Newsom’s win keeps Calif political future afloat
He’s best-known for opening San Francisco’s City Hall to same-sex weddings and was once thought to be too liberal even for the bulk of California. But Gavin Newsom’s decisive Nov. 2 win as the state’s next second-in-command has rekindled prospects that he may one day be a viable candidate for governor or U.S. Senate.
The 43-year-old San Francisco mayor won handily over Republican Abel Maldonado in the race for lieutenant governor. While his new role is viewed largely as ceremonial, it marks a comeback of sorts for the well-coiffed politician.
Two years ago, Newsom was a focal point of the Proposition 8 campaign to ban gay marriage. One ad aired by the initiative’s supporters showed a videotaped clip of Newsom’s impassioned exclamation in 2004 that the door was open to gay marriage, "whether you like it or not."
Voter approval of Proposition 8 that November raised questions about whether Newsom was electable statewide or would be too closely associated with gay marriage.
In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Newsom said his win was a testament that Californians can disagree with their candidates on some issues but still vote for them.
"It was an interesting intellectual question that now I believe to some degree has been answered. And I’m very proud of that," he said. "It’s nice to know that you can survive that in a political sense. Even if people disagree with you - and I know so many people did and do - people still will vote for you because on other issues, they perhaps have more confidence that I’m doing what I think is right."
Newsom will transition into a job that functions as the state’s chief executive when the governor is away and serves on economic development and environmental commissions as well as two public university governing boards.
But the post will also help keep his political prospects afloat with a possible bid to succeed Gov.-elect Jerry Brown or perhaps give him a shot at the U.S. Senate.
"I think we’re back on the ’Gavin Newsom has a bright future’ sort of swing," said Corey Cook, an assistant professor of political science at the University of San Francisco. "He’s been up and down several times in the last seven years, and it seems like this is a pretty convincing victory. I think a lot of the folks who had criticized him and written his political obituary are sort of maybe rethinking that position right now."
Newsom, of course, will have to be patient.
For starters, it’s uncertain whether Brown, 72, would seek a second term. In response to suggestions that he has told some Democrats privately he would only serve one term, Brown said "I’ve never made that commitment" and noted that his grandmother lived to 96.