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Gavin Newsom: Complex and connected

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, candidate for governor, addresses a group earlier this year after being endorsed by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. (Photo: Associated Press)

Gavin Christopher Newsom is tall and handsome, with a beautiful wife and four adorable children. He’d like to be California’s next governor, and, if the polls are correct, he’ll get his wish.

But the golden-boy image attached to the lieutenant governor isn’t the whole picture. Newsom’s life has had its dark times.

When he was 2 years old, his parents separated and later divorced. For a time, his mother had to work three jobs to keep the family afloat. As an adult, he went through his own divorce, and later acknowledged an adulterous affair with a friend’s wife. In 2007, he admitted to a drinking problem.

The PlumpJack empire now numbers 21 businesses, including wine stores, restaurants and hotels.

On top of all this old baggage, Newsom has dyslexia, which makes it more difficult for him to read and write and work with numbers. The affliction still bothers him to some degree today, although he has written a book, “Citizenville,” published in 2013.

But throughout the ups and downs, Newsom has been a striver—always trying to do better in his own life, and in the leadership roles he has won.

Newsom was born in San Francisco on Oct. 10, 1967 to Tessa and William Alfred Newsom III, a retired state appeals court justice and attorney for Getty Oil. He is a fourth-generation San Franciscan. He got a partial baseball scholarship to Santa Clara University, and earned a B.A. in political science from there in 1989.

He has had advantageous relationships. He began his PlumpJack wine store in 1991 with the financial assistance of Gordon Getty, a family friend and multimillionaire. The PlumpJack empire now numbers 21 businesses, including wine stores, restaurants and hotels.

Newsom got his start in politics as a volunteer and fundraiser for Willie Brown in the former Assembly speaker’s successful 1995 bid for mayor of San Francisco. The following year, Brown appointed him to the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission. In 1997, Brown appointed Newsom to the city’s Board of Supervisors.

In 2015, 11 years after Newsom issued his City Hall edict, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

Newsom became the 42nd mayor of San Francisco in 2003, the city’s youngest in a century.

A mere 36 days into his first term, San Francisco’s youthful new mayor became a national figure by ordering the city clerk’s office to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of state law. The licenses started coming on Feb. 12, 2004. The line of couples stretched around the city hall block. Sen. Dianne Feinstein criticized it as “too much, too fast, too soon.”

Speaking at the state Republican convention in February 2004, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said:

“During my campaign, I talked about the importance of rule of law. We rely upon our courts to enforce our rule of law, but we’re seeing in San Francisco that the courts are dropping the ball. … While we wait for the courts to act, it’s time for the City of San Francisco to start respecting state law. It is time for the city to stop traveling down this dangerous path of ignoring the rule of law.”

In 2015, 11 years after Newsom issued his City Hall edict, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

“I take full responsibility for my personal mistakes and my problems with alcohol are not an excuse for my personal lapses in judgment.” — Gavin Newsom

But same-sex marriage wasn’t Newsom’s only foray into the cutting edge of public policy.
He pushed his Care Not Cash program for the city’s homeless, substituting services instead of monetary assistance.

He was an early advocate of citywide Wi-Fi in 2005.

He wanted to impose an increased tax on sugary soft drinks back in 2007.

In February 2007, up for re-election, Newsom admitted to an affair with Ruby Rippey Gibney, his appointments secretary. At the time, she was married to Alex Tourk, the mayor’s friend, deputy chief of staff and re-election campaign manager.

In a written statement, Newsom also admitted to an alcohol problem:

“Upon reflection with friends and family this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I will be a better person without alcohol in my life. I take full responsibility for my personal mistakes and my problems with alcohol are not an excuse for my personal lapses in judgment.”

The Public Policy Institute of Californa’s Oct. 24 poll has Newsom ahead of Republican rival John Cox still by 11 points.

Newsom was then elected to a second term with 72 percent of the vote.

Newsom was formerly married to former Fox News on-air personality Kimberly Guilfoyle and has four young children with his second wife, filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

He was elected lieutenant governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, the same two years Jerry Brown won his third and fourth terms as governor. Brown was “the right person at the right time,” Newsom has said.

Newsom’s campaign is centered on “California Values,” which his campaign lists, among other things, as “comprehensive immigration reform” and holding down tuition rates at public colleges and universities. As lieutenant governor, Newsom proposed California’s Economic Growth and Competitiveness Agenda, which he described as a “blueprint for continued economic growth,” and carried that theme into his race for governor.

Newsom’s campaign also pledges to ensure“California continues to lead by example while actively resisting any attempt by the Trump administration to take us backwards.”

The Public Policy Institute of Californa’s Oct. 24 poll has Newsom ahead of Republican rival John Cox still by 11 points, but since the summer, Cox has cut Newsom’s lead in half, a major shift from Newsom’s 55-to-31 percent margin in PPIC’s July survey.

Newsom has much deeper pockets. Through last week, his campaign spent $28.3 million, and had about $15.3 million on hand. Cox, meanwhile, reported $13 million in spending and about $570,000 on hand.

Far-ahead speculation about Newsom’s political future is already well underway.

If he is indeed elected California’s next governor on Nov. 6, Newsom will be inaugurated in January 2019. Political noise about the 2020 midterms will begin just about the same time as Newsom would be at the beginning of his second year. By the time the 2020 midterms are over, he will have been in office roughly a year and a half.

Would the handsome governor of the nation’s largest state—presuming a credible record so far in office—be a viable presidential contender? How would he fare against fellow California Democratic presidential possibilities Sen. Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti? Would the fact that he was the mayor of San Francisco be a fatal handicap in the heartland?

Such speculation right now is indulged in mostly by political junkies. But it’s a safe bet that California politicians are gaming such a possible scenario already.

Newsom has already passed a critical test for any ambitious California Democrat. He’s been blasted by Donald Trump.

“How about this clown in California who’s running for governor?” Trump told a cheering crowd at a recent rally. “He wants open borders, and then he wants to give them health care, education, everything.”

Newsom fired back on Twitter by comparing Trump to Pennywise, the terrifying clown in Stephen King’s “It.”

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two sketches of gubernatorial candidates. The first, on GOP contender John Cox, can be seen here.

 


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