The inaugural celebration for Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, which begins this weekend, is the most extensive, star-studded and public for a California governor in two decades.
Not that he’s had a lot of competition recently. Festivities to mark the swearing-in of the state’s chief executive have been toned down or otherwise hobbled over the past 20 years because of economic downturns, sour political moods, apparent aversion to partying — and even a broken leg.
Newsom, the Democratic lieutenant governor who won a resounding victory in November, has planned a luncheon for donors, a free family event at the California State Railroad Museum and a fundraiser concert to benefit communities harmed by wildfires on Sunday, before he is sworn in Monday on the steps of the Capitol. The $25 concert at the Golden 1 Center will feature performances by Common, Pitbull, X Ambassadors, Betty Who, and Cold Weather Sons.
The last inauguration to beat Newsom for scope was Gray Davis’ first in 1999, when state Democrats threw a blowout three days of revelry to commemorate their return to the California governor’s office after 16 years.
Supporters and interest groups spent nearly $4 million to host more than half a dozen invitation-only events for Davis, including a “unity ball” in Los Angeles, a religious service at the Sacramento Convention Center and a family celebration at the California State Railroad Museum. An “inaugural gala” for 7,000 attendees at Arco Arena, where tickets ran up to $125, featured performances by Coolio, Kenny G and Lionel Richie (but not Garth Brooks, who canceled at the last minute).
Then-Vice President Al Gore was among those who joined Davis on stage as he was sworn in at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. That evening, supporters had a choice of two separate inaugural balls at Cal Expo, including a “rock and roll ball” aimed at young people that was headlined by Eve 6, the Young Dubliners and Common Sense.
Amid a budget shortfall and fiscal belt-tigthening, Davis’s second inauguration in 2003 was much more subdued. His invitation-only swearing-in at the Memorial Auditorium was followed by a barbecue at the convention center, with informational displays and food dedicated to regions of the state. Tickets were just $15, the only band was Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Davis showed up in jeans.
Four years later, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to give himself an inaugural celebration fit for a Hollywood movie star.
He had denied himself some such festivity the first time, following the brutal recall election in 2003.
His swearing-in near the west entrance of the Capitol was watched by more than 7,000 — including celebrity friends Jamie Lee Curtis, Rob Lowe, Danny DeVito, Tom Arnold, Linda Hamilton and Vanessa Williams — but it reflected the more somber political atmosphere. There was no inaugural ball. Schwarzenegger instead attended several post-inauguration lunches, including one hosted by the California Chamber of Commerce and one in the Capitol rotunda for state and federal officeholders.
So in 2007, for Schwarzenegger’s re-election, he planned an environmentally-themed kickoff event at Capitol Park with Sacramento Kings star Vlade Divac and comedian Bob Saget, a donor reception at a downtown restaurant and a $500-a-ticket ball at the convention center with performers Paul Anka and Donna Summer. The inaugural ceremony at Memorial Auditorium would be hosted by former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and feature a rendition of the national anthem by guitarist Jose Felicano.
Then, two weeks before the celebration, Schwarzenegger broke his leg during a ski accident in Idaho. He had to pull out of most of his inaugural events, showing up to his swearing-in on crutches midway through the ceremony and making a quick, 10-minute appearance at the ball, where he sang two lines of a special inauguration-themed rendition of “My Way” with Anka.
Then there is the curious case of Democrat Jerry Brown, who downplayed his return to the governor’s office for a third-term after 28 years, and made even less of a deal out of his re-election for a historic fourth term.
Sworn in as the economic recession wreaked havoc on California’s budget, Brown put an “emphasis on frugality” for his 2011 inauguration. A choir from Oakland School for the Arts, one of two charter schools Brown started in Oakland, performed the national anthem and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” for the ceremony at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. The only other official event was a private reception at the California State Railroad Museum.
Four years later, Brown combined his swearing-in with his State of the State address before a joint session of the Legislature, calling for action on climate change and increased spending on the state’s aging infrastructure. Outside, liberal protestors mocked his permissiveness of oil drilling.
One tradition Brown kept across both celebrations: stopping for a hot dog at a picnic on the Capitol lawn hosted by organized labor.