Gavin Newsom never got any traction in the race for governor, in part because he completely alienated the progressive base in his hometown. And when you have unionized city employees holding protests outside your campaign fundraisers and you’re in a Democratic primary in California you’ve got serious problems.
And now, oddly enough, the progressives in San Francisco may be his biggest allies in the race for the second-place job of lieutenant governor.
There are some good reasons for that.
For starters, a lot of us thought that Newsom, whatever his positions on issues, wasn’t ready to run California to deal with all of the massive problems the state faces and to take on the brutal politics of Sacramento. And I think his behavior during his brief gubernatorial campaign demonstrated that we were right.
But the Lite Guv job is a lot different. You don’t have to balance a state budget that’s $20 billion in the red; you don’t have to solve water problems. It’s a place where you can learn about state politics on the job, without really screwing things up.
And if his real goal is to run for U.S. Senate down the road, say, when Dianne Feinstein retires, he’ll be in a good place to launch that campaign.
But let’s face it. A lot of this is practical politics. With either Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman in the Governor’s Office, the state will continue to be screwed up and it will be even more important that cities take on their own economic destinies. And Newsom, as a bitter lame duck, simply can’t do that.
The progressive political community isn’t unanimous at all. But a lot of people are thinking that if Newsom’s ascension to Sacramento means that the district supervisors will have a chance to appoint a progressive mayor, it’s worth the trade-off.