Gavin Newsom is, in my opinion, a uniquely untalented individual who finds himself as Governor of California through a combination of happenstance and good luck.
He grew up in Marin County, California, but seemingly not in a privileged way. His father William was an attorney, but the benefit of being William Newsom’s son for Gavin is that his father went to high school with two sons of J. Paul Getty. He later did some legal work for Getty Oil, but the Newsom family has benefitted from his longtime friendship with Gordon Getty whose interests have always been in music. William Newsom came to be involved as a director/trustee in many Getty related enterprises, and personally managed the assets and investments of Gordon Getty.
Newsom went to Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship and graduated in 1989. In 1991 he created his first business venture, PlumJack Associates LLP, with financing from family friend Gordon Getty, one of five children of J.Paul Getty. The company is named after an opera written by Gordon Getty, who invested in 10 of the 11 businesses started by Gavin Newsom. Did I mention that Newsom’s father manages Gordon Getty’s assets and investments?
I have seen it mentioned in places that he is the nephew of Nancy Pelosi. That is not exactly how you would describe the family connection. His aunt Barbara – the sister of his father — married Ron Pelosi. Ron Pelosi is the brother of Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul. His aunt Barbara divorced Ron Pelosi in 1977 when Gavin Newsom was 10 years old.
The Newsom family had political connections of its own, as his father William ran the campaign for San Francisco District Attorney for Pat Brown, who later became California Governor, and who was the father of former Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown.
In politics, Newsom’s career was launched by virtue of his father’s lifelong friendship with former California Democrat powerhouse John Burton, who was Democrat State Senate leader. John Burton and his older brother Phil Burton were longtime Democrat powerbrokers in San Francisco. When Willie Brown, Speaker of the California Assembly, became mayor of San Francisco, Burton convinced him to name Gavin Newsom to an open seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1997. Newsom then ran without significant opposition to replace Brown as mayor of San Francisco who was termed out of office. The only opposition came from his left, as the radicals of San Francisco — yes, more radical than the Democrats — saw him as a “moderate”, and attempted to coalesce around the Green Party candidate to defeat him. Since that win in 2003, he has rarely faced any significant opposition in running for office.
He left the position of SF Mayor in 2010 to run for Lt. Governor, winning the Democrat primary 55-33% and the general 50-39%. In 2014 he was reelected 57-42%. He ran for Governor in 2018 to replace Jerry Brown and was first in a multi-candidate “jungle” primary with 34%. He won the general election over a GOP challenger 62-38%.
But now, two years into his first term, there is a significant petition effort underway for scheduling a “recall election.”
The recall was announced in June 2020 as Newsom was announcing some of the most draconian “lockdown” restrictions anywhere in the country when California — despite its large population — had relatively few cases and COVID-19 deaths as compared to several other states. He has continued with a series of orders that make little logical sense given the positive case numbers in California even through today.
At the same time, Newsom and various other Democrat party “elites” have been caught violating their own restrictions. Newsom has also, curiously, created restrictions on business operations that managed to not quite cover his own winery’s locations. And, for a guy who supposedly has a lot of money, he seems to have difficulty paying his taxes on time.
Two days ago, New Gingrich and Mike Huckabee announced their support for the recall effort, which will likely get the petition over the “finish line” with increased participation by California GOP voters.
But Newsom has several other nettlesome problems — mostly within the Democrat party — which are making his status as Governor seemingly more tenuous.
First, he has to name someone to the Senate seat being vacated by Kamala Harris. He is under an intense public pressure campaign by African-American politicians to name another African-American female to the seat, as Harris is the only African-American female in the Senate. Dozens of California African-American politicians and well-known individuals signed an open letter to Newsom under the banner “Let’s Keep The Seat”, demanding that the replacement be Rep. Karen Bass or Rep. Barbara Lee.
Second, Newsom is under tremendous pressure from Hispanic Democrat leaders and party interest groups to name the first Hispanic Senator from California in recognition of the fact that Hispanics are now the largest single ethnic group in the State. An interesting dynamic at play here is that the Hispanic Democrat powerbase is mostly located in Southern California, while Newsom is a political creature with all his roots in Northern California. California’s population now includes 39% Hispanic/Latino, and only 6% African-American. Newsom has almost no choice but to pick a Hispanic given that reality, and the leading contender is rumored to be Calif. Secretary of State Alex Padilla — if for no better reason to eliminate him as a possible primary opponent in 2022.
Now, after the New Yorker magazine runs a hit piece by Jane Mayer saying that Dianne Feinstein has suffered a serious decline in her cognitive functions, the next day a LA Times Editorial page columnist writes and OpEd calling on Dianne Feinstein to retire from the Senate so that Newsome can appoint BOTH a Hispanic and an African American woman to two open Senate seats. Pay no attention to the fact that just two years ago she won reelection by defeating the Democrat Hispanic State Senate Leader Kevin de Leon, 54-46%.
How many interest groups can these people expect to hate Newsom at the same time AND have him survive the recall attempt underway?
Third, what had started as an exodus of moderate and conservative Californians for more business and family-friendly locations like Arizona, Nevada, and Texas, has more recently become a race for the exits by major technology firms that were founded and grew into titans in California. Last week Oracle announced that it was moving its main headquarters operations to a new building just completed in Austin, Texas. Oracle, founded in the heart of Silicon Valley in 1977, and now with 138,000 employees, has been one the tech engines that has driven the Bay Area and California economies in the age of the internet. But Oracle’s announcement follows by only two weeks the announcement by the “Granddaddy of Them All” — Hewlett Packard — announcing it was leaving Silicon Valley for new offices in Houston. Can Apple, Intel, and Google be far behind?
With the sky-high taxes — income taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes — which cripple California wage earners who are largely priced out of the housing market in many locations, and the much friendlier business regulatory environment drawing them to other states, these companies will all eventually depart Northern California in the same way the aerospace industry mostly left Southern California three decades ago.
But at the same time this exodus is in transition from just individuals/families to now major corporations, dealing a huge blow to the California tax base, Newsom is yoked to a California legislature with nearly three decades of practice in spending money they don’t have, all based on the premise that big tech will always be there to fill California’s coffers with even greater piles of money from them to spend.
Over the years Democrat politicians have created a very progressive tax structure, resulting in the wealthiest 3% of Californians, with incomes in excess of $200,000 a year, paying nearly 60% of all state income taxes collected.
Those are the people leaving the state at an increasing rate.
Now their employers are leaving too.
The budget revenue from taxes collected in 2020 is projected to be $37 billion short of the $147 billion general fund estimate for the year. This portends massive spending cuts next year for California — about the time Gavin Newsom may be facing a recall election.
And don’t get me started on CalPERS — the California state employee pension system. Just look up the phrase “actuarial fantasy” — that pretty well describes it.
It’s a shame for him that a judge found that the COVID-19 pandemic was sufficient grounds to give the recall advocates an extra four months to gather the signatures needed to put him on the ballot.
“Governor Newsom — Gray Davis on line 2.”