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S.F. Mayor Gavin
Newsom Takes Step Toward Governor's Race

S.F. Mayor Gavin
Newsom Takes Step Toward Governor's Race

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San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has taken his first public step toward seeking higher office, filing papers to form an exploratory committee for a potential gubernatorial bid in 2010. Newsom, a Democrat best known for challenging California's ban on same-sex marriage in 2004, is six months into his second and final term, which expires in 2011. Speculation over whether he would run to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pursued him since before his reelection, but the mayor always deflected it by saying his attention remained fixed on the city.

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has taken his first public step toward seeking higher office, filing papers to form an exploratory committee for a potential gubernatorial bid in 2010.

Newsom, a Democrat best known for challenging California's ban on same-sex marriage in 2004, is six months into his second and final term, which expires in 2011. Speculation over whether he would run to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pursued him since before his reelection, but the mayor always deflected it by saying his attention remained fixed on the city.

The establishment of an exploratory committee will allow Newsom, 40, to start raising money and conducting polls. In announcing the committee Tuesday, Newsom's campaign consultant, Eric Jaye, said it demonstrated the mayor's custom of ''listening to people before acting'' and that it would allow him to launch a campaign ''from a position of knowledge and strength.''

''He is looking forward to having a dialogue with Californians about their future in the coming few months,'' Jaye said in a statement.

If he ends up entering the race, one of Newsom's opponents for the Democratic nomination could be a man 30 years his senior: Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who previously served as governor from 1975 to 1983. Brown has said he's thinking about trying to reclaim the job. (He can run again because current term limits were not in place when he was governor).

Brown, 70, hasn't established an exploratory committee devoted to the governor's race, but he has changed the name of his campaign committee from Jerry Brown for Attorney General to Jerry Brown 2010. The committee reported taking in more than $200,000 in donations during the last two weeks.

Newsom has $250,000 left over from his mayoral campaign, but the new gubernatorial committee won't have to file its first campaign disclosure report until the end of the year, according to Jaye.

Newsom made headlines early in his first term when he directed city workers to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, three months before Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Some Democrats, including California's senior U.S. senator, Dianne Feinstein, blamed him for helping fuel a conservative backlash that propelled President Bush to reelection that same year, while some political observers speculated that he may have irrevocably doomed his chance to secure a statewide office.

With the passage of time, though, his position has seemed less revolutionary. The California supreme court, which four years earlier had nullified the gay marriages performed in San Francisco, struck down the state's ban on same-sex nuptials in May.

Besides his reputation as a same-sex-marriage advocate, Newsom has won praise and imitators in other cities for programs to get homeless people into housing. He has also been lauded for his commitment to social services, including the promotion of tap water over bottled water and the distribution of employer-subsidized health care for uninsured residents.

Meanwhile, a trio of former Silicon Valley millionaires are eyeing the Republican nomination to succeed Schwarzenegger, who is barred by law from seeking a third term.

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is at the head of the pack. He signaled his interest in the governorship early, pumping $2.5 million of his own money into a campaign against a November term limits initiative that would have allowed a handful of powerful Democrats to stay on in Sacramento.

Since then he's crisscrossed the state, holding public events on insurance rate reductions for consumers and touting crackdowns on insurance scofflaws. He's also appeared with the governor at disaster zones in the wake of wildfires.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who is working the California fund-raising circuit on behalf of presumed GOP presidential nominee John McCain, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate. Another name floated for the state's top job is former eBay president Meg Whitman, who became a national cochair of the McCain campaign after serving as Mitt Romney's finance chairwoman.

Dan Schnur, a Republican media strategist not affiliated with any potential candidate, said both Brown, with his strong name recognition, and Newsom, with his solid liberal credentials, would be strong primary contenders.

''The conventional wisdom is that the same-sex marriage issue is a double-edged sword for Newsom, but I'd argue that it makes him the most likely Democratic nominee,'' Schnur said. ''An issue like this in the Democratic primary gives him an ability to break out of the pack.'' (Lisa Leff, AP)

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