Capitol Alert

California’s race for governor percolates in Philadelphia

Democrat Tom Steyer says Donald Trump 'living an unreal fantasy'

Tom Steyer, billionaire environmentalist and potential candidate for governor in 2018, spoke to the California delegation at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia.
Up Next
Tom Steyer, billionaire environmentalist and potential candidate for governor in 2018, spoke to the California delegation at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia.

On the 37th floor of a high-rise with panoramic views of Philadelphia, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee introduced Gavin Newsom to a small crowd on Tuesday before the disc jockey Questlove played.

Not only was California’s lieutenant governor and former San Francisco mayor a good friend, Lee said, “I think he would make a great governor of the state of California.”

Amid platters of oysters and chilled crab legs, guests cheered.

While the Democratic National Convention focused attention on the nomination of Hillary Clinton at the Wells Fargo Center this week, the early campaign for California governor pressed on in restaurants, hotel lobbies and panels around town.

At a delegation breakfast on Monday, state Treasurer John Chiang, who like Newsom has declared his candidacy for 2018, told California Democrats that the state’s diversity is Donald Trump’s “worst nightmare.” Downstairs from the ballroom where Chiang spoke, Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist, met with reporters in a café at the Marriott hotel.

“We have a state with incredible inequality, with schools that are toward the bottom (in) the United States, with kids having economic insecurity,” Steyer said, “where we have dramatic needs to meet … what we would think of as the traditional California promise.”

In a week focused on presidential politics, establishment Democrats were seeking to project a unified front around Hillary Clinton, the party’s nominee. Overt references to California’s more distant, lower-profile race were rare.

When Steyer, who has not yet said if he will run, was asked if his personal wealth could be problematic in a state where self-funded candidates have struggled, he deflected.

“Well,” Steyer said, “there’s an assumption there about what I’m doing in two years.”

In addition to Newsom and Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is widely expected to run in 2018. Steyer, former state Controller Steve Westly and Eric Garcetti, the current mayor of Los Angeles, are also potential candidates in the wide open race to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown.

At the party at R2L, hosted by the California Democratic Party, Newsom said he was celebrating the eighth anniversary of his marriage to Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

He feted her and did not refer to his campaign. But his aspirations were not far from view.

Heralding the virtues of California, Newsom said, “The future happened here first.”

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the major proponent of a measure to legalize marijuana in California, speaks about the ballot initiative's chances on June 21, 2016 at a pot conference in Oakland.

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has made a TV ad that criticizes Republican presidential candidates' positions on climate change and encourages people to vote.

California state Treasurer John Chiang, speaking to the California delegation on Monday July 25, 2016 at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, said California's diversity makes the state a nightmare for Republican nominee Donald Trum

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

  Comments