The announcement today that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is indeed running for lieutenant governor of California is hardly a surprise. It has been clear for weeks that the termed-out Newsom, whose bid to run for governor flamed out last year, was eyeing the mainly ceremonial role.
The surprise in Newsom’s confirmation of his latest electoral campaign comes by way of the mayor noting he has lined up backing from none other than openly gay state Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles), seen in the above photo at right with Newsom, in the race.
In his letter to supporters, Newsom wrote that, “I’m proud that I have the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate President Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, United Farm Workers co-founder Delores Huerta and California Nurses and teachers and I hope I can count on your support too.”
Newsom’s biggest opponent in the June Democratic Primary is Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, seen at left. Not only has Hahn hired political consultant Garry South, who briefly worked on Newsom’s failed gubernatorial bid, but just yesterday she announced that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was supporting her in the race.
That puts Villaraigosa and Perez, cousins who are normally allies politically, in opposing camps in the lieutenant governor’s race. In a statement issued by Hahn’s campaign, Villaraigosa said he knows “first hand” that the councilwoman is ready to serve in a statewide office.
“I know first hand that Janice Hahn is ready to lead California as our next lieutenant governor,” stated Villaraigosa, whose one-time ambition of also running for governor died last year due to his own problems governing Los Angeles. “Janice Hahn knows what it will take to get the job done and fight for all Californians. I have worked side-by-side with Janice fighting gang violence, greening and growing the Port of Los Angeles and creating jobs for Angelenos. There is no doubt, that Janice Hahn is the tough, strong leader California needs as their next lieutenant governor.”
Newsom has been criticized by local business leaders for his decision to run for the state office and, should he win, leave it up to the progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors to vote in his replacement. Newsom has reportedly been told he could delay his swearing-in in January of 2010 long enough so that the winners of this fall’s supervisor races are sworn into their seats and allowed to pick the next mayor.
Should Newsom indeed be the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor it will put enormous pressure on moderates to win back a majority of supervisor seats in order to avoid seeing a Mayor Aaron Peskin, former board president who now chairs the local Democratic Party, or former Supervisor Angela Alioto, whose attempt to be mayor in 2003 failed at the ballot box and is said to now be angling for an appointment to the job.
Other potential candidates looking to run for mayor include former Mayor Art Agnos; State Senators Leland Yee and Mark Leno, one of two gay men in the California Senate; City Attorney Dennis Herrera; and current Board of Supervisors President David Chiu.
And it could cause trouble for openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who is termed out this year and is the only declared candidate for mayor. He faces the likelihood of having to challenge a sitting mayor in the 2011 race.
As for Newsom, he said in his letter to supporters that he “didn’t come to this decision easily” to seek the statewide office. But he wrote that “after a great deal of consultation with my family, constituents and supporters, I believe that the best way for me to serve is by taking all of the many things that are right about California and applying them to fixing what’s wrong in Sacramento.”
With his onetime campaign strategist South already pummeling Newsom with press releases and videos of his repeated statements he would not run for lieutenant governor and didn’t know what the job entailed, the match-up between Hahn and Newsom is sure to be one of the most watched and nasty political fights in the June primary.
As South stated in February, “If the Mayor does run, it is his responsibility to explain why he now claims to want an elected office he summarily dismissed publicly numerous times over the last several months, and which just earlier this year he called “a largely ceremonial post” … “with no real authority and no real portfolio.”