BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — When asked about his pledge to allow private citizens to sue over unlawful assault weapons and ghost guns on Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom pointed to Kern County as an example of what needs to change.

“Its interesting, the murder capital, tragically, of California is Kern County,” Gov. Newsom said. “It’s not a red or blue issue.”

In a press conference announcing a $320 million plan to fight crime in California, Gov. Newsom insisted his reference to Kern County did not have a political motive. Kern’s district attorney disagreed.

“Of course there is, why is he gonna call out LA, his buddy George Gascón is the DA down there,” Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said. “I don’t think he wanted to talk about his failures, but lash out at the county that voted to recall him by 60%.”

Either way, with rising crime rates throughout the state and the recent boom of ‘smash-and-grab’ robberies, public safety seems poised to become a dominant issue and political football in the 2022 election cycle. And that already seems to have started.

“The governor, while he wants to make political headlines, he needs to look in the mirror and look at why public safety concerns are growing,” Bakersfield Republican Assemblymember Vince Fong said. “Its the fact that he has signed bills into law [and] Democrats in Sacramento have passed very poor pieces of legislation that have removed any kind of accountability when someone commits a crime.”

Assemblymember Fong said Democrat’s policies lay the groundwork for skyrocketing crime. He specifically stands for taking another look at Assembly Bill 109, a measure passed a decade ago that allows people convicted of less serious felonies to serve time in a local county jail as opposed to state prison.

Zimmer shared a similar outlook to Fong, highlighting the disconnect between a Democratic governor and local officials in conservative and hard-on-crime counties.

“We have to be able to send repeat thieves to prison,” Zimmer said. “The current penalties on the books that the liberals changed in 2001 prohibiting what they call non-violent felonies from going to prison is drastically increasing the crime rate.”