent with the policies of past Administrations, our office will continue to publicly disclose any time the Governor leaves the state, notify the acting Governor and, when it's a matter of official business, provide relevant details,” spokesman Nathan Click said in an email.
Though communications styles have varied over past administrations, recent California governors have traditionally informed the media about their general vacation plans when leaving the state. Former Gov. Jerry Brown did not publicly announce his vacation plans, but officials in his administration often briefed news reporters about Brown’s whereabouts. And former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger operated in much the same way, though it was difficult for him to travel without being noticed because of his celebrity, said Rob Stutzman, who served as Schwarzenegger's communications director.
Stutzman said governors deserved to have some privacy, especially when on vacation with their families.
“He’s on vacation. Leave him alone,” Stutzman said of governors taking personal time.
Newsom’s spokesman said the governor decided to get away for a few days because his young children were on spring break from school.
“Family is very important to the Governor. His kids are on spring break, and he is traveling outside the state with the first family,” Click said. “He is still making time each day to work remotely and has a number of issue briefings and calls scheduled throughout the week.”
California law dictates that a governor must be in the state to have the powers of the office. Newsom has left the state three times since taking office in January, officially transferring the job of governor to Kounalakis during his departures.
A spokesperson for the lieutenant governor said Kounalakis would be in California throughout Newsom’s absence, but if she had to leave the state, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) would be the next in the gubernatorial line of succession.
A governor’s absence from the state rarely proves consequential, but there have been some exceptions.
When the Loma Prieta earthquake hit the Bay Area in 1989, then-Gov. George Deukmejian was in Europe, leaving Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy to handle disaster-relief efforts. During Brown’s first tenure as governor in the 1970s, Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Curb appointed a judge to the state appeals court while Brown was away. Brown reversed the appointment upon his return.
Vacations can draw criticism for politicians at all levels of government. While serving as mayor of San Francisco, Newsom was criticized for a trip to Hawaii shortly after a 58,000-gallon oil spill near the Embarcadero in 2007. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also caught heat for flying to Washington for a fundraiser in 2015 amid demonstrations in the city over a police shooting that killed 25-year-old Ezell Ford. Garcetti said the primary reason for the trip was to seek federal funding for homelessness programs.