Critics angry, not shocked by Newsom disclosure 

City Hall reaction to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s sudden announcement that he has a drinking problem was swift and often scathing Monday as belief grew among his critics that the mounting scandal could hamper Newsom’s ability to lead.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, a strong critic of the mayor, said Newsom’s admission explained "the lack of leadership those of us who work at City Hall have witnessed."

"The question is, is this enough of a wake-up call for him to turn around and engage and lead?" Peskin said. "Also, will rehab get in the way of his duties? Only time will tell."

Newsom’s announcement came only hours after Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, saying Newsom was a "pathetic role model," called for the mayor to resign in the wake of the revelation lastweek that he had an affair with the wife of one of his top campaign aides.

If Newsom were to resign, Peskin would immediately become acting mayor, and the Board of Supervisors would be charged with either voting Peskin into that position until the next election or replacing him with another leader until the voters go back to the ballot box for a permanent replacement. Peskin is also in line to become mayor if Newsom was incapable of performing his duties or delegating a substitute for the position.

Peskin said it would be no problem to replace Newsom.

"The board as a collective whole has been attending to the issues of San Francisco, large and small," Peskin said. "It doesn’t matter who is mayor."

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, however, saw no reason for Newsom to step down. "This is the mayor’s personal business and affairs. If I look at what the mayor’s been doing on The City’s business I don’t see a reason to resign," Maxwell said.

Even some allies of the mayor, however, acknowledged that the admission about alcohol, coupled with the revelations about the affair, had drastically changed the personal and political picture for a mayor who just a week ago was enjoying an unsullied image among San Franciscans.

One of those allies, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, said Newsom’s acknowledgement of a drinking problem does not come as a surprise to many.

"I think that that’s been a common refrain that you’ve heard from people around here, that they felt the drinking was a problem," Dufty said. "I don’t think he saw it. I don’t think he realized how it led to some bad things for him."

Dufty said he believes residents and city officials will give Newsom an opportunity "to step back and take an inventory.

"The problems that Gavin faces are deeper than that one transgression, and fundamentally it’s felt as if he’s profoundly unhappy in both his job and his life."

Some political pundits said they viewed Newsom’s news with skepticism.

"I can’t comment about whether he’s truly an alcoholic. There’s obviously been rumors about his drinking for quite a while," San Francisco political consultant David Latterman said. "But this is what celebrities do when they screw up, they go to rehab: Mel Gibson, Kramer, and now Gavin Newsom. It’s a tried and true public relations technique."

Supervisor Chris Daly, a vocal Newsom critic, said it was too soon to tell how the revelations would impact the mayor’s political career.

"San Francisco has many pressing issues which need the undivided attention of the Mayor’s Office and I think that we need a better understanding of all the facts before we decide which is the best way to move forward," Daly said.

The newest member of the Board of Supervisors, Ed Jew, summed up the feeling of many after the consecutive bombshells emanating from the Mayor’s Office in recent days.

"Is there anything else?" he said.

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?

beslinger@examiner.com

jsabatini@examiner.com

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