News tarnishes Newsom’s golden image 

While Mayor Gavin Newsom’s political career in San Francisco will likely weather the storm of his confessed affair with the wife of a close adviser, local political pundits expect the carefully burnished image enjoyed by Newsom since becoming mayor to be tarnished.

The native San Franciscan with movie-star looks made national headlines and became a rising star in the Democratic Party when he authorized same-sex marriages just a few months after being elected one of The City’s youngest mayors.

While his supporters insist that it is the mayor’s good works — not his good looks — that keep his poll numbers high, Newsom’s popularity has undoubtedly been boosted by his approachable, nice-guy persona as well as his attractive bachelor status.

However, in recent months the mayor’s behavior has broken ranks with his image, and media questions about his personal life have put him on the defensive.

Although Newsom has recently confirmed that he is running for a second term in office this November, at the end of last year he called the position of mayor, "truly the worst job in the United States of America," due to the lack of personal privacy.

Newsom’s recent dating choices — including a movie star who practices Scientology and a 20-year-old hostess caught with a cocktail in her hand while at a charity event with the mayor — have been dished about in the media, in the blogosphere, over water coolers and within City Hall.

The buzz about Newsom’s affair in the political blogosphere Thursday ranged from condemnation to acceptance to gossip on the dirty details, but overall the mood seemed to be that Newsom’s major gaffe was betraying a loyal subordinate.

"God. I really like Gavin, but he makes it pretty hard lately," one SFist poster wrote.

Newsom’s drinking habits have also been closely watched, and reports in December that he was intoxicated when visiting a police officer who had just been shot raised eyebrows around town.

Newly elected Supervisor Ed Jew, widely considered to be an ally of the mayor, said seeing a "slightly intoxicated" Newsom at the hospital and now the news of the affair has surprised him.

When asked if he felt Newsom was trustworthy, Jew said, "That’s a hard question to answer. I think I need time to answer that."

Even Newsom’s reputation as an effective mayor has come into question, in light of recent setbacks including an announcement by the San Francisco 49ers that they’re moving to Santa Clara, the subsequent loss of a potential bid for the 2016 Olympics, an election that leaned heavily in favor of his progressive critics and highly publicized battles with the Board of Supervisors on everything from police foot patrols to his refusal to appear before the Board of Supervisors for a voter-approved "question time."

"Everybody makes mistakes," Supervisor Tom Ammiano said, when asked about the affair. "But Newsom’s had a lot of them lately."

Newsom’s down, but he’s got time to recover before November’s election, local political analyst David Latterman said.

"They’ll take a poll, which they won’t release, but they’ll try and get a sense of the hit he took," he said. "But The City’s moderates are still going to stick with Gavin Newsom."

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

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Bonnie Eslinger

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