California’s second-in-command, Gavin Newsom, has had his eyes on the governor’s office long before he started raising money for the 2018 election.
Lt. Gov. Newsom dissolved his 2010 gubernatorial campaign when now-Gov. Jerry Brown declared he was running.
That wasn’t the first time the two crossed political paths. When Newsom was mayor of San Francisco, Brown was mayor of Oakland. The two worked together on reducing homelessness and their cities’ emergency response plans – but the Newsom and Brown families have decade’s long ties.
“My grandfather and Pat Brown (Gov. Brown’s father) were extraordinarily close, and my father and Jerry close,” Newsom said. He called a lifetime around the four-term governor of California “remarkable.”
“Look, he’s a living legend,” Newsom said. “You can disagree or agree with him, you can despise him, you can admire him, but there are no other Browns in the bullpen. He marches to the beat of his own drum. And he’s a remarkably gifted intellect, but also a very pragmatic politician that does not suffer fools, but is also not ideological.”
Removing ideology from government was the underlining message Newsom went back to repeatedly during a sit-down interview with ABC10.
FROM PLACERT COUNTY, TO THE BUSINESS WORLD, TO CALIFORNIA POLITICS
Newsom spent much of his childhood in Placer County.
His father still lives in the small town of Dutch Flat that sits just north of Auburn on Interstate 80. Newsom feels such a deep connection to that part of California, last year he even named his youngest son “Dutch.”
The Newsom family also has a long history in Bay Area politics.
Retired judge William Newsom III, the lieutenant governor’s father, was appointed to the Superior Court bench in Auburn by Jerry Brown back in 1975 – during Brown’s first stint as governor. Brown later moved Newsom up to the Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
William Newsom’s relationship with the Democratic circles in San Francisco helped his son get a start in state politics. These connections lead Gavin Newsom to be appointed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by Mayor Willie Brown in 1997.
Prior to getting into politics, the younger Newsom had – and still maintains – a career in business, which he says gives him perspective on the frustrations small businesses feel under the weight of California regulations.
“I opened a little wine store back in 1992, or 1993,” he recalled. “I had a difficult time getting permits, I was screaming and yelling about how San Francisco was business unfriendly.” Newsom lost his permitting appeal and for a few years he struggled to keep his wine business afloat, but he said the entrepreneur mindset taught him governing should be about solving problems, not managing them.
“I don’t want to fail more efficiently; I want to actually get things done. I want to actually move forward.”
In order for the Democratic Party to move forward, Newsom said it needs to focus on local politics – races for city councils and school boards – and those Californians living in rural and inland areas. He said the same goes for the party at the national level, where Democrats are struggling to win gubernatorial races and majorities in state legislatures.
“If you want to go far, you’ve got to go together. If you want to go fast, go alone,” he said. “And Democrats that are in the overwhelming majority of this state, at our peril we become complacent, we become arrogant, we talk down to people, we become dismissive and we don’t reconcile the fact that 26 counties in this state supported overwhelmingly Donald Trump.”
CALIFORNIA AND THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
Newsom has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump in real life and on Twitter, where he often responds to the president’s tweets and policy decisions. Even shortly after our interview, he tweeted a critical response to Trump’s revised travel ban.
The new Muslim Ban is just that: a Muslim Ban. It is still discriminatory & still represents a cold, xenophobic, ugly vision of this admin.— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) March 6, 2017
If the president “does the right things,” then Newsom said he’d be right there with him, but the contrasts between Trump’s values and those of California lawmakers are stark.
Newsom said he takes literally and seriously the things Trump says and that it’s a real concern, however he does not support the idea of California leaving the union – a movement referred to as “Calexit.”
“There’s ways California cannot just resist, but we can be a positive alternative. I think if we’re just in a defensive posture in the next few years, we’re not going to be at our best,” he said. “We are always at our best when we lead, not secede. When we step up and we step in, and we provide a framework that’s positive and enlivening, that other people can organize around.”
ON ISSUES FACING THE GOLDEN STATE
Affordable housing: “The cost of housing is astronomical in this state, they’re simply not building enough housing. We need 3.5 million housing units by 2030 in this state because we have a population that’s going to grow by another 3.6 million folks. We’ve got to get serious about affordability. I think it’s one of the critical issues of this state. And that’s an issue that I think is underneath that economic anxiety, that pressure that folks feel that are leaving to lower cost states. And that breaks my heart. I don’t want to lose out on those people.”
High-speed rail: "My big issue has been in the last three years the business plan. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be honest with folks – the math. It’s clear to me the first phase of this – that $7.8 billion from the Silicon Valley – is likely to get done. I’m worried about our capacity to finance the subsequent phases and to advance the original vision.
"So it’s my goal to try to find those resources. But I’ve been critical of aspects of this business plan that has evolved significantly from the original $9.95 billion bond that was promoted and what was voted on over 10 years ago, and so I’ve expressed that publically. But my job is not to derail the high-speed rail, but to be honest with people about the trade-offs and honest about the prospects."
Future of labor: "We can talk about the importance of bringing manufacturing back to the United States, but let’s not forget in 2015 11.1 percent of our economy – $255 billion – was in manufacturing. So, California has as much to gain, or perhaps more than any other state, still as a vibrant manufacturing state. But those jobs aren’t coming back, even if the manufacturing is. So, the issue of globalization and information technology detonating at the same time is the issue of our time. It’s the issue that perhaps is most responsible for wage suppression and the economic anxiety that is palpable out there."
Marijuana: "Legalization is not an act that occurred in November of last year, it’s a process that’s going to unfold over the course of many, many years.... You can’t be ideological about it, we’ve got to address in real time changing realities. The lessons we did learn from Colorado: edibles. Focus on edibles. On packaging, on transparency, on keeping them out of the hands of our kids. Address the issue honestly and soberly, quite literally and figuratively as it relates to DUIDs – Driving Under the Influence of Drugs. We have to develop a much more comprehensive and holistic field sobriety test to ultimately address some legitimate concerns about people driving under the influence of any kind of drug – not just cannabis."
Opioid epidemic: "The big drug crisis in the country is opioids and the interesting fact is I think you’re going to see – mark my words, I may be wrong but mark them – that you’re going to see, I think, a significant statistical reduction in opiod overdoses because of legalization in states across the country, because of the substitution to cannabis and the significant over reliance that today exists and persists with prescription drugs. Meaning, I think cannabis is a much better substitute than a lot of these things that are in your cabinet right now that have been prescribed by your doctor."