Newsom discusses quest to be state's No. 2 

Forty-two-year-old San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Friday he would seek the No. 2 seat in Sacramento after abandoning a Democratic primary campaign for governor against state Attorney General Jerry Brown. On Friday, Newsom sat down with The Examiner’s Brent Begin to discuss the job as lieutenant governor, his family ties to Jerry Brown and
his daughter Montana’s response to his run.

If you win the Democratic primary on June 8, will you be working with Attorney General Jerry Brown, the only Democratic candidate for governor, after going to battle with him last year? Here’s what made the last election so tough. My grandfather, Bill Newsom, his goddaughter is Kathleen Brown, who is Jerry Brown’s sister. So, when I talk a family relationship with Jerry Brown, I mean one that goes back generations. Some of my greatest memories on the campaign trail were waiting outside for my father at the state capitol when Jerry first became governor when he was in his 30s.

My father was appointed by Jerry Brown to the California court of appeals. They are still close to this day. The most difficult part of that campaign, you have no idea, was running when those relationships were so foundational. All those relationships extend to mutual friends. It made for a very different environment for me, making calls to people who knew Jerry for 20 years that were supportive of him and they couldn’t support me. There was a stress to the campaign, no doubt.

But don’t let that say I’m not a strong supporter of Jerry Brown, and also, hats off to anyone in his position with his experience and at this point of his life that would be willing to give more time and personal as well as professional sacrifice to the state. That, in and of itself, should be reason to give people pause and say this guy is the real deal,  he doesn’t need to do this for any other reason.

What are your priorities as lieutenant governor? Not dissimilar to my priorities as mayor: economic and work force development, education and issues of environmental stewardship, environmental sustainability. Why do I say those three? Well, it’s self-evident. I would be chair of state lands, you are a member of the CSU board and UC regents, and you are chair of the economic development commission, and — this an important point — the economic development commission is focused on agriculture.

You’ve made statements in the past that you didn’t want to run for lieutenant governor, that it was a trivial office. How are you going to change that perception? Remember the context in which I said that. I was running for governor of California and just as one is running for mayor, I wouldn’t be talking about running for supervisor. You’re focused on the job and you’re focused on an intensity of in terms of reaching out to people across the state. You’ll recall it was a lot of work over the course of a year plus, with over  two dozen town halls in very diverse parts of the state of California and there was an intensity in the campaign, and I was by no means going to be deflected by some that would try to get me out of the campaign by getting me to run for office, and that was really reflected in those comments.

There is going to be a mayoral election, but also the Board of Supervisors will be appointing a mayor in the interim. What are you doing to influence what happens? The Board of Supervisors has a decision to make. Is our power more important than the people? Should we give that power back to the people to decide in a special election next year? The choice of a mayor is a very personal choice and it shouldn’t be the personal choice of a majority of 11 supervisors. A special election should be advanced to make that determination in March or April of next year. I believe the board should advance that, and if they don’t, I believe there will be enough support to put it on November’s ballot.

Even if there is a special election, there will be a period where the Board appoints an interim mayor. It should be the new board [which will be elected in November], I think, there are still questions about that.

Then are you concentrating on the supervisor races in November? I met with seven candidates this week for district supervisor. I even met with judicial candidates, so yes, you better believe it. I hope and I plead with people of this city. When I am no longer mayor of San Francisco, whether I win or not, that fate and future will be determined, in the context of who wins the next mayoral race, by who wins the supervisor races. And so this race is critical. 

You cited family concerns and mayoral responsibilities as reasons why you dropped out of the governor’s race. Completely legit, no regrets, I absolutely have not a moment of regret for that decision. And it was the right thing to do for my wife and our family and the right thing for our city. And I think you’ve seen that I’ve been as enthusiastic and engaged as ever as the mayor of this city. And that’s not going to wane, that’s not going away in the next nine months or year. There’s a mayor’s race next year. My term is shortened. But I’m still a resident of The City. There’s an office here for the lieutenant governor. I’m going to be a big part of San Francisco’s future.

What do you think Montana will say about this decision when she’s older? I tried to get her to say yes, but she kind of just went, “ehh.” Win or lose, I think she’ll be proud. The greatest risk in life is not taking any. I really believe that San Francisco will be better served with someone who can fight against cuts to transportation, fight against these cuts to education, these cuts to health and human services. Again, I’m a San Franciscan. I’m not moving anywhere. I live here and it’s my heart and soul and I’ll always be an advocate, and I’d say this even if it were my exit interview after all these years as mayor.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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