Capitol Alert

Five things you need to know about Gavin Newsom

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is running as the heir apparent to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The former mayor of San Francisco, Newsom was the first candidate to announce a 2018 gubernatorial campaign, way back in February 2015, offering that he’d rather be candid than coy about his plans. Newsom, a Democrat, originally sought the office in 2009, but stepped aside after Brown made it clear he was running.

Here are five things you should know about Newsom:

1.He owes his early political rise to then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, the former state Assembly speaker and a longtime power broker in California. Willie Brown appointed Newsom to the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission in 1996.

The following year, he named him to an open seat on the Board of Supervisors. In 2003, Newsom beat Matt Gonzalez, a Green Party candidate, by nearly 6 percentage points to succeed Willie Brown as mayor. Newsom would cruise to reelection four years later before winning two, four-year terms as lieutenant governor in 2010 and 2014. His first marriage to Kimberly Guilfoyle ended in divorce. The graduate of Santa Clara University now lives in Marin County. He is married to Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and they have four children: Montana, Hunter, Brooklynn and Dutch, named after the Placer County town of Dutch Flat.

2.Newsom is best known for authorizing same-sex weddings. As Newsom recalls the lead-up, he was still steaming after attending George W. Bush’s State of the Union address, where the president reiterated his opposition to gay marriage. Bush, in the January 2004 speech, warned the nation that if “activist judges” insisted on forcing their arbitrary will, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Newsom on Feb. 12 ordered the city clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But even in liberal San Francisco, he risked backlash, becoming a national poster boy for progressive overreach in the culture wars. Some blamed him for Democrat John Kerry’s loss to Bush. “I will not abdicate and step back and say what we were doing 10, 15 days ago – before this action – is appropriate,” Newsom said at the time. “I do not believe it’s appropriate for me, as mayor of San Francisco, to discriminate against people. And if that means my political career ends, so be it.”

3. He worked on health care and homelessness. In 2002, he was the public face of a citywide ballot measure known as Care Not Cash, which provided the homeless with housing and services rather than monthly sums of money. A 2008 city audit found that taxpayer-funded cash assistance dropped from a high of $342 or $422, depending on their circumstances, to an average of $78.

Under the program, those for whom a shelter bed was available still received the full amount. In 2007, Newsom joined other city-elected and health officials to subsidize medical care for uninsured residents. While Healthy San Francisco enrollment steadily declined because of the federal Affordable Care Act and related expansion of Medi-Cal, the city program had nearly $75 million in spending in 2015-16, including $44 million by the city’s Department of Public Health and more than $30 million by private community providers.

4. He turned to weed legalization and guns. Newsom last year led a pair of controversial ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana and increase gun control. Proposition 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, allows adults 21 and older to use weed, possess 1 ounce and grow six plants. It also established a taxation and licensing scheme while allowing local governments to opt out. It was largely financed by billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker and passed with broad support.

Proposition 63, the Background Checks for Ammunition Purchases and Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazine Ban Initiative, requires, among several other provisions, that ammunition sales be conducted by or processed through licensed vendors.

5. Newsom endorsed sweeping universal, government-run health care. He backed such a plan in the form of Senate Bill 562, which stalled last year in the California Legislature.

As governor, he wants to significantly expand on Healthy San Francisco by creating a universal health care system for the state. “The biggest risk is not that we aim too high and miss, it’s that we aim too low and miss it,” he said of his goal. Separately, Newsom said he would push to expand early childhood education and couple that with college-savings accounts.

He wants to institute full-service community schools that would remain open every day. He wants to create a state bank that could make low-interest loans. He’s expressed interest in reexamining the state’s top-heavy tax code that mostly relies on top earners. He also wants to build 3.5 million new homes by 2025, perhaps the loftiest of all his goals.

This item was written by Christopher Cadelago when he was with The Bee Capitol Bureau. He now works at POLITICO in Washington.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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