Friday, October 30, 2009

The Favorite Son, Eclipsed

This is a mild surprise; SF mayor Gavin Newsom is dropping out of the CA governor's race: Newsom Pulls Out of Governor's Race
Lacking both money and political momentum, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom withdrew from the California governor's race today.

"With a young family and responsibilities at City Hall, I have found it impossible to commit the time required to complete this effort the way it needs to - and should be - done," Newsom said in a statement.

"This is not an easy decision," he said. "But it is one made with the best intentions for my wife, my daughter, the residents of the city and county of San Francisco, and California Democrats."

The usual explanations are being given: not enough money, too much time away from his "real job" as mayor of SF, and his putative - yet unannounced - rival for the Democratic nomination has a formidable lead in the polls and in fund raising. Left unstated are Newsom's unfavorables: he had a mild sex scandal a couple years ago, went into rehab for a while, and has backed sanctuary city policies that would have left him vulnerable to a good old-fashioned demagoguing. Most important, while he's been OK as mayor - he's been very good on homelessness issues and is about as pro-business a politician as you can expect in SF - his biggest accomplishment in office has been gay marriage; something I just don't think most voters give a flip about.

A more existential problem is whether anyone would want to be governor of California right now. The next governor will continue to confront budget issues that are still being papered over. For a Democrat, that prospect might seem daunting, as California's fiscal crisis is a pure product of liberal Big Government politicking. The voters have clearly hit a wall, expressed in last May's Special Election, and are eager for lower taxes and major spending cuts. Would any Democrat want to preside over that? It's no wonder that there are already three announced Republican candidates and exactly zero announced Democratic ones, although everyone "knows" Jerry Brown is running. Certainly, Newsom's political interests are not in tune with those of the voters:

There had been speculation Newsom might settle for a spot in the lieutenant governor's race, with Brown at the top of the ticket. The mayor did not address that or anything else about his future in today's statement. His term as mayor runs through January 2012.

"I will continue to fight for change and the causes and issues for which I care deeply - universal health care, a cleaner environment, and a green economy for our families, better education for our children, and, of course, equal rights under the law for all citizens," Newsom said.

Jesus, who in California gives a damn about any of that right now? Those are the sorts of visions of grandeur that got CA into trouble in the first place. Rather than behaving like a state, and concentrating on its core competence of education, law enforcement, and maintaining public works; CA government has acted as a pseudo-member of the UN, showing more concern for trendy causes like "green" tech and stem cell research, rather than the more mundane powers of state government like ensuring we have an adequate the water supply.

Newsom is a young-ish man with a future, but he is certainly not the right man for the times. Today, he acknowledged that reality.

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