"It was a lot of personalized criticism," Gonzalez said of the vaccine debate. "A lot of death threats. It was emotionally draining."
But she rarely relents, especially on social media. Whether it's sparring over one of her proposals, national politics or just about any topic of the day, Gonzalez routinely weighs in.
"Whatever is in her mind is just coming out," Fletcher said. "She's going to say it or she's going to tweet it and you'll just know where she is." Nor has she hesitated to blend the personal with the political, particularly when it comes to her husband. Fletcher served in the Assembly as a Republican before renouncing his party during a failed mayoral race, ultimately re-registering as a Democrat. His electoral comeback as a county supervisor was aided by the political muscle of Gonzalez, whom he married the year before.
Companies and powerful groups with an interest in Gonzalez's work in Sacramento donated to Fletcher's nonprofit in 2015. In the 2018 supervisor's race, Fletcher benefited from almost $1 million in political spending by the San Diego County Democratic Party, its own coffers filled by some $370,000 donated by Gonzalez from her own campaign account — far exceeding what she had given to the local party in prior elections.
But she rejects any suggestion that she unfairly boosted Fletcher's chances. "I know my husband. I had no doubts about what kind of elected official he would be. And I was right, by the way," Gonzalez said. "I'd vote for him to be president tomorrow. Come on, why would I not want him to be county supervisor?"
For now, Gonzalez has placed her presidential hopes on Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And Warren gave the California legislator a boost last summer by endorsing AB 5 as the bill was meeting with resistance in Sacramento.
"I believe in markets and in providing entrepreneurs the chance to succeed," Warren wrote in a newspaper op-ed at the time. "But markets without rules and workplaces without labor protections are ripe for exploitation."
The topic has become all-consuming for Gonzalez. In the months since Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 5 into law, she's done little else but field questions and complaints — in person, when protesters showed up at her San Diego office, and in news interviews and online. She has insisted that AB 5 offers important clarity to when a business's work can be done by an independent contractor, offering a more lenient system than would otherwise apply under a high-profile California Supreme Court ruling from 2018.
On Thursday, Gonzalez announced on Twitter that she will soon unveil new legislation "to help ease the implementation" of the law, specifically promising to examine concerns raised by freelance journalists, photographers and musicians. "This is just a piece of the clarifications you will see" in the coming weeks, she wrote.
The promised efforts come after blistering criticisms of both the tone and substance of her defense of AB 5.
"From looking at your own posts, I sense a truly disturbing indifference," Vanity Fair correspondent Anthony Breznican wrote in a tweet last month. "Prove you are not that person. People are begging you for a fix. They will remember when it comes time to vote."
Modifications will mollify some, but not all, of the law's critics. Republican lawmakers have introduced a series of bills in the Legislature to exempt additional lines of work from the limits on independent contractors. At least one bill seeks to fully repeal AB 5, and drew a boisterous crowd to a state Capitol rally on Jan. 28.
"We have continued work to do," Gonzalez said in an interview with The Times. "And it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of my time to meet with so many people. And I think that gets lost. What I don't like is when people are like, 'Repeal it.' I'm like, 'Are you kidding me?'"
Few disputes over AB 5 were more intense than those Gonzalez had with the trucking industry and app-based companies such as Uber and Lyft.
Trucking groups have won two early court battles against the law, while the tech companies have turned to the ballot: Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have put a combined $100 million in a political campaign to ask voters in November to rewrite the law.
And the fight is likely to continue to be as much about her as the policy. In the federal lawsuit filed against AB 5 on Dec. 30, attorneys for Uber and Postmates singled her out — complaining that "this hostility toward the on-demand economy held by Assemblywoman Gonzalez" led to the law's passage.
That night, Gonzalez responded in kind on Twitter.
"Come and get me tech bros," she wrote. "I'm here every single day to take on the plight of workers against big tech." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.