Gavin Newsom: Governor Whether We Like It or Not?
It's become a selling point of some restaurants and cocktail lounges to announce that they are not staffed with actors-in-waiting -- their waitresses are committed to being waitresses and their bartenders have no higher ambitions than to pour you the best drink. It's a candor that's eluded some of the state's mayors, who increasingly seem to view their jobs as pesky apprenticeships necessary to complete before running for governor. So it is with two leading contenders for the statehouse in Sacramento: Los Angeles' Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco's Gavin Newsom.
Today's L.A. Times carries a look at Newsom's just-concluded swing through Southern California -- and the baggage he brought with him. There's the divorce from first wife Kim Guilfoyle, his embarrassing fling with the wife of a trusted staffer, his admission of alcohol abuse and, as the Times piece reminds us, his bluntly off-hand comment about not having the "intensity and passion" for the mayor's job. Presumably he's been saving those emotions for governor's mansion.
Nationally, of course, Newsom is best remembered for his advocacy of same-sex marriage -- and for how his timing on this issue may have hurt its chances. It was one of those first-time-as-tragedy/second-time-as-farce things. By unilaterally declaring, in 2004, the legality of gay marriage in San Francisco well before the presidential election, Newsom handed a drifting Republican Party a hot-button issue with which to rally its Christian base. Then, last year, his famous line about gay marriage coming "whether you like it or not" was happily manipulated by the Proposition 8 forces in its campaign ads to pass their anti-gay-marriage initiative -- and once more dash the hopes of California's gays and lesbians.
Like Antonio Villaraigosa, Newsom has been desperately seeking the center, fully aware of the still potent appeal of state attorney general Jerry Brown, who of late has been positioning himself as a kind of tough beat cop who also believes in consumer rights. It was not all that long that Brown was himself a mayor (of Oakland), making it seem that the only non-mayor from in the coming campaign might be Senator Diane Feinstein, should she decide to run. (Although years ago, as a reader points out below, she was once San Francisco's mayor.)
In the end, getting elected governor may come down to superior image-making, of which Newsom is a pro. When Ryan Seacrest, during a soft interview in Los Angeles, popped the question about how Newsom kept his hair so slick and shiny, the mayor was quick with the answer.
"It's Loreal and its the clean gel," Newsom said. "The total clean gel. They've got seven, eight products and the others don't work."
I think we've just located Newsom's passion.